Former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire Finally Finalizing Transfer

It’s been known since shortly after the 2016 season ended that Malik Zaire would not be returning to Notre Dame for a 5th year to compete with Brandon Wimbush.  Zaire’s destination, however, was not until this weekend.  With a new SEC rule change clearing the way, Zaire will officially transfer to Florida for his final season according to multiple reports.

Zaire will have competition at Florida.  The Gators left the spring with a red-shirt freshman, Feleipe Franks, atop their depth chart at quarterback.  The Gators also have Luke Del Rio, son of NFL coach Jack Del Rio, but fall camp figures to be a Franks vs. Zaire showdown in Gainesville now.  Franks was a top 100 recruit just two years ago and is not short on talent.  Franks also has an 18 month head start on Zaire.

It could be argued that the situation he is now in at Florida is not all that much different than what he would have faced in South Bend.  While expectations are sky high for Brandon Wimbush, he is still a redshirt sophomore with very limited game experience.

Before deciding on Florida, Zaire considered a transfer to Wisconsin, North Carolina, Harvard, and Texas.  In fact, at one point it looked like North Carolina – a 2017 Notre Dame opponent – was going to be Zaire’s landing spot.  The longer Zaire remained a free agent, the more apparent it was where he wanted to go.  It took a recent SEC rule change, however to open the door.

Recent Rule Change Opened Door to Florida

Until last week, SEC schools could not accept graduate transfers for a three year period if multiple previous graduate transfers did not meet academic requirements.  The rule was changed just last week, however, to a one year window.  Had it not changed, Florida would not have been able to accept any grad transfers until after the 2018 season.  With the door finally open for his transfer, Zaire made his move just two months before the start of fall camp.

Zaire’s Notre Dame career ended before the calendar read December this past season.  An unceremonious end to what looked to be a very promising career at various points during his time in South Bend.  After storming out of the gates in 2015 with a near flawless performance against Texas, a broken ankle the following week in Charlottesville derailed his junior campaign. That broken ankle ended up derailing his entire Irish career and opened a door that led to Deshone Kizer’s ascension.  Kizer parlayed his rise into leaving early and getting drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft two months ago.

Throughout Notre Dame’s disastrous 4-8 campaign last fall Zaire had a few chances to retake his starting role but was never able to recapture any of that Texas game magic.  In the season opener rematch with the Longhorns, Zaire struggled to move the offense while Kizer marched them up and down the field.  In mid-October Zaire got another chance when Kizer struggled against Stanford, but one horrible snap resulting in a safety and a three and out later and Zaire was back on the bench.

Zaire Not the First Notre Dame QB to use Grad Transfer

Zaire joins what is a growing list of former Notre Dame quarterbacks to end their collegiate careers somewhere other than Notre Dame during the Brian Kelly era.  Dayne Crist (Kansas), Andrew Hendrix (Miami Ohio), and Everett Golson (Florida State) all used the graduate transfer rule in recent years when it was clear that their Irish careers were not going to end how they – or anyone else – had hoped for.

So far none of the Kelly era quarterbacks to use the grad transfer route have been able to pivot their transfers into NFL futures.  Crist struggled with Charlie Weis in Kansas. Andrew Hendrix had a solid season under former Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin at Miami, but that was about it.  Golson started the 2015 season as Florida State’s starting quarterback, but he didn’t end it in the same role.

Will Zaire be the first to shine at another school?  Time will tell.  You can bet that there will not be a shortage of Wimbush vs. Zaire comparisons throughout the fall though – especially if the Irish struggle and Zaire plays well for the Gators.

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7 comments

  1. JK 1 month ago

    Who cares….this f’n guy’s been transferring for what seems like forever. Go…Good Luck….We wish you well. It’s all been said a thousand times just get the “F” gone already!

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  2. C-Dog 4 months ago

    All the best to Malik. It would be great to see him rebound and show what we saw in that Texas game.

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  3. ChrisJ 4 months ago

    Damian,

    Sorry but I have to disagree with you here. Wasn’t Golson Kelly’s first QB recruit? I thought Crist and Rees were both Weis guys. Maybe I’m mistaken but in Golson’s first year as a starting QB, we went to the NC and he played very well throughout the year minus the couple Rees saves. Then his dumba** gets suspended and comes back and plays very well to lead this team to FSU only to get robbed of a victory there which from the point forward, I don’t think he handled anything well mentally. Both Zaire and Kizer were successful under Kelly. Our offenses have been putting up a lot of points these last few years so I’m not sure how Kelly isn’t having his QBs play up to their level of hype. I think each QB has done pretty darn well considering the crap defenses these teams have had. I know you always want to point at the QB for the team’s misfortunes but in reality, this hasn’t been the case for the most part. It’s defense.

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    1. Damian 4 months ago

      I didn’t pin Crist on BK. As I noted below he just wasn’t good. When I referenced he couldn’t play for the guy who recruited him either I was referring to Weis. For Golson and Zaire I was referring to the ultimate result. EG had a promising start, but after the FSU game he imploded and was never the same. For Zaire he clearly did not live up to the hype last year. He blew the few chances he got. Kizer did the best of the group, but he had flame out moments as well. It just felt like for as good as Kizer was, he didn’t take it to that next level.

      Kizer you could make an argument about how good he was, and yes, the defense has a huge responsibility in many of those losses. But EG and Zaire, while they both had good starts, couldn’t finish out well. Instead of getting better, they got worse, which to me is a coaching problem. Your QB’s shouldn’t get worse over time. And even Kizer was less impressive at the end of his career then at the beginning (though, again, the defense not being able to make stops could partially be to blame).

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    2. Damian 4 months ago

      I did give BK a mulligan on Crist. When I noted he couldn’t play well for the coach that recruited him either I was referring to Weis. As far as EG and Zaire, yes they both started off well but they did not end well. That to me is a coaching issue. QB’s shouldn’t get worse with more experience. And they both flamed out pretty significantly. So I do pin that on BK. Even Kizer, ultimately his career was pretty good, but I don’t think he played as well toward the end as he did when he started. Yes, a lot of the teams woes rests with the defense. And that probably had an effect on Kizer, I mean, why go out there and get your butt kicked if your defense isn’t going to hold the lead anyway. But some of the responsibility has to go to coaching as well.

      But esp. for EG and Zaire, they were both touted as the perfect QB for BK’s system. They were highly rated and had tons of potential, and ultimately fell far short of that. Now Wimbush comes in with all sorts of hype as well. I only hope BK and his staff don’t waste that talent this go around.

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      1. Damian 4 months ago

        Sorry, you can disregard my last post. I thought my original response accidently got deleted. This one is basically a repeat of my earlier response.

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  4. Damian 4 months ago

    There seems to be a pattern with BK coached QB’s not playing up to their level of hype. Crist would be the only one in that group I probably wouldn’t put on BK’s shoulders. He couldn’t play well for the coach who recruited him either so I’d say he just wasn’t a good QB. But EG, Zaire and Golson we were told were all perfect for BK’s system. For each one we were told this is the QB who is going to turn it all around. Now it’s Wimbush’s turn. I sincerely hope the changes we all hear BK’s made in his philosophy and coaches bears fruit this time. Wimbush, too, comes with a lot of hype and I’d hate to see that talent wasted yet again. A lot will be put on his shoulders, esp. considering his coach’s future may rest on his shoulders.

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