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Brian Kelly previews quarterback competition ahead of training camp

| Saturday, August 6, 2016

As camp is set to get underway for Notre Dame on Saturday, the biggest question the team faces is the same as last year: Who will start at quarterback come Texas?

In his opening press conference for the season, head coach Brian Kelly said the competition between junior DeShone Kizer and senior Malik Zaire will continue throughout camp as expected, but he also added that there is no set timeline for the decision on a starter.

“As a staff, we’ve talked about no timeline other than really doing a very good job of allowing both those quarterbacks to be who they are,” Kelly said.

Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer surveys his options during Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State on Jan. 1.Observer File Photo
Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer surveys his options during Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State on Jan. 1.

Instead, Kelly said he and the offensive staff will focus more on putting together an offensive scheme that suits both quarterbacks’ skill sets, putting the starter in the best position to succeed regardless of who is ultimately taking the snaps for the opener.

“We felt like in the spring, we may not have allowed Malik to be who he was in the sense that we had to catch him up to an offense that evolved more around DeShone than it did around Malik’s talents,” he said. “So it’s really more about getting our offense to run effectively for both of them and that’s really been most of the focus, if not all the focus. Instead of sitting in a staff room and coming up with a date or a time as to when are we going to make a decision on the quarterback.”

Additionally, Kelly said he anticipates only specific play selections to differ depending on who starts.

“In that process of learning about both of them, they have some strengths and weaknesses within the offense that we’ll tweak just a little bit,” Kelly said. “But there’s no overhaul of the offense if one is in versus the other. There’s just some play selections that would be different.”

Player absences

As the Irish enter camp, they will be missing junior running back Justin Brent and senior cornerback Devin Butler due to injury. Brent suffered a Lisfranc injury earlier this summer, and although he had the screws removed and has began moving, Kelly said he is about four to six weeks away from returning. Butler, however, re-broke his left foot during the summer and is still expected to miss the first half of the season due to the 14-16 week expected recovery time for the injury.

One player who was left off of Notre Dame’s roster as it enters camp was Grant Blankenship. The junior defensive end was suspended from the team for a violation of team rules in the spring,  and will now look to continue his career elsewhere, Kelly said.

“He’s no longer on the roster,” Kelly said. “ … From what I understand, he is looking at a transfer.”

Irish partner with Bleacher Report

Kelly also said he is excited for Notre Dame’s recently announced social content partnership with Bleacher Report, which will now be embedded with the program throughout the season to create custom content for the program’s fan base. As much exposure as the team received through Showtime, Kelly believes this new partnership could be even better and help with recruiting.

“The penetration into a targeted audience, right, and the social media piece is huge for us through the recruiting medium, who they can reach, the millions of people that they can reach,” Kelly said. “Pick up your phone and you can be on Bleacher Report.

“ … This gives us a unique relationship that nobody else has in college football. I think the uniqueness of that where they are partnering with Notre Dame; the ability to penetrate a targeted audience that we’re looking for, not only in our alumni base and those that follow Notre Dame football, but that recruiting base, as well.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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