Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer's focus on fundamentals
SOUTH BEND — Now it’s time for DeShone Kizer to make a strong second impression.
Which Brian Kelly-coached quarterbacks have a history of doing.
Kizer on Saturday became the eighth Kelly protégé in succession to win his starting QB debut with 242 passing yards and 248 yards in total offense in a 30-22 takedown of then No. 14 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Stadium.
That lineage includes three Cincinnati quarterbacks (Zach Collaros, Chazz Anderson and Tony Pike), with Central Michigan redshirt freshman Dan LeFevour in 2006 as the only one in the 12 years Kelly has been coaching on the FBS level not to win his first start.
But LeFevour, who faced a powerhouse Michigan team on the road in his starting debut, did win the next start, against Akron. And seven of the other eight FBS QBs Kelly has shepherded through their first college starts also won their second starts, with Dayne Crist the lone exception (a 28-24 loss to Michigan in 2010).
Kizer’s passing and total offense numbers rank third-highest among the 31 Irish QB that have made a first start at Notre Dame since 1975.
Only Brady Quinn’s 297 passing yards and 322 total in a 23-10 loss to Purdue in 2003 and Ron Powlus’ 291 and 297 in a 42-15 rout of Northwestern in 1994 surpassed the redshirt freshman’s output against the Yellow Jackets.
“I was really pleased with the big-picture stuff,” Kelly said of Kizer, 21-of-30 passing with a TD and an end zone interception. “I think it's more that lack of playing time and some of the mechanics.”
Kizer will take that next step Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium (3:30 p.m. EDT; NBC-TV), when the sixth-ranked Irish (3-0) host UMass (0-2) in a game that was supposed to reunite Kelly and former Irish offensive coordinator/QBs coach Charley Molnar.
Molnar, however, was purged after two seasons and a 2-22 record as the Minutemen’s head coach, and is now in his second season coaching wide receivers at the University of Idaho.
The Irish will be facing a team much more offensively supercharged than Molnar’s 2012 and 2013 teams, which ranked dead last and fourth from the bottom in total offense while transitioning from the FCS to the FBS in those two seasons, respectively.
Kizer, meanwhile, matches up with a UMass defense that ranks 117th in total defense, one spot ahead of ND’s season-opening opponent, Texas.
“There are some fundamentals that need to be cleaned up,” Kelly said of what he hopes to see in Kizer’s encore performance. “Ball security — I was a little bit concerned with the ball being a little bit loose at times.
“Ball came out one time, a screen situation, where it was intentional grounding, but we've got to eat that. I think there was another time on a run where the ball came out at the end of a run. Tighten up those things a little bit. Tighten up his footwork a little bit.
“He was off in some accuracy in some lower throws that we'll work on hard this week. We've got to be a little bit better with our cadence. He pauses a little bit too much in his verbal cadence. So cleaning up more of the fundamentals than the big-picture stuff.”