Can Malik Zaire’s Confidence Carry Him, Notre Dame?

malik-zaire-confidence

Throughout the spring quarterback competition, Notre Dame fans heard a lot from Malik Zaire.  They didn’t hear a word from Everett Golson.  Even after Golson announced his intentions to transfer last week, he did so through a statement – not by speaking to the media or by answering any questions.  And therein lies one of the key differences between Golson and Zaire.  One has tried to avoid the spotlight, the other  has been seeking it out.

The quarterback position at Notre Dame is one of the most high profile positions in all of college football.  With that attention comes the bright lights of the media and the scrutiny that some NFL quarterbacks don’t even see.  That was one area where Everett Golson struggled throughout his career at Notre Dame.  His media blackout during spring practice only highlighted his struggles in this department.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Notre Dame’s new starting quarterback Malik Zaire.  Zaire was not shy to talk about wanting to be THE quarterback for Notre Dame to anyone with a microphone this spring.  He may have raised some eyebrows when he said that “there’s only one Jack Sparrow” and he wanted to be it for Notre Dame, but that confidence might just be what he needs to excel in the areas where Golson fell short.

Throughout Everett Golson’s career, he struggled when things started to breakdown as they did in the second half of the 2014 season.  While Notre Dame’s second half collapse was not solely the fault of Golson (far from it), he didn’t help matters much either once the turnovers started to mount before eventually being sat down in the second half against USC.

While the turnovers were the most obvious shortcoming for Golson in 2014, perhaps the most troublesome problem for the now former Notre Dame quarterback was his body language on the sidelines when things broke down.  There were times against both Northwestern and Louisville where Golson’s body language screamed that he had lost confidence in himself.  As the NBC cameras showed a somewhat surprisingly clam Brian Kelly trying to coach up his quarterback, the player he was talking to appeared to be staring out into space.

I’m not sure what’s more surprising there – Golson’s reaction or Kelly’s.  Even as the turnovers piled on top of each other, we rarely saw the purple faced Brian Kelly that routinely tore into Tommy Rees over the last few years.

Even as Golson’s body language and facial expressions on the sidelines looked like a quarterback who had lost all confidence in himself though, Kelly stood behind him and kept giving him chance after chance until finally making a move at half time against USC and then starting Malik Zaire against LSU in the Music City Bowl.

No one can argue that physically speaking, Golson has the better tools at this present moment.  Zaire’s got a big arm as we saw in the Blue and Gold game, but he doesn’t have Golson’s accuracy or experience.  Zaire also still makes decisions that the coaching staff describes as inexplicable based on the looks they throw his way in practice – an area where Golson did show improvement in 2014.  In fact, Notre Dame’s best chance for a playoff run in 2015 is almost unarguably with the Golson from the first half of 2014.

Where Zaire appears to have the edge, however, is in the intangible department.  Zaire’s bravado this spring and his lack of apprehension when stating his clear desire to be the one and only quarterback for Notre Dame when asked about a possible time share at the position was almost a bit cocky.  And that is a very good trait for a quarterback to have – to a certain extent anyway.

Zaire does not lack in confidence in himself.  Granted, Zaire hasn’t had to face too much adversity to this point although being removed from the Music City Bowl in the first half after engineering scoring drives is just the type of thing that could have derailed a young quarterback who wasn’t mentally strong.  Remember, Kelly was playing musical quarterbacks at times against LSU and even played both quarterbacks on the same drive at times.  For a young quarterback who has been aching to play, that is just the sort of thing that could destroy confidence and create a ton of frustration.  Zaire, however, handled the situation like a pro and stayed focused and engaged.

Contrast Zaire’s reaction in the LSU game to Everett Golson on the sideline against Michigan in his fourth career start when it was clear that he was lost and disengaged after being benched in favor of Tommy Rees after two early interceptions.

Now, Golson hasn’t always had that problem.  Against Alabama when everything that could go wrong, went wrong for Notre Dame; Golson was one of the few players on the field for the Irish that looked like they belonged.  Golson didn’t have a confidence problem Halloween night in 2012 in Norman or even in Tallahassee this past fall.

Something changed along the way though.  Even after he came back from his year long suspension, Golson looked clearly in control of the offense as Notre Dame raced off to a 6-0 start and falling just short of 7-0 against Florida State.  It wasn’t until things started to unravel in November that he looked lost on the sidelines.  That look that we saw against Michigan returned as the losses mounted and that smile we had seen earlier in the season never returned.

All of the confidence in the world won’t make up for inconsistent accuracy, bad decisions, or turnovers; but confidence can carry a young quarterback a long way – especially when they have enough time to prepare to be THE man like Zaire now is for Notre Dame.

We know Zaire has confidence in himself.  What we don’t know yet is if Zaire can have the kind of success he saw against LSU when a defense has time to fully prepare for him and the style of offense the Irish are likely to play with him at the helm.  Can Zaire stretch a defense?  We saw a glimpse of that ability with his bomb to Fuller but can he do that when defenses are throwing exotic looks at him?

Can he keep defenses honest enough with his arm so that the zone read plays he excels at are as effective as they were in the first against LSU?  He’ll have the weapons at his disposal to spread the ball around if he’s able to consistently make throws down the field. The Tigers adjusted at half time of the Music City Bowl and the zone read became less effective.  Now defenses will have all summer long to scout the limited film of Zaire.

These are all questions that we won’t know the answers to until Texas comes to town in September.  Until then we know that Zaire has gotten his wish to be the Captain Jack Sparrow for the Irish in 2015 and that he has all of the confidence needed to succeed in one of the most pressure packed positions in college sports.

In a few months we’ll know if he’s got the physical tools to carry the Irish on the playoff run its roster suggests its capable of making.

 

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37 Comments

  1. A little off subject here, but does anyone see the injustice of Golson requiring a waiver to transfer? I mean the kid has a degree from a University ranked 16th in the country for academics?

    This should be another lesson to underclassmen, get caught cheating and you’ll keep paying for it maybe the rest of your lives in one form or another..which is not all bad I might add, I only wish other parts of society were held as accountable such as politicians and government etc.

  2. Fountain, I think you’re misunderstanding my point of view. I wish Golson nothing but the best of luck. But, I think it’s too popular to underestimate his weaknesses in light of his occasional successes. For years peiple have talked about his electrifying play, not grasping that those plays were broken plays because he didn’t make proper reads, or flushed the pocket with open receivers. Too many blame Kelly, who’s done mote than reasonable to accomodate a guy that still yells at, or dismisses his head coach when he’s STILL not making his simplest of reads. Option!? A gradeschooler can do this with greater efficiency than Golson. Can you imagine how maddening that must be for a top 25 level coach. All the time spent working with him, drilling, film…through academic issues, and nearly half a season of disaster. Just to have sidrline ingratitude on national television. Just to have him suck up reps through spring and then bolt. Maybe he hoped to make grad school, and didn’t. But, regardless, there’s fair reason to question the man’s (and he is a man now) value as a football player.

    Again, I wish him the best of luck, but from what I’ve seen, he’s unlikely to be a major loss to anyone but FSU, who will probably give him a good shot… But won’t win big on him, much less put him in the NFL.

  3. Beatha Breath, can’t you wish a kid who came back and got his degree well? Forget the fact that he led us to a national championship game in which he was one of the only players who looked like he belonged. You sound like a jaded lover. He had a higher QB rating, even with the turnovers, than both Clausen and Quinn in their second years as starters. He’s a talented kid who lost his confidence. We should thank him and wish him well without the bitter kick in the ass as he’s leaving.

  4. Jimbo sees a guy who can help his team win games.

    Like most coaches, that’s all that matters.

    If there are players who don’t like it, that’s too bad. They’re not running a daycare.

    There are a lot worst players and positions to gamble a scholarship on than an experienced QB who lead his former team to a top 20 national ranking in passing.

    The term massive quantities appears to be overstated.
    Last I looked, the guy’s name was Everett… not Beldar.

  5. Actually qb, if he squeaks through ND, does poorly on the GRE, and has a history of cheating…he ma not get accepted to most of hi hopeful graduate schools.

    And, every school is taking a chance on Golson. Most would have to use a scholarship that could be used elsewhere. They’d also be risking team dynamics by pissing off the existing quarterback (and those who support him) that has been working for years to start for their school. And, they’ll be devoting massive quantities of time and manpower to get him up to speed in only a few months.

    Is he really worth all that? Time will tell… But, I doubt it. His weaknesses have been too exposed at this point.

  6. Slightly Troubled???

    After Jamis Winston, Golson looks like an alter boy!

    And while Everett’s lower body still needs some work, he’s far from having “crab-legs”.

  7. he’ll have zero problems getting into a graduate program from any of the schools on his list if he was able to graduate from ND. He’s not being drafted or paid millions by some school taking a “chance” on him. a coach is going to be lucky enough to get a very talented (though slightly troubled) graduate with tons of experience that can benched if need be. this is not a possible loss for any program except for the Irish

  8. I’d be surprised if Golson doesn’t get a waiver from the SEC; its history never showing much concern for academic impropriety. If an SEC coach wants him bad enough, he’s probably in. But, that brings up the two other big points…

    Can Golson get into a grad school? There’s been a swirl about that he just couldn’t get accepted. Granted, the qualifications at ND are higher than most SEC programs; and again, the head coach of most of those teams could bring a fair bit of pressure. But, how deficient is he academically?

    Which leads to the larger issue… How well is he going to interview with hopeful coaching staff. This is a kid with a lot of baggage, on and off the field. The first question any coach would presumably ask is, “why are you leaving ND?”

    What is he going to say? I didn’t get into grad school is a good start, but it brings up academic problems, and cheating. I didn’t get along with Kelly isn’t going to fly. The offense isn’t suited to my playing style is certainly useless. I got beat out for the undisputed starting role by a guy two years younger that has little game time experience is defeating.

    After going over all the weaknesses of Golson, any staff is going to want to be wholly convinced; and I don’t know that he has the ability to convince them beyond his detriments. They also have to feel confident that he can adequately grasp their offense enough to run it, in only a few months.

    So… My guess would be FSU (provided Swarbrick signs the paperwork). They have a scholarship to burn, an offense built more on raw athleticism than scheme or team unity, and Jimbo has little concern for anything other than winning games. FSU has nothing to lose.

    Otherwise, the longer it takes, the less likely he goes to a top school. One big thing to consider is that no school that runs read option or a zone offense will touch him as a starting QB.

  9. Everyone involved needed a fresh start. Everett, the team, and Kelly. I’m still proud of him for 2012… And still pissed about 2013! Lets lay the bitching to rest. On to the next topic. Where do you think he lands? I say Florida if they can get the SEC waiver. It would be most beneficial for the gators after the embarrassment that was last year.

  10. While there isn’t a whole lot to go on right now as far as how Zaire might perform this year, one look at his picture above and its clear that he’s a whole lot stronger in the upper body than Everett Golson was.

  11. BB

    Good explanation of what happens when a QB continually makes the wrong calls in a read/option offense. It basically hangs the OL out to dry much like a QB hangs a receiver out to dry by throwing high across the middle.

    I watched a rerun of the BG game and while some said Golson’s play calling improved he still made far too many mistakes for someone with his experience. Even his passing game was off, he missed some wide open secondary receivers trying to force a big play. Decisions like this are drive killers.

    On another note, it seems all those teams that Whitfield character said were after Golson, it doesn’t seem like much of a fight to get his services. Perhaps Golson found the awful truth, that no coach will guarantee a player is a starter ahead of the season. That you have to play the game and do your job, or you lose it, no matter whether it’s FSU or Bowling Green or ND

  12. Would it be possible to get a t shirt or hat with that title on it. Maybe even a coffee mug. And to think my HS guidance counselor thought I’d never amount to anything.

  13. It would be rather odd to take it personally , as no one here knows who I am. Of course, this anonymity applies to all, making idiots feel smart, nerds cool, and cowards brave.

    Not a union type, I don’t buy into the “seniority” canard as justification for being an RRRSole.
    Say something interesting. Or say nothing. Timeless, ageless advice

    But to tolerate and excuse anyone who anoints themselves “Head Troll & Critic Emeritus” of a messageboard is not who I am…even in anonymity.

    But hey….Comedians with a fan base of one can never be accused of selling out.

  14. Don’t take it personally David. Everyone around here goes through the hazing of the nostalgic old timers that spend more time huffing revelry, than understanding football. Burgy, like most baiters, isn’t mean…he’s just angry at his own ignorance.

    Which brings up two great recent articles.

    I’d like to think Bryan was drawing from the same comment streams that have led me to posting some descriptions of the ND offense, and a cry for more bloggers to post intelligent analysis on this site, (would it, could it, educate the “desperate girlfriend trying to get football” posts of so many?).

    These gems might be a start, a primer…and ideally a prerequisite to posting.

    I would add an emphasis to a few points the are only touched upon. First, in the zone scheme, second level blocking is essential. When the QB fails to make the right read with consistency, the whole plan breaks down. The wrong blocks are made, and RB’s with less than a second to react, can’t make the proper read on LB’s. The ignorati then blame the O Line. And people wonder why the OL looks so much more motivated by Zaire.

    Second, when the right reads are made, the running game becomes a decision for the defense, which means that play action, and especially roll out passing become nightmarish for defenses. Tebow didn’t have to have a great arm to establish a deadly short to mid level passing game. Urban planned a handful of effective passing routes out of option movement for every opponent that exploited their coverage weakness. Thankfully, Zaire is a good passer, that may prove to be great. For Sanford and Kelly, the challenge will be fighting the desire to get overly complex with all the talent they have.

    Third, Procise is likely training at RB because they want to be able to shift him from slot to RB in quick motion. This further frustrates a defense that wants to stack against the read option. Not only does a backfield filled with Zaire, Folston and Procise make decision-making a special hell for defenses; but over aggression leads to two pass out backs that are deadly in space. Screens would kill a DC that hopes to pressure.

    (getting around the moderation of direct links here…)

    Both at rivals:

    “Notre Dame Will Look to Build Around Malik Zaire”

    “BGI Analysis: Notre Dame’s Counter and Wrap”

  15. @ David- I couldn’t disagree with you more on that one to Burgundy

    After excerpts from this thread about EG like . . .
    “he just didn’t want to lead at Notre Dame” . . .
    “when he made a mistake he just seemed to dwell on it too much. (not sure if he meant EG or BK)” . . .
    (Zaire)”has a more generous amount of toughness, grit, situational awareness, and field presence” . . .
    please don’t leave , Burgundy- even if we must endure more “snide quips”
    BTW, fellow uhnd. thread tanglers-
    Why can’t we all just wish good days ahead for ND grad Golson ?
    He returned to graduate, and did. For EG as QB at ND, like BB.King, ‘ the thrill is gone ‘! Play on.
    I don’t take EGs departure personal- nor as a betrayal.
    I suspect it’s about more than ‘playing time’, but I don’t know- and neither do you.

    I wish Everett a good ride, not good riddance.
    And the same to you, Burgundy. Stick around- just for some balanced humor.

  16. Don’t take it personally David. Everyone around here goes through the hazing of the nostalgic old timers that spend more time huffing revelry, than understanding football. Burgy, like most baiters, isn’t mean…he’s just angry at his own ignorance.

    Which brings up two great recent articles.

    I’d like to think Bryan was drawing from the same comment streams that have led me to posting some descriptions of the ND offense, and a cry for more bloggers to post intelligent analysis on this site, (would it, could it, educate the “desperate girlfriend trying to get football” posts of so many?).

    These gems might be a start, a primer…and ideally a prerequisite to posting.

    I would add an emphasis to a few points the are only touched upon. First, in the zone scheme, second level blocking is essential. When the QB fails to make the right read with consistency, the whole plan breaks down. The wrong blocks are made, and RB’s with less than a second to react, can’t make the proper read on LB’s. The ignorati then blame the O Line. And people wonder why the OL looks so much more motivated by Zaire.

    Second, when the right reads are made, the running game becomes a decision for the defense, which means that play action, and especially roll out passing become nightmarish for defenses. Tebow didn’t have to have a great arm to establish a deadly short to mid level passing game. Urban planned a handful of effective passing routes out of option movement for every opponent that exploited their coverage weakness. Thankfully, Zaire is a good passer, that may prove to be great. For Sanford and Kelly, the challenge will be fighting the desire to get overly complex with all the talent they have.

    Third, Procise is likely training at RB because they want to be able to shift him from slot to RB in quick motion. This further frustrates a defense that wants to stack against the read option. Not only does a backfield filled with Zaire, Folston and Procise make decision-making a special hell for defenses; but over aggression leads to two pass out backs that are deadly in space. Screens would kill a DC that hopes to pressure.

    https://notredame.rivals.com/barrier_noentry.asp?sid=961&script=%2Fcontent%2Easp&cid=1765121

    https://notredame.rivals.com/barrier_noentry.asp?sid=961&script=%2Fcontent%2Easp&cid=1765822

  17. Burgundy, quit being an RRShole. You’ve made your own bed.
    Share a real thought instead of snide quips.
    Or just read to yourself.
    Or go away…I bet we’ll get by.

  18. Let me slow things down for you here Joseph. Jeff writes for a ND site called Slap the Sign. Hence the reference. In the future I will include references and cliff notes so you can follow along and understand. Sorry if the site moves too fast for you.

  19. Yeah Ron!
    That’s what we do. Slap the sign! That’s what ND fans and supporters have been doing for years. The thing is that the players we support completely cycle every 4 to 5 years, but we continue to support the program and the school, and all the school almost uniquely stands for.

    EG chose not to be a part of that, from the sound of your post that means the sky is falling for ND. Next Man In has kept ND competitive for 100 years. Having to go to a new Quarterback this coming year could only mean 0-12 to a troll or someon

  20. One thing in the article I want to point out. “What happens when teams throw exotic looks at him.” If you dominate the line of scrimmage and average 5 yds a carry as a team, exotic defenses don’t mean a thing. ND wins when they average over 4yds a carry. OSU won running for over 4yds a carry, Oregon runs the ball for over 4yds a carry. Run the dam ball,d dominate the line of scrimmage and ND will be fine

  21. I think Golson made a huge mistake. There is no doubt in my mind he will be successful somewhere else. However, by leaving Notre Dame his 40 year plan is out the window. Nobody would consider Everett to be a Notre Dame man so he won’t reap the benefit of a network of willing alum looking to hire him when his football career is over.

    Now to Zaire. His passion in the LSU game reminded me of another Notre Dame player who had a great passion for ND football and later became a legend, Chris Zorich. He cried over a loss and Lou Holtz decided right there that he was his RKG. That is how I feel about Zaire. I expect great things this next year from him.

  22. I think that’s why committing to the run is so effective as long as you can keep them honest with your arm. Be a multi-faceted team. We should never hear this “we knew exactly what you were going to” BS from opposing players. Too often there is no imagination in play calling, too often we decommit from the run early and all another team has to do is concentrate on coverage.

  23. I’ve seen enough of Zaire to feel that his passing ability is every bit as good as Golson’s. The only thing that he doesn’t have as much of as Golson is experience. I’m seeing a form of confirmation bias: when Zaire makes a wild pass, well, he’s not the passer that Golson is. If you look at all the stats and all the passes, the guy is usually right on the money. I guarantee you that Charlie Strong isn’t going to think of Zaire as a run first pass second kind of QB.

  24. If Zaire has less pure passing ability as Golson, but has a more generous amount of toughness, grit, situational awareness, and field presence, he will be a very big trade up.

    College football seasons are not an unbroken string of perfectly executed games. Sometimes you gotta slug ’em out, and it’s best to have a guy who’s willing to stand in there and keep punching.

    Win or lose, a return to even more of a semblance of old-school, balanced ND football would please fans like me.

  25. I am a big beliver in personality types in leadership posistions. Ben Hansbrough being the best example i can think of that laced it up around here in a long time.Golson wants to play football , he just didnt want to lead at Notre Dame. Here is hoping malik can cut it.

  26. I like Zaire’s attitude too, and the no nonsense, almost fierce look he has on the field. He wants it. He’s confident, and I agree that’s important. As long as he’s smart with it, that he’s willing to learn. You can be confident and self-aware of your abilities too. That is what we’ll learn this year.

    I agree, when EG was good, he could be phenomenal, but when he made a mistake he just seemed to dwell on it too much. It’s important for Zaire to realize he is going to make mistakes too sometimes, it might be a fumble or interception. What will be the difference is will he shake it off, go back out there on the next drive and take care of business.

    I suspect in the Music City Bowl that BK probable made his plans clear to his QB’s which is probably part of the reason Zaire did not appeared bothered. I’m sure he told Zaire and EG that they both would be sharing time, that the goal was to win the game and that they both would need to do their best using their strengths to win.

  27. Confidence. This is what a team look for in selecting a leader. This is what a team looks to when following a leader. Everett, bless him, just didn’t have the confidence of a leader. Sure, he may have said “the right things” to the media, etc, but he did not exude the necessary confidence of a leader. Publicly, at least. I/We don’t know what was going on in the huddle or on the field among team-mates, but Everett just did not show confidence.

    Malik?

    Ridiculous. (in the good, slang sense) Malik’s leadership quality of CONFIDENCE (capitalized on purpose – because I’m confident!) should play a big, new part in nD’s success this year.

    GO IRISH!

  28. Any great QB and others have to be cocky to use your word. Texas has almost their whole defense
    back so he will be tested. Golson is gone, lets forget about him.

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