Malik Zaire‘s recovery from an ankle injury is ahead of schedule. The junior quarterback returned to practice this week and worked in seven-on-seven drills, Brian Kelly revealed on Saturday afternoon.
“Malik is taking some reps and he’s well ahead of schedule,” Kelly said Saturday. “He will not play, but he is in there taking reps and has been phenomenal in terms of the way he has gotten back, moving around and throwing the football.”
Zaire’s return to practice points to a healthy spring for the returning quarterback, a key objective after badly breaking his ankle in just the second game of the season. And while Kelly wasn’t willing to commit Zaire to helping on the scout team as the Irish look to replicate J.T. Barrett’s skill-set, Zaire getting into the mix now allows him to return to a positional depth chart that may find this season’s opening day starter chasing his understudy.
The season started brightly for Zaire. He completed 19 of 22 throws for 313 yards and three touchdowns against Texas. While he struggled passing in his first road start against Virginia—completing less than 50 percent of his throws—he was averaging nearly nine yards a carry when his season ended.
In his place, Kizer won nine football games, pulling out the victory against the Cavaliers with a late-game touchdown pass to Will Fuller. He rallied the Irish three more times in the fourth quarter, finishing the regular season with 19 touchdown passes against nine interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his throws and rushing for nine scores.
Kelly expects to have a formidable depth chart this spring, with Brandon Wimbush also getting time to develop during bowl preparations. Kelly talked about the meaningful reps Wimbush will receive this week as being helpful to his development, meaning both quarterbacks who saw limited on-field action are ahead of the game heading into 2016.