Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2014.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a big quarterback trying to find a way to get more reps in practice.
QB, DeShone Kizer
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
Height: 6-4 1/2
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 12 Pro QB, No. 9 OH, No. 232 USA, 0.9073 Score
Need at Position: Low
Expected Spot on 2015 Depth Chart: 3rd String
Kizer was originally not atop Notre Dame's quarterback list in the spring of 2013 while he waited for an offer and panic about the situation at the position was setting in with the likelihood of Tommy Rees becoming the starter again. Before we get to that here's my thoughts on Kizer following last year's National Signing Day:
I'm heartened by his senior stats because I think they show that Kizer is a smart quarterback and a lot better than his senior film might indicate. I really like his touch and like many freshman quarterbacks I'm interested to see how accurate he is at the next level. I'm not real crazy about his footwork, though. Unless he gets rid of the ball quickly he seems to be flat-footed quite often, but he's able to use his athleticism to get out of trouble when a pass rusher gets near him. His arm strength is decent and should get better with a quicker and more powerful delivery. I love his combination of size and athleticism and I think it's where he offers a ton of potential. I'm not sure he's got the pedigree to be an elite passer but with his height and running ability Kizer could be a big weapon in college. It's as a runner where I think he'll have to be a difference maker in order to compete with the upcoming stocked depth chart.
Notre Dame needed a quarterback for 2014, and remember this was back when Golson was suspended and people (well, mostly fans) were convinced he wasn't returning to South Bend ever again.
Kizer gained a lot of exposure in early June of 2013 after qualifying for The Opening and Elite 11 following the Columbus Nike Football Training Camp. While he notoriously carried an Alabama offer, Kizer publicly commented it wasn't committable and pined for offers from Notre Dame and Ohio State.
On June 5th, Notre Dame finally offered.
Visits to Alabama and LSU were lined up soon after the Irish offer but the trip to Tuscaloosa was swiftly cancelled. Kizer visited Notre Dame on June 9th and never ended up making it to his planned Baton Rouge trip a few days later. On June 11th he committed to the Fighting Irish.
While at The Elite 11, Kizer impressed early with his intangibles and willingness to learn. However, he struggled with accuracy and did not make it past the initial round of cuts. Kizer had a good senior season and received a modest jump in rankings but ultimately stayed near his low 4-star rating.
One of the talking points surrounding Kizer before he enrolled at Notre Dame was that he was a multi-sport athlete in high school who wasn't your traditional quarterback 24/7/365 of his life. Due to his size and arm this gave him the 'raw but enormous upside' label.
So far after his first season and as he finishes up his first spring ball we're still not sure how Kizer is progressing or just how high that ceiling really is for the future.
I thought Kizer had good athleticism for his size in high school but he did run a 4.95 in the 40-yard dash at The Opening and has gained a considerable amount of weight since then. At 230 pounds, with a very large lower body, this is a big boy who probably isn't a true spread quarterback and is more of a pocket passer with decent athleticism. I thought with his height he could turn into an effective runner but that's probably not in the cards for someone who is likely to be pushing 245 down the road as an upperclassman.
As a passer, there just isn't enough of a sample size to make any great determinations yet. Kizer did go 1 of 5 during his first spring game while skipping a couple not terribly difficult throws, but as our friends at Her Loyal Sons wrote about last week, Kizer has been going through a lot in recent weeks as his girlfriend recently underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her brain. The couple have been blogging about the experience and you should definitely read it if you have time. You can forgive DeShone if he wasn't 100% there mentally during the Blue Gold Game.
Scouts, former coaches, and the current Irish staff have never hesitated to praise Kizer for his leadership and work ethic. These will be necessary attributes if he is going to develop and reach his ceiling. However, with what we've been able to put together so far it's looking like an up-hill battle for Kizer to make a big impact as a starter at Notre Dame.
Malik Zaire has developed really well over the past year and with the current quarterback competition giving nearly all of the reps to Zaire and Golson it won't be until spring 2016 that Kizer begins getting worthwhile snaps in practice. So, he'll be heading into next spring not terribly more experienced than Brandon Wimbush who will be presumably coming off his own redshirt freshman season.
For someone who needed to smooth over the edges, going two years without that high level of practice is not ideal with a more talented quarterback coming up behind him beginning this summer and Zaire penciled in as the starter for 2016-17.
Somehow, Kizer is going to have to make a move over the next 12 months, and especially this time next year. If not, his situation could be a lot similar to Luke Massa--another tall Ohioan quarterback with good athleticism who didn't make a move at the position at Notre Dame and took over the holding duties. Kizer is more talented, and I don't see him making a move to receiver or tight end like Massa, but I see some similarities.