Brian Kelly has no timetable for choosing between redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer and redshirt junior Malik Zaire to lead Notre Dame at quarterback and hasn’t eliminated any options – including using both during games.
“I haven’t resisted any temptation to be honest with you. All I can tell you is that we are going to let both of them compete,” said Kelly at his media conference opening the Irish’s fall camp. “For me to stand here right now and tell you that one guy is going to be the starter every single game would be foolish of me.”
While Kelly acknowledged Kizer and Zaire are among his 11 best offensive players, he said hadn’t figured out a way in 26 years of coaching to put two quarterbacks on the field – which suggests the coach isn’t looking at playing Zaire at wide receiver like Ohio State did with Braxton Miller.
Kelly also told reporters: “We can still lay down our entire installation seamlessly, but we’ll just pick some different offensive plays and structure for one (quarterback) versus the other. One works in a little bit of a different kind of scenario better than the other, but it won’t be going from a direct snap, two-back offense, to a spread offense.” That seems to eliminate the possibility that the coach is cooking up a “FunRo” to throw at Texas.
Kelly acknowledged that in the spring, the coaching staff “may not have allowed Malik to be who he was in the sense that we had to catch him up to an offense that evolved more around DeShone than it did around Malik’s talents. … So it’s really more about getting our offense to run effectively for both of them and that’s really been most of the focus, if not all the focus. Instead of sitting in a staff room and coming up with a date or a time as to when are we going to make a decision on the quarterback.”
Kelly also reiterated that sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush will redshirt this year and that the coach expects him to compete for the starting job in 2017.
The seventh-year head coach also revealed the following Friday:
- In a possible foreshadowing of captains, Kelly identified senior linebacker James Onwualu, senior cornerback Cole Luke, senior defensive end Isaac Rochell and junior offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey as guys who assumed a leadership role this summer. Junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and the quarterbacks were also mentioned.
- Kelly doesn’t have a candidate for offensive breakout player, but said he expects sophomores Equanimeous St. Brown, C.J. Sanders and Dexter Williams and redshirt sophomore Corey Holmes “to step their game up.”
- He expects fifth year senior defensive tackle Jarron Jones and junior nose guard Daniel Cage to play about 20 to 30 snaps per game in a interior defensive line rotation with sophomore Jerry Tillery and redshirt freshman Elijah Taylor.
- Redshirt sophomore running back Justin Brent is still about 4-to-6 weeks away from being fully recovered from his midfoot injury. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Nick Watkins is not fully healed, but still participating in everything. Senior cornerback Devin Butler’s timeline for recovering from a broken leg remains unchanged.
- Sophomore defensive end Grant Blankenship is no longer with the team and is considering a transfer.
- Kelly said he was was “proud of Alize’ [Jones] for taking full accountability” for the academic failings that led to the sophomore tight end’s year-long suspension. “I’m pleased with him in the sense that he’s understanding what he needs to do, his shortcomings. He’s a young man that’s maturing and growing. He’s got a bright future. He’s just not going to play football for us this year.”