The SEC's change in graduate transfer rules, reducing the ban on transfers for schools with grad transfers who had not earned all of their APR points, allows Florida a new freedom in accepting players from other schools. And the most significant target that affects is former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.
Zaire began the 2015 season as the Irish starter before an ankle injury gave that job to DeShone Kizer. Having only started three games in his four years at Notre Dame, there are still many unknowns about the left-handed quarterback, but here are a few things we do know:
He's never turned the ball over in college
With just 98 passing attempts and 72 rushes, the sample size isn't huge. But Zaire has yet to throw a interception or lose a fumble during his time at Notre Dame. Although Zaire struggled last year after recovering from an ankle injury suffered early in the 2015 season, he kept up his impressive ball security record.
The Ohio native fumbled a snap against Army late in Notre Dame's 44-6 victory over the Black Knights last season, but his offensive line recovered, while a snap went over his head against Stanford for a safety without being touched by Zaire. Last year, the Gators had the third-most turnovers in the SEC, a number they may need to cut down on if they want to return to the conference championship game.
His completion percentage has been up and down
Zaire has attempted more than five passes in a game five times. Twice, his completion percentage was 80 percent or higher. The other three times, it was less than 50 percent. After a completing 19 of his 22 attempts against Texas to start the 2015 season, he completed only 7 out of 18 in the following game against Virginia. Zaire's proven he can have extended spells of accuracy, but as a dual-threat quarterback, it's not always been the main focus of his game.
He earned playing time ahead of DeShone Kizer at points last year
DeShone Kizer, second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 NFL draft, was widely seen as the brightest spot on a struggling Notre Dame team that went 4-8 in 2016. But when Kizer struggled, Zaire often got the opportunity to see the field. Zaire led three drives in Notre Dame's season opener at Texas as the Irish alternated between the two quarterbacks until Kizer threw his third touchdown pass of the game. Against Stanford, Zaire appeared in three series after a Kizer interception, failing to complete a pass and rushing three times for three yards, while he also saw time in the final drive of a 17-13 defeat to North Carolina State.
When he was ruled out for the 2015 season, he continued to play a role in practice
The 2015 season ended early for Zaire, as he was ruled out for the year after an injury against Virginia. But despite knowing he wouldn't play for the remainder of the year, Zaire earned praise from Irish head coach Kelly and DeShone Kizer for his role in mentoring his replacement. Kizer said Zaire had assisted him, "since the day he went down," while Kelly called his work in practice in 2015, "pretty amazing."
Jim McElwain may hope that Zaire can do this again with Florida, assisting young signal-callers like Feleipe Franks and Jake Allen in the hopes that they will be able to take over as starters at some point.
He'd be Florida's first lefty starting QB since Tim Tebow
A left-handed quarterback who likes to run should sound familiar to even the most casual Florida fan. Zaire is unlikely to reach Tebow's heights, but seeing as the Gators have mostly struggled at the position since Tebow graduated — half a season with Will Grier in 2015 aside — Zaire may be what Florida needs at the most important position on the field. Using the same hand and having a propensity to run the ball doesn't mean much, but Zaire's success when he saw the field in 2014 and 2015 at Notre Dame might mean he could be an improvement for the post-Tebow era at Florida.
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