Notre Dame is officially moving on from Gunner Kiel as it started its spring practice on Monday without the former five-star recruit, and now that leaves an opening as to who will be the school’s backup quarterback in 2013.
Rising redshirt sophomore Everett Golson is the incumbent starter, but he had bouts of inconsistency in his first season, and Brian Kelly didn’t hesitate to yank his quarterback when necessary.
Tommy Rees served as the backup to Golson last year and played well in spot duty, but he isn’t the ideal fit in Kelly’s offense due to a lack of athletic ability. That leads me to freshman Malik Zaire, who is very reminiscent of Golson with his tremendous dual-threat ability, and could challenge for the right to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback.
If Golson were to suffer an injury and miss any length of time, Kelly wouldn’t have to overhaul the offense and mold it to the skill-set of Rees, and he can continue to run the same offense as he would with Golson behind center.
Zaire is thought to be more polished at this point of his career than Golson was when he was an incoming freshman, so handing the ball over to Zaire shouldn’t be the end of the world for the Fighting Irish.
Enrolling early gives Zaire the benefit of participating in spring practice to impress the coaching staff and digest the playbook, and if he’s able to learn the offense, I think he won’t get redshirted and will move ahead of Rees on the depth chart.
Losing Kiel won’t hurt the team, and in fact may serve as a blessing because it wouldn’t stunt the development of the talented Zaire.