Going to Zaire

Let’s not forget there’s an immediate beneficiary to the SEC’s new graduate transfer rule.  Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is headed to Gainesville.

In some quarters, this is breathlessly hailed, not simply as the key to Florida’s third straight divisional title, but as “that one piece the Gators need to finally settle the Crimson Tide”No, really.

This is the bulk of Zaire’s resume:

Florida is definitely better off having Zaire as an option, but it’s not as though he comes to Florida with a ton of game experience. He began the 2015 season as Notre Dame’s starter, but only for the first two games of the year before going down with a broken ankle. His two starts brought mixed reviews.

He was fantastic against Texas in the season opener, throwing 313 yards and three touchdowns while completing 86 percent of his passes in a 38-3 Irish win. The next week at Virginia wasn’t as kind, as he completed 39 percent of his passes for 115 yards and a score while also rushing for 87 yards before going down with the ankle injury.

He served as a backup behind eventual second-round pick Deshone Kizer in 2016, appearing in eight games and completing 11 of his 23 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.

All in all, Zaire has only thrown 98 passes in his college career, completing 58 of them (59.2 percent) for 816 yards and six touchdowns. To his credit, none of those 98 passes has ever been intercepted.

He was spectacular in that Texas game, no doubt, finishing with a passer rating over 250.  It was all downhill from there, though, as he only threw one more pass in all of 2016 than he did against the Longhorns, on his way to posting a 106.73 passer rating as the back up.

He does bring something to the position that Florida’s lacked under McElwain:  mobility.

There’s a real chicken-and-egg aspect to that, though.  Have the Gators not used the quarterback as a runner because they haven’t had a mobile quarterback, or is the Florida offense not structured to take advantage of having a mobile quarterback?

Either way, if Zaire is supposed to usher in a new era, there isn’t a lot of time to restructure the offense to tailor it to his strengths, or, alternatively, for Zaire to learn Nussmeier’s system.  None of which is to say it’s not useful to sign an experienced quarterback.  Before Zaire’s arrival, Florida was looking at a choice of Luke Del Rio, himself a transfer, recovering from an injury that caused him to miss half the regular season, and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who had a nice spring game, and… did I mention he had a nice spring game?

So, while it’s not hard to see why they’re happy to have him, it feels like something of a leap to proclaim Zaire as some sort of final piece in Florida’s SEC puzzle.  Of course, if you’re a Georgia fan, all you care about is if Zaire brings enough to the table to allow Florida to maintain its East streak.  As to that, who knows — he just very well might.

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Going to Zaire

  1. MGW

    I would rather him not be at Florida. I do not like mobile Florida quarterbacks.

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  2. Dawg in Austin

    Zaire also looked terrible against an average UT defense last year, which ultimately made him the backup. His judgment and ability to read defenses is subpar. But to me, the most important aspect about projecting Florida is whether they can have as much defensive production with only 3 experienced blue chippers and a new D coordinator.

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  3. Our issue in Jacksonville has been on the other side of the ball. We’ve been held to 20 points or less 18 times since 1990. We won 1 of those times. We’ve held them under 25 in 6 games that we lost since 1990.

    Our offense has grossly underperformed in Jacksonville.

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    • Otto

      But the offense averaged 30 40 something points per game….

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      • If “the” was supposed to be “their” that’s not true. The gators averaged just under 34 points in their 21 wins. We averaged 14.4 points in those 21 losses. Which teams offense performed worse as compared to their average?

        Unless Florida averaged 70 over that same period the answer would be us. We averaged over 30 points per game over that period and scored less than half that average in Jacksonville.

        Before you ask, no our defense has not averaged under 17 ppg over that period. Our defense has done good enough for that to have been a much more competitive series over that period. Our offense has consistently crapped the bed.

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    • Sherlock

      Yeah, defense was only the issue in the early Spurrier days. You could also include the 2008-2009 years, but those Florida teams were just much better than us in general. Florida is always going to have CBs that can play tight man coverage. We seem to win in Jax only when we have a QB that has the arm strength and accuracy to play well against Cover 0. Aaron Murray had 3 wins and an OT loss against them specifically because of his ability to hit the back shoulder fade on a consistent basis against tight coverage. For the next five years we have guys that have the requisite arms strength; the question is if they can develop the accuracy and time needed.

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      • They’ve also just flat whipped us up front. Other than Knowshon in 2007 who has had a good to great day running the ball since 1990?

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        • Dawgflan

          Robert Edwards in 1997 certainly did enough…

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        • Sherlock

          Gurley went for 100+ in 2012 and 2013. That isn’t really my point. Beating Florida is like beating Alabama. You have to pass to set up the run. They always have CBs that can play in Cover 0 if needed. That allows them to keep both safeties low and a 9 man box to stop the run. To beat them, you must have a credible enough passing game to force them to keep at least one safety back. If you have enough of a vertical threat or play action game to force them into Cover 2 / 3, then you can really stomp a hole in their ass. 2007 vs 2014 is a perfect comparison. Also, if they can stop your running game with a 7 man box, you are going to have a long day. Example – 2015.

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          • I’d say that when we have a 100 yard rusher, we win. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that team that has won the rushing battle has won that game almost every time. That game is more about winning the box than winning the one on ones, IMHO.

            The similarity with Alabama is, if you can’t run, you probably can’t win. The difference is: you can’t run on Alabama first. In 2007 we forced the run first and that opened up some things downfield.

            You’ll never see a team run 8 straight times to start the game and score a TD vs. Alabama. WILL NOT HAPPEN.

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            • Sherlock

              I am not disagreeing so much as I am saying that my belief is that our ability to win in the box is predicated on a legit passing threat that keeps us being outnumbered in the box. The one real outlier for the 100 yard rusher was 2014 when Chubb put up 156.

              The reason that doesn’t happen to Alabama is simple. If your name is Leonard Floyd and you job is to set the edge in the rug game you are expected to do it. If you bail on the edge in an attempt to backdoor someone else’s responsibility and you give up a big run on a cut-back you will find your ass on the bench for the rest of the game.

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  4. Hillbilly Dawg

    I hate Florida

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  5. Spike

    Please beat those jort wearing assholes.

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  6. Macallanlover

    It is fair to assume FU will be better at QB this year, regardless of who wins the competition. I feel both Franks and Zaire will present more challenges than Del Rio, but the limited time Zaire has to prepare makes me think Franks will start the season. Florida has rarely been an offensive juggernaut since Spurrier’s Fun and Gun days, and the loss of key defensive player from last year is the primary reason I feel we get it done in JAX this fall. Lot of noise around Zaire but the results he has posted thus far doesn’t make me think a defense of UGA’s caliber needs to be fearful. Florida will be about the 5th best offense we see this season, nothing very scary in Gainesville Zaire, or no Zaire.

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    • Just Chuck (The Other One)

      Mac,
      Think you’re correct that Franks is the early starter. My guess is Zaire takes the spot once he catches on to their system and that’s likely to be right before the Cocktail Party.

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  7. AusDawg85

    I’ll be happy to see the gators adopt a running QB scheme with Zaire as long as they then inexplicably start a third string pro-style QB against us with that same offensive set-up.

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  8. DawgPhan

    More worried about that Florida seemingly had little issue getting their rule change approved that was clearly done to benefit them while the rule change that UGA wanted was denied.

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    • Paul

      Getting a player from another conference? No problem, you can have them now! Getting a player from another SEC school? What? are you crazy? That’s “free agency.” No way!

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  9. No clue what this means as we don’t know how good Zaire is since he’s played so little. But I do think this move says a lot about what UF coaches think about Franks. My guess is they think he’s too raw and needs another year of understudy.

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  10. steve

    This just mean either: 1. Jarrett Stidham is as good as advertised or 2. Auburn is running out of the ‘special fund’.

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  11. zdawg15

    Had no idea Zaire was transferring to Florida. Thought this was an article about the Senator going to the Congo. Click bait.

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