Why DeShone Kizer Should Start for Notre Dame

Nov 14, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Last season Notre Dame was coming off of a 38-3 victory over The University of Texas to start the season. Things looked extremely bright for the Irish as they went into Charlottesville, VA to take on The University of Virginia. Things started off extremely well for Notre Dame, and looked to be going swimmingly until roughly 1:15 remaining in the third quarter.

At that moment, Notre Dame’s national championship hopes had to be carted off the field. Malik Zaire was carted off with a fractured ankle, and things looked extremely bleak for Brian Kelly’s squad.


Everyone knows how this game ended, little known redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer entered the game, saved the day, and the country was  blessed with the infamous sad Virginia fan picture thanks to he and Will Fuller. The crisis was averted for the moment, or at least Irish fans thought that.

Tests would continue to come for the young signal caller, including the very next week in a game against Georgia Tech, in which Notre Dame was a slight underdog. Kizer passed that test against the 14th ranked Yellow Jackets. He went 21-30 for 242 yards and a score. That performance started to answer the questions that surrounded the program.

Kizer continued to impress, passing tests against Navy, Southern Cal, on the road in primetime against Temple, and at Pitt. Kizer finished the regular season arguably two plays away from being in the College Football Playoff. Quite an admirable performance for an expected backup quarterback.

DeShone Kizer
Oct 31, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws in the second quarter against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Kizer was able to answer quite a few questions with his play last season. That being said, with every question he answered, a new question arose.

Is DeShone Kizer good enough to play quarterback at Notre Dame? Undoubtedly. Does DeShone Kizer have what it takes to lead a team with national championship aspirations? Indeed. Could DeShone Kizer be a star at the college and potentially the professional level? Absolutely. Should DeShone Kizer start over Malik Zaire in 2016? Wait just a minute…

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Suddenly with Notre Dame winning more and more in 2015, things became less and less clear in the future. The Irish now have two quarterbacks capable of leading the team to where they’d like to be. Kelly will have quite a decision to make.

Kelly actually has two decisions to make. One could be argued, but the other one cannot be in my opinion.

Starting with the decision that cannot be argued, Brian Kelly has to pick one quarterback as his guy. Two quarterbacks, or a quarterback looking over his shoulder doesn’t work. There is no reason to think that this could work over the course of the season for a team with national championship aspirations.

Could it work in a single game? See the Music City Bowl against LSU in 2014.

Does it work in a full season? See Ohio State last year.

The question that can be debated is who that signal caller should be.

I think last season Kizer showed more than enough to Kelly to prove that he should be able to return as the starter for the 2016 season. He did this by performing extremely well on big stages. The knock on him when he filled in for Zaire was his lack of experience. Experience was the reason that Zaire was handed the job last year. The tables have turned in favor of Kizer in that category.

Suddenly, Notre Dame has one unproven quarterback instead of two. Why would the unproven one take the field over the experienced one? The short answer is that it shouldn’t be done.

DeShone Kizer
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly talks with Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) during a timeout in the first half of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

With that being stated, there are reasons where starting Zaire isn’t necessarily the wrong idea. Zaire is a tremendous athlete and was named the starting quarterback last season for a reason. He did play well in his short time on the field last season, and is often seen as a vocal and emotional leader.

Those are certainly nice things, but I do think that Kizer should be the starter for a variety of other reasons. While I could sit here and break down film, or talk about how he is an underrated athlete and runner, but I won’t. His results on the field have already done that for me.

Kizer has played nearly a full season on the field. He has experienced the highs of winning huge games both at home on the road, as well as the lows of heartbreaking losses on the road. Those are things that are extremely useful moving forward. Many things can be emulated in practice, but at the end of the day nothing can replace game action.

Next: Why Malik Zaire Should Start for Notre Dame

His experience will be vital while playing with an extremely talented but relatively inexperienced group at receiver. Gone are the days of Fuller, Amir Carlisle, Corey Robinson, and now Alize Jones is sidelined for the year as well. Yes, Torii Hunter, Jr, Equanimeous St. Brown, CJ Sanders, and Corey Holmes have a great deal of talent, but of that group only Hunter, Jr. is experienced. Having an experienced signal caller will make things much easier on that group.

Notre Dame will be in a terrific place this season no matter which one is under center, but I feel as if the best chance to win a national championship rests on the shoulders of Kizer.