Notebook: Notre Dame's dual-QB system hasn't thrown Kizer or Zaire

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — What figured to be an exercise in oversaturation and overanalyzation quietly simmers now on the back burner.

Quarterbacks. Tag-team quarterbacks. Tag-team quarterbacks who initially both bristled at the notion that their six-month competition to be Notre Dame’s No. 1 option at that position had ended into a tie of sorts.

Thanks to six player arrests over the weekend — that didn’t involve either Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer — the interest from the outside looking in on how the two-quarterback system is evolving, since coach Brian Kelly unfurled it a week ago, has been tepid at best.

For the record, junior Kizer and senior Zaire per Kelly have continued to practice at the high level that coaxed the exact arrangement Kelly initially hoped to avoid coming out of spring practice.

Without looking over their shoulder. Without pressing. Without trying to overcompensate.

“Certainly when the decision was made, there’s always a little bit of, ‘I wish I was the starter,’ ” Kelly said Wednesday after practice. “But since that decision, they really have embraced, knowing both of them will play and they both have to be ready.

“I think what I’ve seen more than anything else is a sharpness in their practice and, in particular, in their preparation. They’ve been really sharp. They’re louder in their communication. They’re just a little bit more assertive, because you know they know they’re both going to play.”

At least against Texas in the season opener on Sept. 4. Kelly hasn’t committed to the arrangement beyond that game.

As to who actually takes the first snap Sept. 4 in Austin, Texas, Kelly said he still hasn’t made a decision. Texas coach Charlie Strong, meanwhile, hinted that he does know who’s going to start between his No. 1 QB contenders — senior Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Shane Buechele. He’s just not telling.

On the mend

Projected starting defensive end Jay Hayes has returned to practice after suffering a high ankle sprain in practice on Aug. 13.

“He’s much better,” Kelly said. “It was good to see him out there moving around. We feel like if we can get him back to 100 percent by this weekend, that he should be a full go for Texas.”

Fellow junior Andrew Trumbetti and true freshman Daelin Hayes are also expected to see action at the position against the Longhorns.

Depth chart settling

The final undecided starting spot on the ND football team — other than technically the quarterbacks — has a resolution.

Senior Colin McGovern has emerged at the top of the depth chart at right offensive guard. Five players competed for the position at different junctures since the start of the spring practice, and McGovern had never surfaced as the front-runner — until now.

Most recently, it came down to a battle between McGovern and sophomore Tristen Hoge, the latter of whom is also the top backup at the center position.

• Kelly said he’ll use a three-man rotation of C.J. Sanders, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams for the two deep spots on kickoff returns. Sanders and former walk-on Chris Finke are the No. 1 and No. 2 options, respectively, on punt returns.

Finke is also running second to Sanders at slot receiver, with both his proficiency on offense and special teams contributing to Kelly’s decision to end the sophomore’s walk-on status recently and award him a scholarship.

“Finke just won us over with his consistent play,” Kelly said of the high school teammate of Zaire and sophomore cornerback Nick Coleman at Kettering (Ohio) Archbishop Alter.


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame defensive end Jay Hayes (93) during practice on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, at LaBar Practice Field at Notre Dame in South Bend. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)