Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2013.
There were 13 this year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a young quarterback who is growing up fast.
QB, Malik Zaire
Hometown: Kettering, Ohio
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 4 Dual-Threat QB, No. 9 OH, No. 167 USA, 0.9268 score
Need at Position: High
Expected Spot on 2014 Depth Chart: Backup
Here's what I said about Zaire following last year's National Signing Day:
I love mobile quarterbacks in Kelly's system and we got another good one here. The comparisons to Michael Vick are a bit much, but Zaire is a very promising prospect. He doesn't appear to be great at anything but is very good at everything. As a runner and athlete he'll be the biggest weapon of the quarterbacks on campus. I don't think he has that suddenness and quickness that Golson has, but he looks like a much stronger open field runner.
His arm appears quite strong but Zaire will have much to prove as a passer once he gets to Notre Dame. That's not to say he's a poor passer but he will have his work cut out for him in matching Kiel and Golson's passing abilities. I do think he'll push Kiel for playing time more than most people think. Being two years removed from Golson will also be a plus because he won't be sitting on the bench behind an established starter for that long the way Gunner might be. If he can stay patient and work hard Zaire should be a starter some day.
Hey, remember when Gunner Kiel was a quarterback on this team?!!?
We've talked about Zaire quite a bit in recent days as he's the only redshirt freshman lucky enough to finish this series and have his post come after the Blue-Gold Game.
Mechanically, it appears Zaire has developed enough to move the ball in this offense with his arm. At the start of spring I wasn't sure if that was the case. I don't want to read too much into the spring game and Brian Kelly has mentioned there was a lot of inconsistency in practices, but in terms of 'arm talent' Zaire has surpassed my expectations. His arm is plenty strong, and perhaps more importantly, he looks incredibly natural for someone who has had to wash away the comparison to Andrew Hendrix, aka a mobile quarterback from Ohio who didn't pass the ball that much in high school.
I'd like to see more from him as an athlete and runner outside of the small glimpses we've seen this spring. His initial quickness isn't on Golson's level but the reports are that he's more natural in the option game and his decisiveness there mixed with his speed/power should add something special to the offense whenever he gets his chance.
Bottom line, there are a lot of arrows pointing in a positive direction with Malik. Most of all, he appears ready to take on the challenge of pushing Golson and becoming a leader even if it's ultimately from the backup position. As long as he stays patient and bides his time to take over the offense everything should be gravy moving forward.