New team emerges in chase for former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is leaning towards spending his final season of eligibility at Wisconsin, a source confirmed to the Tribune on Wednesday night.

Last week, Zaire made visits to two schools — Wisconsin and North Carolina. However, a new school has also emerged as a contender:

Baylor.

"Baylor is hot on the trail," the source told the Tribune on Wednesday.

In 17 career games at Notre Dame, Zaire passed for 816 yards and six touchdowns without an interception and ran for 324 yards and two more scores.

Zaire nearly committed to play for Wisconsin and then-Badger offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst out of high school. When Chryst left to become the head coach at Pittsburgh, Zaire's interest diminished.

Now, the 6-foot, 225-pound quarterback could conceivably spend his final collegiate season with Chryst, who is closing his second season as Wisconsin's head coach.

Wisconsin's starting quarterback — 6-4, 219-pound redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook — has passed for 1,243 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, while completing 58.1 percent of his passes. 

Zaire's interest in North Carolina may hinge on the status of Tar Heel quarterback Mitch Trubisky. A 6-3, 220-pound junior, Trubisky has thrown for 3,468 yards with 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season, while completing 68.9 percent of his passes. He has also rushed for 270 yards and five scores.

Should Trubisky declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, North Carolina would be in need of a new starting quarterback — and an opportunity could arise for Zaire. Underclassmen have until Jan. 16 to decide.

It's worth noting that Notre Dame plays at North Carolina next season on Oct. 7.

Baylor's starting quarterback, Seth Russell, is a redshirt senior and will not return next season. Zaire would have to compete with 6-4, 235-pound Grandview, Texas, native Zach Smith, who has passed for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions in nine games in his freshman season.

The Bears, under new head coach Matt Rhule, do not currently have a quarterback commit in their 2017 recruiting class.

The Notre Dame Football team practice at Culver on Saturday August 6, 2016. 9 Malik Zaire QB Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES