SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Seeing as this is Notre Dame, and that DeShone Kizer is, statistically speaking, the Irish’s returning starting quarterback, the redshirt sophomore drew considerable attention upon his first media briefing of the 2016 season.
Yet Kizer’s audience was understated compared to those of the other two signal-callers, Brandon Wimbush and Malik Zaire, as the novelty of speaking to Wimbush for the first time at Notre Dame, and to Zaire for the first time since injury, made them Friday’s headliners.
Not that Kizer is assuming anything, despite his 8-3 mark as a starter.
“I never expect the job to be guaranteed,” Kizer said. “For some reason with me, I’ve never been in a position where I was going to continue to walk into a season and just automatically have the job. Everything I’ve done, all the way back to fourth grade basketball, I was talking to my dad about it, there’s always been a situation where there’s always going to be someone there to push you. That’s just the way the coaches that I’ve surrounded myself with like to coach. I love that because now I have to go out there and try to earn that position.
“Obviously there’s this want that I want to be able to build off what we did last year, and being a starter is part of that, but at the same time I’m expecting that every season from here on out, whether Malik and Brandon are here or it’s me and one other walk-on guy, I’m going to compete for the position I’m playing.”
It was that mentality that allowed Kizer to so naturally ease into a leading role when Zaire went down two weeks into the season. But with three years of eligibility left, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kizer sees only room for growth after throwing for 2,884 yards last season and rushing for 520 more.
Much like his competitors for the top job, Kizer isn’t lacking for confidence. Unlike his competitors, he has nearly a full season’s worth of games on his resume.
“I’m comfortable,” he said. “I’m sitting here with a bunch of cameras in my face, I’m out there throwing to a bunch of elite receivers and I’ve played in some big, big games. That comfort is going to kind of be a stepping stool for me to develop my game and hopefully get better. This is part of my life now. I like to look at myself as a Notre Dame quarterback, I’m not a guy just putting myself in that position. With that being said, I’m just excited to develop.”
Upon completion of Notre Dame’s first practice Wednesday, coach Brian Kelly described Kizer as “what he has been, just really steady.” The evaluation may have been short and sweet, but for a guy who was steady under pressure all season long, it suffices.
Kizer is something of a known commodity in Notre Dame’s 2016 QB race. And he brings a sense of validation that can’t be eroded overnight.
“It’s a situation where you’ve just got to take it day-by-day,” Kizer said. “If you get so wrapped around when the next guy’s going to be called and when you’re going to be named the starter or the backup, you’re going to be waiting forever. This is a situation where I know I have two great guys by my side and in my room that are going to be pushing themselves to beat me every day.
“Even if there was a guy who was named today the starter, I know the way the coaching staff goes about things, every day I’m still going to have to go out there and compete with the guy who’s named the starter or I’m going to have to compete with the guy who’s named the backup.”