Dilfer praises Malik Zaire at Elite 11

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Camp counselor or participant? Those watching Malik Zaire at The Opening were struggling to figure that out.

With some of the nation’s top recruits heading to Nike HQ this week for the Elite 11 quarterback camp and the prep combine The Opening, Zaire returned to his quarterbacking roots to serve as a camp counselor.

It wasn’t too long ago that Zaire was an option quarterback looking to make a name for himself as a camper. He did that—nearly winning the competition, and making quite an impression on Elite 11 head coach and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer.

Zaire was back working with Dilfer in Oregon, now serving as a counselor. And Irish Illustrated’s Anna Hickey caught up with Dilfer, who sung Zaire’s praises after watching him compete and coach during the first days of camp.

Dilfer wasn’t shy with his words, when talking about the quarterback’s work ethic.

“He’s a machine. He’ll go until he dies,” Dilfer said, before telling Hickey that he’s already spoken with Notre Dame quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford about the new starting quarterback.

Zaire’s holding his own as a thrower as well. First-round prospects like Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and USC’s Cody Kessler at also in Beaverton. And according to Dilfer, Zaire’s capable of throwing the ball with those two pocket passers as well.

Here’s Dilfer when asked by Hickey about his evolution as a passer.

“He’s so much more advanced as a passer. Not that he wasn’t before, but I remember getting him from high school, and everybody was saying he’s just a runner who can throw a little bit. And anyone who’s still saying that, I think it’s crazy. He is going toe-to-toe with (Penn State quarterback) Christian Hackenberg, (USC quarterback) Cody Kessler, with all of these supposed passers, and he’s ripping it around as good as anybody. I think Malik has the curse like a lot of college quarterbacks these days that they’re so dynamic as runners that they get devalued as passers. But I think Malik is an exceptional passer.”

Zaire hasn’t had a chance to establish himself as a college quarterback like the other counselors working. But for those in Oregon watching Zaire give back to the camp that helped establish him as a rising senior in high school, Zaire’s leadership is apparent, as is his comfort level now that he’s ascended to Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.