In case you happened to have missed it yesterday, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire announced his intentions to transfer away from Notre Dame to play his final season of football somewhere else.
All the way back in 2006, the NCAA decided to implement the grad transfer rule, which allows players who have completed their bachelor’s degree to transfer somewhere else to start work on a master’s so long as they have eligibility left and meet some other criteria. Even though the rule was implemented, it wasn’t really until Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, where he absolutely dominated, that people started to take notice of it.
Since then, it has become much more common to see. Even Georgia Tech got in on the fun prior to the 2015 season when they added former Stanford fullback Patrick Skov.
Going back to Malik Zaire, he will be graduating from Notre Dame in December, which means he pretty much has his pick of schools for next season. Right now, most speculation is pointing to Zaire going to one of Florida, Pitt, or Wisconsin, but I’d like to take a little bit of time to look at the possibility of him transferring to the Flats for his final year of eligibility.
Before I really dive into this, I do want to say that there has been no previous speculation of this being a potential move for Zaire, and thus, is not very likely to happen.
Why it makes sense for Georgia Tech
Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, following their bowl game, we will never get to see Justin Thomas play for us again, which leaves a gaping hole at quarterback for the first time in quite a few years.
What makes this hole different is that there isn’t really one guy who stands out as being the next best option. When Tevin Washington graduated (even when he was a senior), we had Vad Lee (and eventually Thomas), and we knew that we would be fine at quarterback.
This year, the only other quarterbacks to play were Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall. Jordan served as the back-up to Thomas and only sparingly played, mostly in goal line situations. He also did make a start, against Virginia Tech, and looked pretty good running a very simplified version of the offense. Marshall, on the other hand, only played a handful of snaps in what seems like a pretty big waste of what could have been a redshirt season for him.
Looking at the options right now, they don’t really seem to inspiring. We do have a couple guys redshirting right now, but they have even less experience.
Enter Malik Zaire, and we have a guy with some starting experience and plenty of in-game experience. He’s definitely a guy who could come right in and not just compete for the starting job, but easily win it.
Zaire could also serve as a bit of a transitional quarterback for the Yellow Jackets. As I mentioned earlier, Tech has a couple of quarterbacks redshirting this season. One of those is Lucas Johnson, who is thought of pretty highly (at least by the FTRS staff). He’s probably not going to be ready to take the reigns next season, but he could serve as a back-up next season behind Zaire before taking the reigns in 2018.
One of the main things about playing quarterback in an option offense is making sure you have a durable runner, because they will take a good amount of hits. The one injury Zaire has had thus far was the broken ankle he suffered last season in the second game of the season.
At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, he’s got a bigger build and could run through some people, making the offense look a little closer to a Joshua Nesbitt-led offense.
Why it makes sense for Malik Zaire
I really just want to copy and paste a lot of what I said above. Zaire has the potential to be a pretty solid quarterback for the Yellow Jackets. He’s got the size and all the tools to be successful.
So why would Zaire want to come play here? I think a lot of it would be exposure. Georgia Tech is going to finish this season with eight or nine wins, depending on the outcome of the bowl game, so they could potentially be a team that has some eyes on them next season. I think that exposure would only increase if Zaire transferred here.
He would also be walking into one of the better quarterback situations of the schools that he’s considering.
With Florida, Luke Del Rio, prior to his injury, had a pretty good grasp on the starting job, and I believe he’s likely to carry that into next season. Wisconsin will be returning their starting quarterback in Alex Hornibrook. Out of the three schools mentioned above, Pitt is the only one losing their starting quarterback.
Another reason it makes sense for Zaire is his style of play. I was reading the SB Nation article about Zaire and came across this quote:
Zaire’s game is best suited to being used like a Jalen Hurts-style running back who happens to be able to toss the deep ball.
That sounds like a remarkably good fit for Georgia Tech’s offense, and would be a good place for him to show off his playmaking ability.
Why it doesn’t make sense for Georgia Tech
There’s really not many reasons this move wouldn’t make sense for Georgia Tech. In fact, I can only really think of two reasons.
First, this is a pretty complex offense to learn, and I don’t see Paul Johnson necessarily trusting someone with as little experience as Zaire would have in the offense to come in and run it. The closest we have seen to that is Joshua Nesbitt, and that was only because we didn’t really have much of a choice. That did manage to work out pretty well, but I digress.
The other reason is they might want to use the scholarship that would go to Zaire on a recruit who would be around for four years instead of just on a guy who would be around for one year.
Why it doesn’t make sense for Malik Zaire
I believe Zaire’s biggest reason for wanting to transfer from Notre Dame is because he wants to go the the NFL as a quarterback and needs to be somewhere where he can actually show the NFL scouts that he is capable of doing that.
Sitting on the bench at Notre Dame, he’s not going to be able to do that. Starting for Georgia Tech, he won’t really get much of a chance to do that either.
Since Paul Johnson has been at Tech, the Yellow Jackets have not seen a quarterback make the transition to quarterback at the NFL level. If Zaire were to come to Tech, more than likely he would not be able to make a career in the future as an NFL quarterback. He might be able to make the transition to running back or receiver, but if I had to guess, I’d say he wants to be a quarterback if at all possible. And quite frankly, if that’s what he wants to do, he probably has a better shot of doing it somewhere else.
Overall, I think Malik Zaire could be a pretty solid fit for Georgia Tech next season. I don’t think he would come in and be the magical puzzle piece that we needed to compete for a national championship, but at the same time, I don’t think we would be terrible with him either. He would do a very good job of keeping us on the same track we’re on now and help transition us from Justin Thomas to (hopefully) Lucas Johnson.
Again, I just want to say that there has been no previous speculation about this, so this is not a probable outcome at all, but it’s just fun to speculate.
So let me know what you think. Would Malik Zaire be a good fit at Tech? Do you think we even get considered?