Saturday’s 34-31 loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies marked a sour end to the careers of many Notre Dame seniors. The likes of Isaac Rochell, James Onwualu, and Jarron Jones played their final down in Notre Dame Stadium. Others such as quarterback DeShone Kizer have less certain futures in South Bend.
However, the reality of the situation is that Kizer’s last snap in Notre Dame navy saw him scramble for a first down only to get knocked out of the game. Malik Zaire took the final snap and completed a pass for 14 yards as the clock hit triple-zeros in Notre Dame Stadium.
Kizer, an academic junior, has had an unlikely rise to the the helm of the Irish offense. Once overlooked in favor of his current bakcup, Kizer made the most of of his opportunity at Notre Dame. Thrust into a whirlwind at Virginia in 2015, Kizer hit Will Fuller in the waning moments of the game to arrive on the college football map. After a hot start to 2016, Kizer rose to the top of most draft boards. Even after a disappointing season, Kizer is still one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
Although Kizer has been mum on his future in South Bend, it seems as if his mind is made up. After the game, Kizer was asked about his future at Notre Dame. Kizer said, “Let’s be real. The opportunity [to play in the NFL] will be there. We’ll see.”
Kizer’s language here is interesting, to say the least. Kizer seemed to forgo the typical response that he is focused on finishing his career at Notre Dame before thinking about the draft. Clearly, Kizer has thought about the draft. Given the way this season has gone, it is hard to imagine that much has happened to persuade Kizer to say.
Even though the buzz around Kizer has cooled off considerably, he still is one of the top quarterbacks in his class. Certainly, staying would allow Kizer to correct some of his flaws. However, is a little more experience worth the price of a potential injury? It’s worth noting that Kizer had a front-row seat for Jaylon Smith’s ugly injury in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
If his stock has indeed dropped, Kizer might in fact be more enticed with the opportunity to make the NFL leap. Few quarterbacks succeed when being thrown into the fray with time to develop. Kizer may view his drop in stock as an opportunity to sidestep a few expectations and an opportunity to enter in to a stable situation with ample time to develop.
After Saturday’s game came to its disappointing conclusion, Kizer stayed on the field for 15-20 minutes, seemingly taking in the moment, according to reports:
For what it’s worth, Kizer was asked about how he lingered on the field after the game and responded by telling reporters that he did the same thing following Notre Dame’s last home game last season, also.
This has, without a doubt, been a poorly-coached season by Brian Kelly. For a guy with an NFL paycheck in front of him, it is certainly hard to envision a scenario where Kizer returns to play for a coach that has failed to put his team in the best position to win.
If Kizer does, indeed, choose the NFL over Notre Dame, Coach Kelly’s quarterback situation will once again be a question mark. Malik Zaire is expected to move on from Notre Dame after the season (although Kizer’s absence may be reason for him to stay) while sophomore Brandon Wimbush is redshirting this season. Wimbush has looked impressive in limited time in mop-up duties last season.
Judging by this twitter exchange, Wimbush has developed a rapport with tight end Alize Jones, who will return from suspension next season:
Take that for what it’s worth, but it seems as if the Irish sophomore is ready for his opportunity to lead the offense.