Brian Kelly confirmed what many of us knew all along. No resolution to a spirited quarterback battle is coming soon.
On Wednesday, Kelly caught up with the media to talk about the progress made during the Irish’s first 10 spring practices. And with all eyes on the quarterback battle between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer, Kelly acknowledged that they weren’t close to deciding anything.
“I don’t think we’ll make a decision after spring,” Kelly said.
And with that, a battle that we thought might go all the way up until Texas week just essentially got extended until at least fall camp—with Kelly explaining in one sentence why the decision is a difficult one.
“The two quarterbacks are really good players,” Kelly continued. “Each one of them has different things they need to work on.”
For Zaire, it’s learning some of the many things he missed during a regular season that ended after six quarters. That’s turned spring into an installation and learning period for the veteran of the depth chart, something that wasn’t necessarily unexpected.
“I think one thing we’re realizing is we did a lot of things offensively that we did not do with Malik in camp that we did as we evolved offensively during the year. There’s a lot of things he’s doing for the first time,” Kelly said.
Pair that with returning from a significant injury and shaking off the rust—things that impact basics like footwork and balance—and it makes it very difficult to measure these quarterbacks apples to apples.
“It’s hard to evaluate strictly who’s ahead of who because we’re installing for him,” Kelly said.
Kizer’s spring has a different flavor. After putting together one of the more impressive debut seasons in recent memory, the bar has been raised by the staff as they ask Kizer to be more than just a complementary part to the offense.
“For DeShone, it’s what I’ve talked about before. It’s across the board reads, it’s red zone efficiency. It’s consistency,” Kelly said.
With two quarterbacks and one football, Kelly knows that he faces a difficult decision. Even if the flavor of this battle is much different than the one that took place last season, it’ll still leave one quarterback on the sideline serving as a backup, hardly the expectation for two competitive kids.
“They’re both No. 1s. They both probably can’t play at the same time,” Kelly acknowledged. “One’s going to have to be the starter and somebody’s going to be unhappy, but I can’t keep them all happy. We’re not going to go into the season with a team that does not have an identity. We’re going to have an identity as to who we are and that doesn’t mean we can’t play more than one quarterback. But we’ll have a quarterback and we’ll get that established.”