DeShone Kizer might be looking toward April’s NFL Draft, but the questions about Notre Dame’s disappointing 2016 kept coming Friday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Attending the combine requires each player to meet with the media, so Kizer had no recourse to avoid the questions. Then again, doing so likely would have raised a red flag on teams’ draft profiles.
“I didn’t make enough plays,” the former Irish quarterback said. “The ball is in my hand every play. It’s my job at Notre Dame to put us in a position to win games, to trust the guys around me and develop the guys around me to make the plays with me.”
By the end of the session, Kizer pivoted slightly from that look directly into the mirror, acknowledging the quarterback competition with Malik Zaire may have distracted him more than would have been ideal.
“I do think I spent too much time thinking about that rather than developing the guys around me, developing the trust.
“The 2015 team and the 2016 team were completely different. We almost had a completely different roster on offense. I think there should have been a little bit more time spent with me trying to develop that trust, develop the guys around me to make those plays in the fourth-quarter drives.
“At times, I was looking over my shoulder too much and I think that’s probably my biggest regret this past season.”
Kizer does not embellish when he points out the offensive turnover between the two seasons. Heading into 2016, the Irish were without 2015’s leading rusher (C.J. Prosise, 156 attempts for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns), three leading receivers (in order of catches, most to fewest: Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle) and three offensive linemen who started all 13 games (Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer and Nick Martin).
Nonetheless, Kizer finished with 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns on 212-of-361 passing with nine interceptions. He added 779 yards and eight scores on 104 rushing attempts when not counting sacks and their yardage lost as the NCAA does. Kizer fumbled five times, losing three of them.
But the NFL already knew all those numbers unlike the numbers learned over the weekend.
Kizer measured 6-foot-4 ¼ and 233 pounds with a hand 9 7/8 inches in length. (How to measure your hand at home? Spread it on a flat surface. Measure from the tip of your pinkie to the tip of your thumb. Michael Jordan’s measured about 11 3/8 inches.)
Kizer clocked an official 4.83 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
With those oh-so-key figures logged, Kizer spent Saturday morning throwing to receivers also looking to impress NFL scouts.
The combine includes interviews with teams, as well. In a quarterback-needy league, Kizer and the other top prospects—from North Carolina, Mitchell, neé Mitch, Trubisky; from Texas Tech, Patrick Mahomes; from Clemson, Deshaun Watson—are not only popular in those 15-minute meetings, but also chess pieces in the conversations afterward. When San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch raves about Kizer, it may be a genuine indication of the quarterback-desperate 49ers’ thoughts as they hold the draft’s second-overall pick. It could also be Lynch putting on a front for the other 31 teams of the league.
Kizer reportedly met with the Bears (No. 3 pick, likely about to release incumbent starter Jay Cutler), the Jets (No. 6, no entrenched starter) and the Chiefs (No. 27, incumbent Alex Smith has long presented a high-floor, low-ceiling situation), as well.
Scouts will have another chance to see Kizer in an orchestrated setting at Notre Dame’s pro day, March 23. Quarterbacks often perform better in those throwing sessions thanks to the more-familiar targets who are not necessarily trying to make each catch look as impressive as possible.