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Ex-Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire transferring to Florida

Quarterback Malik Zaire, then a sophomore, was MVP of the 2014 Music City Bowl in leading Notre Dame to a 31-28 victory over LSU.
Quarterback Malik Zaire, then a sophomore, was MVP of the 2014 Music City Bowl in leading Notre Dame to a 31-28 victory over LSU.
Published Jun. 5, 2017

Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire ended any lingering suspense this weekend by announcing his intention to transfer to Florida.

His decision — explained to Fox Sports and 247Sports.com — had been in the works for weeks, long before Friday's SEC rule tweak allowed the Gators to take a graduate transfer.

Although the move is not yet official, the 6-foot, 225-pound lefty plans to arrive in Gainesville on Wednesday to "see everything and tour everything and set some stuff up."

"Just try to ingrain myself on being a Gator," Zaire told 247Sports.com. "Excited for the opportunity and eager to get there."

What this means for the Gators — in their Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan and beyond — depends on which Zaire the Gators are getting: The one who has beaten LSU and Texas, or the one who was beaten out for the starting job last year.

RELATED: SEC rule change clears way for Malik Zaire to transfer to Florida.

If UF lands the first one, the Gators should challenge for a third consecutive East Division title. The former four-star recruit starred in his first career start, earning MVP honors at the 2014 Music City Bowl with a 12-of-15 passing performance and 96 rushing yards in a win over LSU. He followed that with one of the most prolific passing games in Fighting Irish history: 19-of-22 for 313 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-3 demolition of Texas to open the 2015 season.

The concern is those two games are pretty much the extent of his highlight reel. A week after beating the Longhorns, Zaire missed 11 of 18 passes before suffering a season-ending ankle injury at Virginia.

Zaire, 22, saw time in last year's opener at Texas but lost the starting job to DeShone Kizer, the eventual No. 52 pick in April's NFL draft. As the backup on a 4-8 team, Zaire completed only 11 of 23 passes while setting career lows in completion percentage (47.8), yards per passing attempt (5.3) and rushing attempt (1.7).

RELATED: Five things to know about Malik Zaire.

But the Kettering, Ohio, native still has positive traits that should allow him to challenge UF's frontrunner, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, and last year's Week 1 starter, Luke Del Rio, for the starting job.

In 17 appearances, Zaire never has turned the ball over. That's one of the most important traits for a coach Jim McElwain quarterback. Zaire averaged 4.5 yards per rush during his career, which would add another layer of complexity to the Gators offense.

A formal announcement from Florida might not come until after the school's Summer B session begins June 26.

Times staff writer Daniel O'Boyle contributed to this report. Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.