Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire will request release, pursue graduate transfer

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

This news is barely even news.

It’d be more accurate to label it a foregone conclusion, but on Wednesday, it will come to fruition.

Notre Dame senior quarterback Malik Zaire will meet with head coach Brian Kelly on Wednesday morning to request his formal release to pursue a graduate transfer, his father, Imani Zaire, confirmed on Tuesday night.

Irish Illustrated reported that there are four frontrunners to land the 6-foot, 225-pound quarterback: Florida, Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Wisconsin, though Imani Zaire added that there are more schools in contention.

On his Instagram page on Saturday night, Zaire posted the following message: "God has given me a journey so unique and so different that I'm nothing but blessed and grateful. Answering the call of greatness takes (time) #ThxND #IrishForever #NextMoveMyBestMove #ComingForEverything".

Of course, Zaire’s premature departure from Notre Dame was not always a virtual inevitability. The former four-star recruit made his first career start in the 31-28 Music City Bowl victory over LSU in 2014, earning MVP honors for a performance in which he rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and threw for 96 yards and another score.

After entering the 2015 season as Notre Dame’s starter, Zaire immediately rewarded that investment, completing 19 of 22 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in a decisive season-opening 38-3 win over Texas.

A week later, his season — and his career as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback — was over. Zaire fractured his right ankle in the second half of an eventual Irish win over Virginia, and after returning from the injury last spring, he was eventually overtaken in a quarterback competition by ascending junior DeShone Kizer.

In his four-year Notre Dame career, the Kettering, Ohio native passed for 816 yards and six touchdowns without an interception, and ran for 324 yards and two scores.

Kizer, who has started 23 consecutive games since Zaire’s injury, was one of four Irish players to request feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. The 6-5, 230-pound junior has been projected by various scouting services and analysts as a first round pick should he declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.

In those 23 games, plus two more in which he relieved Zaire, Kizer has passed for 5,809 yards and 47 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. He also has run for 992 yards and 18 scores.

Notre Dame’s next quarterback in line is 6-1, 225-pound sophomore and former consensus four-star recruit Brandon Wimbush, who did not play in 2016.

Like Wimbush, Zaire will compete to secure a starting job next fall — just not at Notre Dame.

mvorel@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6428 | Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Malik Zaire (9) waves as he exits the field following Notre Dame’s 45-27 loss to Southern Cal in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN