Brian Kelly confident in DeShone Kizer heading into Nevada
Marek Mazurek | Friday, September 9, 2016
No. 18 Notre Dame takes the field in its home opener against Nevada in just a day. But unlike the days leading up to the contest against Texas, the Irish (0-1) know who their starting quarterback will be when they face the Wolf Pack (1-0).
Thursday evening, Irish head coach Brian Kelly elaborated on his decision to make junior DeShone Kizer “the guy,” saying Kizer was awared the starting role based on his play at Texas.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a crystal clear moment, other than: he was responsible for six touchdowns and he didn’t take the first series of the third quarter,” Kelly said. “He made a pretty big statement. I said all along, I needed to let them play in a real game to break a logjam up. It was really tied in my eyes, we went into that game and he edged himself with the performance he had.”
Kelly did not specify if he plans to play Zaire on meaningful snaps, but said Kizer needs to continue to be effective to hold onto the starting role.
“My expectation is: [Kizer] is the starter for this game,” Kelly said.“We know that, based upon what he’s done in the past, he’s very effective as a starting quarterback. I expect him to continue in that role. If he’s not effective, if he’s not what he have known him to be, we have one heck of a good quarterback ready to play.”
Kelly also praised Zaire’s attitude in the days following the announcement.
“I thought he had two very good days [of practice],” Kelly said. “In particular Wednesday and Thursday, I thought he was really focused, locked in and is ready to lead our football team. That’s all I’ve asked him to be, ready to lead our team. He’s embraced his preparation, he’s embraced his role and what we’re asking him to do. That’s all I can ask for.”
While the starting quarterback position is no longer a question mark for the the Irish, the “X” receiver position is, as senior Torii Hunter Jr.’s status is uncertain for Saturday’s contest. Kelly said that Hunter, who suffered a concussion Sunday, will practice Friday, but will not play unless he feels ready to go.
“I think in all situations, we want to do what’s right for [the players],” Kelly says. “If he’s cleared, it’ll still be his decision to make. We want to always give our players the opportunity to go through the protocol and he wants to go through it. If he’s cleared tomorrow, we’ll still make a decision if he feels ready to play.”
Kelly also said that graduate student safety Avery Sebastian was cleared after going through concussion protocol Thursday and will play on Saturday.
“[Sebastian] is going to play,” Kelly said. “At what level he plays, we’ll find out, but he practiced today. He feels good, he feels like he’s ready to play and wants to play.”
Kelly stated that junior Drue Tranquill and freshman Devin Studstill will be the two starting safeties. For Studstill, it will be his first start as well as his second game at the collegiate level. Joining Studstill and Tranquill in the secondary will be sophomore cornerback Nick Coleman, who struggled against Texas and was eventually pulled from the game. Kelly said, however, that Coleman’s pride will push him to continue to work, and that he personally talked with Coleman to get him ready for Nevada.
“Nick really was a young man that got caught in poor techniques, he didn’t trust his techniques,” Kelly said. “He was clearly, on Tuesday, not in a good frame of mind so I spent some time with him. Here’s the great thing about Nick Coleman: He’s won a state championship, he’s a winner, he’s got a lot of pride. I said, ‘Look Nick, this is where you turn it on and compete. You can’t give up on a guy like Nick Coleman. He’s got too much pride.”