Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has not named a starting quarterback for the 2016 season prior to fall camp, but whoever he selects will be one the nation’s best players heading into the season. That is at least according to the Maxwell Award committee that placed both Notre Dame quarterbacks on their 90 player pre-season watch list.
Kizer and Zaire have both shown that they can be elite quarterbacks albeit with a smaller sample size for Zaire who has just three career starts under his belt following last seasons fractured ankle. Before the injury Zaire turned in a near flawless performance against Texas and was starting to find his way after a rocky start in Charlottesville. Then his injury derailed his season and potentially his career if he is unable to beat out Kizer this summer.
Kizer meanwhile took advantage of his opportunity last year by throwing 21 touchdowns to 10 interceptions while finding the end-zone another 10 times on the ground. Kizer compiled a 8-3 record as a starter with those three losses coming to #2 Clemson and #3 Stanford on the road and #4 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Neither quarterback was able to take a commanding lead in the Notre Dame quarterback derby 2016 edition coming out of spring practice though many felt Kier had the stronger spring and Blue – Gold game performance. Still, any lead Kizer may have built was negligible and the two enter fall camp essentially in a dead heat.
While there are a lot of watch lists and following them all can be a part-time job this time of year, it’s a testament to the talent Notre Dame has at quarterback that both signal callers were named to the pre-season watch list for one of college football’s most prestigious awards.
Notre Dame Opponents on the Maxwell Watch List
Notre Dame opponents were all over the Maxwell Watch List as well. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey was an obvious selection as the Heisman finalist will be on virtually any watch list a running back is eligible for. In addition to McCaffrey, Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, Nevada running back James Butler, Virginia Tech Isaiah Ford, and USC running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver JuJu Smith all made the list.
Also of note, former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel was on the list as well. Kiel had a disappointing 2015 season after seeing his touchdown total fall from 31 to 19 a year ago for Cincinnati.
Notre Dame Maxwell Award Winners
Brady Quinn is the only two Notre Dame quarterback to win the Maxwell Award. Manit Te’o was the most recent recipient of the award from Notre Dame following the 2012 season. Ross Browner, Jim Lynch, Johnny Lattner, and Leon Hart have also won the award while at Notre Dame. Lattner was a two time winner.