Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer plans to make NFL Draft decision 'sooner rather than later'

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

DeShone Kizer is preparing for a bowl game.

Not his bowl game, but a bowl game nonetheless.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time watching film on a couple opponents and helping out some peers,” Notre Dame’s junior quarterback said after receiving team MVP honors at the annual Echoes awards banquet on Friday.

“(Clemson quarterback) Deshaun Watson and I are pretty tight, so whatever his opponent is, I’ll watch a couple games of film for him and share some notes and just talk some ball. That’s been cool.”

But while Watson gears up for a College Football Playoff collision with Ohio State, Kizer’s immediate future remains in limbo. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior was named one of seven team captains for the 2017 season on Friday, but he has yet to decide whether he’ll stick around to embrace that position. Feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board is imminent, Kizer says, and their input will help determine whether he’ll declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.

“We’ve collected quite a bit of information,” Kizer said. “I think the grade will definitely help me out in making the decision.”

But what will that grade be?

“He didn’t put up the numbers you thought (he would) and he didn’t have the year you thought (he would), but you look at the talent and the ability of a kid that’s that big and has that kind of arm and will work hard and has the kind of movement skills he does in the pocket,” ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on Thursday. “He’s going to be intriguing. If you can get him at the right point in the draft — and I’m not saying first round — if you can get him in the second round and develop him, then I think you have something. First round is a little rich for me considering the kind of year he had.

“If he can’t get it done at a high level in college, you’re going to expect him all of a sudden, just because the offense wasn’t ideal for his skill set, are you going to blame it all on that? I expect him to go back for another year. You keep hearing that he may come out. If he does, yeah, he’ll get in the first round discussion because of talent. I’ll have a second round grade on him, more than likely. But it wouldn’t shock me (if he was taken in the first round).

“Teams reach for quarterbacks, stretch for quarterbacks, overdraft quarterbacks all the time. Maybe they will with a talented kid like DeShone Kizer.”

But is that a risk Kizer is willing to take? And when does the Toledo, Ohio, native plan on making a final decision?

“Sooner rather than later,” Kizer said Friday. “I think that without playing in a bowl game, if I were to make a decision to leave, it’d be best to get a couple weeks ahead on the training process that it takes, as well as it’d be great to get back here and spend the time needed with my teammates to prepare for next season if I decide to come back.”

And if he does indeed come back, Kizer doesn’t expect his senior season to be anything like its predecessor.

“We were 4-8 in 2016. I think that’s the most exciting thing about 2017,” Kizer said. “We’ve figured out what it takes to win. I think we’ve definitely learned to appreciate all the things that go into winning, and we’re going to do whatever it takes in the next six months to make sure that we do win next year.”

Kizer’s presence would go a long way towards ensuring that result. In 12 games this season, the second-year starter passed for 2,925 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while running for 472 yards and eight more scores.

It may not have been the season he was hoping for, but it was enough to secure MVP honors (voted on by his teammates) on Friday night.

“The guys who have been deemed MVP of the Notre Dame football team are some of the best to ever play the game,” said Kizer, decked out in a blue blazer and black turtleneck. “The history behind this school is awesome and the winning tradition is awesome, and for myself to be considered among the guys who lead a winning tradition like this is truly an honor.

“I didn’t really understand what it meant until I got to sit up there and watch the highlight tapes of all the best do it. And now, to be among the best, once again is an honor.”

Kizer can’t tell you if he’ll be among that group again next season, accepting an award inside the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center while a highlight reel plays overhead. He can’t say definitively if his Notre Dame career has come to a close.

What he can say, with certainty, is that he’ll be home for the holidays. And while he’s happy to help Watson prepare for his bowl game, don’t expect him to watch it from the couch.

“Probably not, honestly,” Kizer said, when asked if he plans to watch bowl games this winter. “Obviously I wish I was in those positions. We set goals at the beginning of the year, and I would love to be a part of that. It’s going to definitely hurt if I’m going to watch those games.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (14) shakes hands with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick 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