Blue-Gold notes: Malik Zaire says 5-star QB recruit Dante (Moore) 'is the future, man'

Mike Berardino mberardino@gannett.com

SOUTH BEND — Former Notre Dame quarterbacks Steve Beuerlein, Ian Book and Malik Zaire were among 297 former Irish players who returned to campus for Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game and several different alumni events over the weekend. 

Former Irish offensive lineman Hunter Bivin, now director of player development, helped organize a reunion that included a dinner with former and current players. Just three confirmed attendees were unable to make it back. 

“I love the quarterbacks we’ve got now with TB (Tyler Buchner) and Drew Pyne, the people’s champ,” Zaire said. “Tyler Buchner is up and coming. He’s going to be a superstar himself.”

Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) stands on the sidelines with an ankle brace during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

► Scoring How the points were scored in Saturday's Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring football game

► Statistics:Individual and team statistics for Saturday's Blue-Gold game

Buchner missed Saturday’s game after suffering a sprained right ankle in a stairway mishap on Tuesday evening at the Guglielmino football building.

While five-star quarterback recruit Dante Moore traveled instead to Baton Route for LSU’s spring game, Zaire expressed confidence the Class of 2023 prospect from Detroit’s King High School would ultimately sign with Notre Dame. 

“Hey, ain’t nobody worried about that,” Zaire said of Moore’s photo op with former LSU star quarterback Joe Burrow. “We know what Brian Kelly (is)  – different jersey, same guy. If I had to choose between him and (Marcus) Freeman, I think (Moore) will make the right decision and be in that blue and gold.”

Zaire, who appeared in 15 games at Notre Dame from 2014-16 before transferring to Florida for his senior season, said he has spoken briefly a couple of times with Moore. 

“Dante is the future, man,” Zaire said. “He’s the future for what Marcus Freeman needs to solidify that dynasty path that we think he can take. I think Dante is going to make that room a lot better … from a standpoint of where we’re one step closer to competing with the ‘Bamas and Georgias of the world.” 

Keon Keeley, the five-star edge rusher from Tampa, led a group of 2023 commits in attendance Saturday. Four-star commitments Adon Shuler, a safety from New Jersey, and Drayk Bowen,a linebacker from Merrillville, Ind., also attended, but Zaire believes it’s only a matter of time before Moore joins them. 

“He’s a great kid,” Zaire said. “I know he’s going through a lot of decisions. He’s got a home in South Bend if he wants to come. I think if he does, a lot of things will change for the better for us."

What does Zaire like about Moore?

“He’s got a lot of swag to him,” Zaire said. “The thing I like best about him is that he’s keeping the main thing the main thing. He understands that there’s a lot of fanfare behind recruiting, but he keeps it focused on football.  If you can handle all of that and still win and be a productive player, then this is the place for you.”

Price is right

Notre Dame quarterback Steve Angeli (18) hands off to running back Jadarian Price (20) during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

► Noie column:Spring was important for this Irish football program, but now that's over. So, what next?

Jadarian Price admitted he knew running backs coach Deland McCullough would draft him to the Gold team. 

McCullough’s faith was rewarded with eight catches for 104 yards, 51 of which came on a screen pass for a touchdown from fellow freshman early enrollee Steve Angeli. Price also ran for 17 yards on a team-high nine carries. 

“I thought JD was doing a great job this spring, and (I) wanted to see how he would respond, basically being a primary guy,” McCullough said of the four-star recruit from Denison, Texas. 

The Gold team’s first points came early in the third quarter through Price, who received a key block downfield from senior lineman Quinn Murphy. Price said the Irish have practiced the play often this spring, but he wasn’t sure what to do when he got to the end zone untouched.

“I was like, ‘Man, this really just happened,’” Price recalled. “But just seeing those guys love on me and hype me up was an amazing experience.” 

Price said extra work after practice with Angeli paid off. Both freshmen agreed that Price had “turned heads” this spring. 

"I may be a young guy on this team,” Price said, “but I’m willing to do whatever needs to be done.”

'Capable to lead'

McCullough has been a position coach for a recent Super Bowl champion, but you got the sense Angeli’s game-winning, 10-yard touchdown scramble on Saturday’s final play was a career highlight for the well-traveled assistant. 

“It was marvelous,” a smiling McCullough said after his Gold squad rallied for a 13-10 win. “I never called plays before. I was digging in the (Kansas City) Chiefs’ archive. A couple of those big plays were directly from Kansas City.” 

While McCullough, 49, led the Gold team’s draft efforts and preparations during the week, defensive line coach Al Washington was Marcus Freeman’s choice to lead the Blue squad. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had “In Wash We Trust” T-shirts printed up for Saturday’s showdown. 

McCullough noted it remains one of his “ultimate goals” to become a head coach, so he openly embraced the chance to be “in a leadership position and command the room and put together a plan.” 

Washington, who turned 38 on Friday, was hired in January after spending the past three seasons as a linebackers coach at Ohio State. He agreed this week that there was significance to Freeman selecting two Black head coaches for the spring game. 

“No doubt,” Washington said. “I didn’t think about that, to be honest, but I think that’s important. Representation. For a team to see that, I think is powerful as well. Everybody is capable to lead. I definitely could see the value in that and take great pride in that.”

Injury update

Freeman downplayed the severity of any injuries suffered Saturday, terming any removals from action as “precautionary” and due mainly to “soreness.” 

Notre Dame defensive back Chance Tucker (18) is tended to by team trainers following an injury during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Backup tight end Kevin Bauman left with an apparent left knee issue on the game’s first offensive series. Bauman, a redshirt sophomore, suffered a fractured left tibia in last year’s season opener at Florida State and missed two months before returning for 33 late-season snaps. 

Sophomore running back Logan Diggs had seven touches for 32 yards for the Blue team before leaving with a left shoulder or upper arm issue in the third quarter. 

Redshirt freshman cornerback Chance Tucker received on-field attention from trainers after an apparent injury to his left knee in the fourth quarter. Tucker walked off gingerly with a trainer at his side.

Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino. Fernando Ramirez and Greg McKenna contributed to this report.