As the summer circuit comes to a close and college recruits get ready to going back to the business of actually playing high school football, Irish commitment Malik Zaire is in Redondo Beach, California to test himself against some of the best prep quarterbacks in the country.
One part quarterback competition, one part reality television show, the Elite 11 is the one offseason camp with some actual pedigree. With nearly a dozen first round picks since its inception and notables like Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford and Matt LoVecchio (it’s true), the camp is a great training ground for one of college football’s most pressure packed position.
An impressive group of quarterbacks are in Los Angeles’ South Bay, where I can attest to beautiful weather and an especially crisp and clear day today. Of the 25 quarterbacks competing to be a part of the Elite 11 finals, 24 of those quarterbacks are already committed to a college, just another datapoint pointing to the accelerated recruiting timeline that’s taken over college football.
For Zaire, it’s another opportunity to help springboard the Irish commit to a solid senior season after flashing raw talent during his junior campaign. We’ve written about how impressive he’s been this summer before, but with some good instruction, plenty of technological gizmos, and a big stage, Zaire will get a glimpse of the pressure cooker that surely awaits him.
Catching up with the South Bend Tribune’s Tyler James before he took off for California, Zaire sounded confident.
“I want to see some of these other guys that everybody’s been talking about,” Zaire told James. “I know I can compete and keep up with them and make throw for throw with some of these guys. I’m very confident in the fact that I can go in there and come out on top.”
Early reviews on Zaire have been mostly positive, with his athleticism and silky smooth left-handed release impressing. We’ll have a chance to watch the action for ourselves when ESPNU televises the finals in August.
That the Irish would be able to lure one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, especially with a depth chart filled with young talent like Gunner Kiel and Everett Golson, says a lot about the effort Brian Kelly and his staff put in, not to mention the character of Zaire.
Whether or not he wins this made-for-TV spectacle, that he’s even competing says plenty about the future Irish quarterback.