Brian Kelly announced that both Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will play against Texas, answering one of the biggest questions of the preseason with an solution that didn’t seem plausible heading into training camp.
“We’re best prepared to play Texas playing both DeShone and Malik,” Kelly said Wednesday during his Media Day press conference.
Thus ends a quarterback derby—for now—that was one of the biggest position battles in the country and the single largest storyline for Notre Dame heading into this season. And with the decision coming more than two weeks before the Irish head to Austin, it was likely made to get that position settled and an offensive game plan started.
“The decision was made now so they can just settle into getting better every day,” Kelly said.
When pressed for specifics on how this will all work, Kelly didn’t tip his hand—keeping a schematic headache alive for Texas coaches, and every other opponent down the line. So while he didn’t commit to this being more than just a one-game experiment, he did think it was the best way to ensure Notre Dame returned home from Austin with a win in the most important game on their schedule.
Kelly has spent much of training camp talking about how close this battle was. The past week has had him acknowledge that Zaire and Kizer are two of his best five playmakers. And because of that, it was the best move to make sure they both have a chance to help the Irish win.
“My ultimate decision is that I can’t put one of them on the sideline against Texas,” Kelly said.
Now the work begins on the game plan. As Notre Dame prepares its attack against Charlie Strong’s improved team, Kelly seemed confident that his offense will not struggle to find an identity, even with two different quarterbacks piloting the attack.
“The offense is seamless when one of them will come out of the game, there’s not a big change when one is in than the other,” Kelly explained. “There’s play call differences, but that doesn’t require much change at all.”
The team now moves forward with two leaders on offense. And while there might be frustrations among both players to be sharing a job, Kelly said it was in the best interest of the program to make sure both guys got on the field.
“These two guys are too good. I just watch them in practice and they’re making plays,” Kelly said. “It was just counterintuitive to take one of these guys off the field.”