Brian Kelly open to playing two ND quarterbacks in 2016?

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Brian Kelly has two starting quarterbacks, but one football.

As Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer battle for the starting job in 2016, Notre Dame's head coach said on Monday that there may be room for more than just one quarterback in the playbook next fall.

“Let’s go back to the basics of playing team sports. Let’s go compete," Kelly said on ESPN's SportsCenter from University of Phoenix Stadium, where his Irish fell to Ohio State in the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day. "Let those two guys (Zaire and Kizer) go compete and see who the better guy is. We know they’re both great competitors. They’re great kids. They both can play at a high level, but we’re going to go let them compete and find out who the starting quarterback will be.

"There’s no question both of them can help us win. If it means we play both of them, well, maybe that’s what happens. But we’re going to let them both go compete.”

Zaire started three consecutive games for Notre Dame, starting with his MVP nod in the Music City Bowl win over LSU in 2014, before fracturing his ankle in the second half of the game against Virginia on Sept. 12. During that time, the 6-foot, 222-pound lefty completed 38 of 55 passes for 524 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions, while rushing for 199 yards and another score.

Kizer, who played all 13 games this season, completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, and ran for another 520 yards and 10 touchdowns — a Notre Dame record for a quarterback.

Here are a few more notable quotes from Kelly's SportsCenter cameo.

On the speculation that he could leave for an NFL job:

“I really feel like I’m at the (top) level. I know the NFL gets that notoriety because it’s professional sports, but it doesn’t mean necessarily that it has it right in all facets. College football has it right for me, because it’s coach-centric. I control the scholarships. I control the roster. Not that I’m a control freak, but this is my 25th year as a head coach. Doing it for so long, I like to be able to know what’s going on in the front office.

"Those are my biggest concerns sometimes. There’s so much turnover in the NFL and there’s a lack of continuity. In every great business, there has to be some change. But continuity is important, and I’ve always liked the continuity. At Notre Dame, we’ve got great structure, great continuity, great athletic director, great president. That’s why there’s no need to go chase anything else. I’m in a great situation at Notre Dame.”

On building depth to withstand injuries:

“I think, first of all, you have to recruit kids that believe in themselves, and then you have to give them the confidence that they can go out and play. You don’t do that overnight. You have to do it during the year. We don’t have any depth charts out there. That’s one of the things that I have always done in my 25 years. There is no No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. We’re all competing. That’s the first unit today. It might not be the first unit tomorrow. We don’t build a caste system within the program. All these guys feel like they can go and play and compete, and I think that helps build that culture within the program.”

Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire (8) looks for an open man down field during the first half of the Notre Dame Texas game Saturday, September 5, 2015 in South Bend.SBT Photo / BECKY MALEWITZ