One Power Five program will receive a graduate transfer commitment from a talented southpaw this off-season, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer than expected to find out which one.
According to Scout.com’s Pete Sampson, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire will delay his decision to commit to a program as a graduate transfer until mid-April. Sampson spoke with the signal caller’s father, Imani Zaire.
It had been noted that both Wisconsin and North Carolina were the frontrunners for the talented quarterback, especially the Badgers as head coach Paul Chryst recruited Zaire prior to taking the head coaching job at Pitt after the 2011 season. ESPN Wisconsin’s Tony Cartagena spoke with Zaire just prior to his visit to Madison in early December.
Enrolling early would have allowed Zaire to learn Wisconsin or North Carolina’s offense during spring practices to challenge for a starting position, but there’s also the factor of Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s NFL draft decision still yet to be revealed.
From Sampson’s report:
That’s a change from earlier this month when Zaire had planned to enroll for spring football – likely at Wisconsin or North Carolina – after his December graduation and full release from Notre Dame. Instead, the quarterback will stay in Arizona this off-season to train with Dennis Gile, who has mentored the quarterback before, including last off-season following the Fiesta Bowl.
As for where Zaire lands, the delayed decision could open the door for an SEC option after he expressed early interest in Florida. The Gators reportedly cannot take a graduate transfer due to missed academic requirements of past ones, but SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told reporters during the SEC Championship Game weekend that the league could change its stance.
Zaire came to Notre Dame ranked highly by recruiting services (194th player on the ESPN 300 list, 122nd by Rivals, 172nd overall by Scout) out of Kettering, Ohio.
Zaire has only played in 17 career games, completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 816 yards and six touchdowns with zero interceptions (a passer efficiency ranking of 149.3). In 2014 and 2015, Zaire showed an ability to run, averaging 5.7 and 5.4 yards per carry, respectively.
The 6’0, 225-pound southpaw was named the Music City Bowl Most Valuable Player in his first start at the end of the 2014 season.
He started off the 2015 season quite well before suffering a broken ankle at Virginia that cost him the rest of the year, completing 65 percent of his passes (26 of 40) for 428 yards and four touchdowns in two games against Texas and the Cavaliers.
In 2016, Zaire’s numbers suffered with the development of DeShone Kizer, who emerged in his place during the 2015 season. Zaire played in eight games, completing 11 of 23 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown.
For more on what Zaire would bring to Wisconsin if he commits to UW in the spring, check out our Q&A with One Foot Down’s Joshua Vowles.