DeShone Kizer credits Golson with aiding his latest rise on Notre Dame's depth chart

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The tantalizing contortion in an otherwise shock-free proclamation Wednesday night was how much mercenary QB Everett Golson helped shape the moment.

Remarkably, it was DeShone Kizer himself — and not Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly — who actually broke the news most of the college football world already assumed was an eventuality. The Irish quarterback cocktail has run its course after one game.

The junior will not only start against Nevada (1-0) Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium for the 18th-ranked Irish (0-1), Kizer was assured by Kelly Wednesday before practice that he won’t have to alternate series as he did with senior Malik Zaire in Sunday’s 50-47 double-overtime loss at Texas.

“We had a really good, smooth way of going about this competition, and I plan on treating it the same way (moving forward),” said Kizer, who fashioned a 206.5 pass-efficiency rating against the Longhorns and finished all six Irish TD drives with either his arm (5) or his legs (1).

“(Zaire) is a great quarterback, and I’m going to have to compete every day. That’s one of the things I completely understand.

“With a guy as good as he is, as a No. 2 now, he’s definitely going to push me. And I look forward to having a guy who makes me make every throw, rather than being complacent from practice to practice.”

And to think just 17 months ago, Kizer was on the brink of walking away from his third-string QB status at the time and giving baseball a whirl. He admitted Wednesday that he had reached out to Irish baseball coach Mik Aoki at one time and had hit the batting cages a couple of times.

“It never really fully ever got into motion,” he said, “because Everett ended up leaving, and it was time to lock in and play my part as a backup at the time.”

Every bit as impacting as Golson’s departure for Florida State in May of 2015 was the impression he made on Kizer during the latter’s freshman season. Positive impressions, that Kizer took into the eight-month long quarterback face-off with Zaire.

Kizer was an invested bystander during the Golson-Zaire competition that heated up at the end of the 2014 season and was still waging when the two-year starter hit the eject button.

“I really looked up to Everett as a quarterback here,” Kizer said. “I learned quite a bit from him. He had a kind of a win-from-within mentality that I never had.

“I was Mr. Nice Guy all the way through high school, and he really showed me how to be an elite competitor, to be able to compete against yourself and not really worry about the guy next to you. That’s how Everett was.

“So that whole (Zaire-Golson) competition kind of showed me how a quarterback competition at an elite school like Notre Dame should look, with two great quarterbacks. I tried to add on my little spice to it, and that was to not only be in a great competition and have a win-from-within mentality, but also buy into the quarterback room and try to develop us both (himself and Zaire) at the same time.”

Looking at old film of himself also gave Kizer a boost in the competition with Zaire.

“I truly learned to trust myself and to let it fly,” he said of his summer, out of the view of the media, fans and — for the most part — his own coaches. “A lot of the good plays from last year were because I was just letting it rip. I was completely comfortable.

“And after having a full summer of knowing who I really am as a quarterback, it allowed me to go out against Texas and fall right back into where I was after the Ohio State game (Jan. 1).

“I’m still getting a little wide with my footwork. And that’s something I’ll continue to learn and continue to adjust on the fly. But as long as I remain comfortable and remain poised in the pocket, I should be able to make every throw that coach Kelly asks me to make.”

People beyond Notre Dame are noticing. NFL people.

Projections and mock drafts this time of year tend to look quite different than when draft time rolls around in April, but Scott Wright of draftcountdown.com will have Kizer in his first round at No. 20 when he releases his mock later this week, based on the premise Kizer will continue to develop.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, who released his mock Wednesday, had Kizer as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft (and teammate and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey No. 28). Kizer has two years of college eligibility after this one, but is eligible for the 2017 draft since he would be three years removed from high school.

“With the schedule that we have — right up on that board over there — if you’re focused on anything other than the opponent on Saturday, you’re going to lose every game,” Kizer said of what allows him not to get caught up in how he’s perceived on the outside and how wildly fluctuating those perceptions can be.

“There’s too much going on as far as my social and academic life as well as football for me to get caught up in anything other than the mission. It’s really easy to kind of put all that stuff on the back burner and not listen to it. Just focus on how I can better myself and win against Nevada.”

And his hope is that Zaire will still feel a part of it.

“There’s one quarterback now, but there are two leaders,” Kizer said. “We’re still going to lead the exact same way. Malik doesn’t fall of the face of the Earth, now. He’s a huge component to this team.

“He’s going to go out and lead the same way he’s been leading. I expect him to. I will fully allow him to step in and say the things he needs to say.

“He understands the offense just as much as I do. His experience and his ability to lead is something this offense needs and that this team needs. It’s kind of my duty to allow him to be that senior guy and share his experiences.”

ehansen@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @EHansenNDI

DeShone Kizer (14), who Wednesday was named Notre Dame's No. 1 QB, moving forward, credits former Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) in aiding his rise on the depth chart. (Tribune Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)

Kickoff: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT

Where: Notre Dame Stadium

TV: NBC

Radio: WSBT-AM (960), WSBT-FM (96.1), WNSN-FM (101.5)

Line: Notre Dame by 28