Kelly says 3 will compete for Notre Dame starting QB
Mar. 15, 2016
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Forget about the two-man competition for the starting quarterback position at Notre Dame.
Coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday — the eve of spring football practices — that it's a three-man race, saying he's changed his mind about Brandon Wimbush redshirting his sophomore year, meaning Wimbush will join the competition between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer.
"We have to go into this with our eyes wide-open and really great communication with all three of them and really an open, competitive evaluation," Kelly said. "We can't have any preconceived notions to anything."
Zaire was the starter when the 2015 season began, which came about when Everett Golson, the previous year's starter, transferred to Florida State after last spring practice ended without Kelly choosing a starter. Zaire broke his right ankle in the second game at Virginia and missed the rest of the season.
Kizer finished that game, rallying the Irish to victory, and played well as the Irish finished 10-3 and ranked No. 11. Kizer completed 211 of 335 passes for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 520 yards on 134 carries. Zaire completed 26 of 40 passes for 428 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He ran for 103 yards on 19 carries.
Wimbush got into two games, completing 3 of 5 passes for 17 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He ran for 96 yards on two carries.
When asked how much Kizer's playing time will be a factor, Kelly acknowledged he had the most game-day experience "that you just can't duplicate."
"But there are other things. Malik has the great ability to run the offense as well. He's very smart. We saw what he can do," he said. "We know Brandon Wimbush has arguably the best arm on the team and he's extremely fast. So it's almost an embarrassment of riches at that position."
Kelly said, ideally, the Irish would come out of the April 16 spring game knowing who the starter is, but instead expects the competition to extend into August — and maybe throughout the season.
"I'd be less than honest to sit here in front of you and say there's definitely going to be a No. 1," he said.
He said he'd consider rotating quarterbacks in a game, pointing to what he did with Golson and Zaire against LSU in the Music City Bowl two seasons ago.
"We'll figure it out. I just don't know right now," he said.
Other things to know about Notre Dame spring practice:
OTHER COMPETITIONS: Kelly said while "all eyes will be on the quarterback position," the overall competition for positions will probably be the most competitive since he arrived in 2010. The Irish need to replace six starters on defense, including two linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs, as well as three starting offensive linemen, their leading rusher and the top three receivers.
POSITION CHANGES: John Montelus is moving from offensive line to defensive line and Jacob Matuska is moving from defensive line to tight end. Kelly said linebacker Doug Randolph will no longer play because of a narrowing of the spine.
SPEED: Kelly said the Irish need to find a spot for wide receiver Corey Holmes, who had what Kelly described as "freakish numbers" — a 4.39 40 time and a 41-inch vertical jump. Holmes has yet to catch a pass in two seasons.
PASS RUSH: The Irish ranked 75th in the nation last year in sacks and lost their top two pass rushers. Kelly said replacing them will take a collective effort: "There's nobody that is coming out of the woodwork that goes, 'Well, he's got 15 sacks in him.'"
AVOIDING INJURIES: Kelly said he saw no need to make any changes in weight training and conditioning after a rash of injuries last season. But he said the Irish plan to use GPS technology more to see whether players are being over-practiced and to try to push them to their maximum performance. He said the Irish also are doing additional testing to see if any players are predisposed to certain injuries.