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Notre Dame Football: Should Brian Kelly Burn Malik Zaire's Redshirt Season?

Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) slides in the third quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Emily O'Neill ElmerCorrespondent IIMay 26, 2013

Notre Dame has lost their up-and-coming star quarterback Everett Golson. According to Kevin Lewis and Angelo Di Carlo of UNDU.com, Golson is no longer enrolled at the university. 

The unfortunate news means that Notre Dame will be in dire need of a solid quarterback next fall. 

One person who certainly will not be a part of the discussion is Gunner Kiel, who transferred to the Cincinnati Bear Cats. As I mentioned before, Kiel made a mistake by transferring. 

With Kiel out of the picture, head coach Brian Kelly will have to choose between veteran Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and impressive inbound recruit Malik Zaire.

There is little doubt that Rees will be be the default starter this August. Rees is a capable player who redeemed himself last season with his solid passing abilities after a series of turnovers in 2011 cost him the starting spot. 

Andrew Hendrix has a good arm, but he will not challenge Rees for the starting spot. 

Finally, there is Malik Zaire, the 6'0", 196-pound dual-threat lefty out of Kettering, Ohio. Zaire plays in the same style as Golson but has some extra muscle to insulate him from the big hits a dual-threat QB inevitably takes on rushing plays. 

So, should Kelly burn Zaire's redshirt season and start him as a true freshman?

The answer is a resounding yes. While it would be great for Zaire to have a year to develop and get up to speed on the playbook, that is a luxury the Fighting Irish can't afford. 

Zaire is Notre Dame's best shot at a national championship, so they will need him in the starting spot the second he is ready.  

Rees should be able to handle the Temple Owls without much trouble, but early games against Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma will stretch his skills to the limit.

Rees' experience makes him a reliable backup, but the Irish need a more athletic starter if they truly want to be a championship team. With tough games against Oklahoma, USC and Stanford on deck this season, Notre Dame will need their best man on the field. 

Zaire has that athleticism, plus he is nimble on his feet and has great field vision. He will, however, need to work on his accuracy before he is ready to challenge Rees for the starting position. If all goes well, I expect to see him taking over by midseason. 

There is a potential silver lining to all this upheaval. Zaire has more confidence in the pocket than Golson did, and he also has a more athletic build. 

If Kelly allows him to get a reasonable amount of time on the field, Zaire has the potential to be at or above Golson's 2012 level by midseason. However, to get to that level, he will need to commit himself to mastering the playbook in a way few true freshman are called upon to do. 

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