Two years after Everett Golson took the graduate transfer path from South Bend to the Sunshine State, former Notre Dame teammate Malik Zaire is following in his own way. Zaire officially announced his decision to join the Gators this week, and Florida is expected to make a formal announcement next week.
While Zaire and Gators fans hope the dual-threat lefty quarterback plays like the next Russell Wilson, both sides should be pleased if his time in Gainesville is as successful as what Golson experienced in Tallahassee.
Zaire was responsible for Golson's lone season at Florida State in the first place; Zaire's emergence in the 2014 Music City Bowl win over LSU helped lead to Golson's decision to leave.
The Gators also recruited Golson, before he chose the Seminoles in the summer of 2015.
Although Golson beat Sean Maguire for the starting job, he couldn't recapture his magic from 2012, when he quarterbacked the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season before they lost 42-14 to Alabama in the national championship game.
Golson's fourth-quarter interception in the end zone at Georgia Tech helped lead to FSU's first loss. The Seminoles benched him after two interceptions against North Carolina State. He never played another meaningful snap. He wasn't even with the team for its 38-24 Peach Bowl loss.
Golson wasn't great. He was good enough to be qualified as a success and show what reasonable expectations might be for Zaire at Florida.
FSU didn't need Golson to dominate. The Seminoles had a top-10 defense and the best running back in school history (Dalvin Cook). Golson's job was to limit mistakes, and he did; FSU went six games without a turnover. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 11-3. His passing efficiency (149.2) would have been 26th in the country if he had played enough to quality in the rankings.
The Gators might not need Zaire to star either — not with their best collection of skill players since the Tim Tebow era. Steady quarterbacking with the SEC's top receiving corps and another good defense might be enough to help Florida challenge for a third consecutive division title. Zaire fits that bill; in 17 games at Notre Dame, he never turned the ball over.
If Zaire succeeds at UF, he'll echo the other trait Golson helped bring to FSU: Stability. He was a bridge from the Jameis Winston era to Deondre Francois' debut.
After the Bucs drafted Winston No. 1 overall, Maguire was the only experienced quarterback on FSU's roster. Golson's arrival provided the depth needed to help preserve Francois' redshirt and protect him from the eventual problems that plague quarterbacks who play before they're ready.
As importantly, Golson did that while putting up a 6-1 record as a starter. That was enough to extend two of coach Jimbo Fisher's big goals, 10-win seasons and New Year's Six bowl appearances (now at five, and counting).
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
UF didn't land Francois (despite a late recruiting effort by coach Jim McElwain), but the Gators might have their equivalent, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. The Gators need Zaire to be a stable short-term patch that continues to build the program until Franks is ready, whenever that is.
Zaire won't be a long-term solution — no grad transfer is — but he can still be success.
Just like his former Fighting Irish teammate.
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.