Deshone Kizer, Notre Dame Quarterback… Heisman Hopeful?
This might be our boldest prediction yet for the 2016 Notre Dame football season. Not because DeShone Kizer doesn’t have the ability or talent, but because predicting award winners such as the Heisman is such a crapshoot. The preseason favorites usually are not the ones to take home the hardware. At the beginning of the 2015 season not too many people were expecting Derrick Henry of Alabama to win the Heisman. So Kizer might be sitting in a good spot. Assuming he wins the job out of fall camp, not too many people will be pegging him as the eventual Heisman winner. Here I’ll explain my three reasons why Kizer will be Notre Dame’s first Heisman finalist since 2012.
1. Natural Progression
We all saw how good and how talented Kizer was last year as a first year starter, so it is natural for one to think he’ll make an even bigger jump in year two. In 12 games (11 starts) last season, Kizer threw for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was the team’s third leading rusher with 520 yards and second on the team with 10 rushing touchdowns. It’s safe to say these numbers would only go up with a full season of games and also with Brian Kelly giving Kizer more freedom within the offense. Assuming Kizer wins the job, he’ll make a big jump this year as a quarterback and will put up some Heisman worthy numbers.
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2. The Schedule
While it isn’t the easiest schedule in the world, it one of Notre Dame’s weaker ones in recent years. That being said, Kizer will have plenty of chances to make his “Heisman moment.” For those out there wondering what a “Heisman moment” is, it is when a player steps up in a huge game to lead his team to victory. It essentially puts a player’s name on the map in the Heisman race. Kizer came up clutch time and time again in 2015. He’s shown that he can get the job done when the lights are shining their brightest. Kizer will have plenty of chances to do just that this season. He has tough road games at Texas and USC. He’ll also have matchups against Michigan State, Stanford and Miami to put his name in the Heisman discussion. Also he’ll have games against weaker teams such as Syracuse and Army to pad his stats.
Yes, Kizer lost his top playmakers from last season in Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise, but there are guys ready to step in and fill those spots. That is what elite programs do when they lose stars to the NFL, they just reload. Kizer will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. At receiver he’s going to have Torii Hunter Jr., a guy who is ready to bust out this season. He’ll also have a number of younger receivers like Equanimeous St.Brown, Corey Holmes, Miles Boykin and Kevin Stepherson. The tight end should reemerge as a huge factor in the Irish offense this season and Notre Dame has two good ones in Durham Smythe and Alize Jones. As I mentioned before they do lose Prosise, but they replace him with Josh Adams who set the ND freshman rushing record last season. Tarean Folston will also return from injury to give Kizer a little more reassurance in the backfield. The cupboard is not even close to being bare for Kizer and the Irish. He’ll still have plenty of talent to work with this upcoming season.