With Malik Zaire bound for Florida, UGA’s path just got tougher

Malik Zaire, latest Gator. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

It was only a week ago that this correspondent picked the Florida Gators to win the SEC East. (Note that they’ve won it two years running, and I picked them neither time.) The division’s dynamics have since changed. Quarterback Malik Zaire, lately of Notre Dame, told Bruce Feldman of FoxSports he’ll enroll at Florida.

Gainesville had long been posited as a destination for Zaire, but he had to wait to see what happened at the SEC meetings in Destin before committing. On cue, the conference changed its rule regarding graduate transfers. If it hadn’t, Florida wouldn’t have been able to take him. But now he’s southbound, and there’s rejoicing in the realm of rowdy reptiles.

Be advised that it’s unclear just how good Zaire is. He was named Notre Dame’s starter at the beginning of the 2015 season. He’d been the understudy to Everett Golson for most of 2014 — as a freshman, Golson had led the Irish to the BCS title game against Alabama; he was suspended for academic misdoing in 2013 — and Zaire started the Music City Bowl against LSU ahead of Golson, who would soon transfer to Florida State, where he did not much.

Zaire broke his ankle at Virginia on Sept. 12, 2015. DeShone Kizer saved that game and beat Georgia Tech — Notre Dame was a home underdog against the Jackets, if you recall — the next Saturday. Behind its backup quarterback, ND came close to making the College Football Playoff. As of Thanksgiving, the Irish were No. 6 in the CFP standings with a game at No. 9 Stanford upcoming. They lost 38-36 on a last-second field goal — blame Brian VanGorder, not Kizer — and landed in the Fiesta Bowl, where they lost to Ohio State.

Notre Dame was ranked No. 10 in last year’s preseason Associated Press poll. It was expected to have — shades of Ohio State — two first-rate quarterbacks, Kizer still being around and Zaire having recovered from his injury. We now list all the teams the 2016 Irish beat: Nevada, Syracuse, Miami and Army. The crash from 10-3 to 4-8 cost the wayfaring VanGorder his job and nearly cost Brian Kelly his.

The anticipated quarterback rotation never materialized. Kizer started every game. Zaire was scarcely seen after the opening loss at Texas. Kizer declared early for the NFL draft and was taken in Round 2 by the Cleveland Browns. Zaire became the hottest name on what has become college football’s waiver wire. He considered Texas, North Carolina Wisconsin and even Harvard, but the deferring of any decision until the SEC met indicated Florida was his preference. Sure enough …

It was believed redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks had moved ahead of Luke Del Rio, the transfer who been Florida’s No. 1 quarterback last year, sort of. Del Rio got hurt twice, giving way to Austin Appleby, yet another transfer. The Gators again won the East, mostly in spite of their quarterbacks. Nobody in Gainesville was looking forward to another installment of Del Rio, and there’s thought that Franks might be OK. But a program doesn’t accept a grad transfer from Notre Dame if it doesn’t believe he can start.

For the record, Zaire started three games for the Irish. He finished two. Notre Dame won all three. He’s considered a dual-threat type. He has thrown 98 collegiate passes, completing 58. He has thrown four touchdown passes against zero interceptions. Viewing this modest body of work, should the Gators be giddy?

Giddy, no. Mildly encouraged, yes. Watching Florida’s quarterbacks the past two seasons, the thought occurred, “Can’t they find anybody better than this?” Zaire is surely better and certainly no worse. This isn’t to say Georgia should resign itself to playing for second place in the East. This is to suggest that the job looks a wee bit tougher than it did a week ago.

Reader Comments 0

39 comments
Rhetoric
Rhetoric

Dawgs should win the east with a little luck.


mgunter
mgunter

UGA fans are struggling a bit after after a really ugly 8-5 season. Lot of grumbling from th pro-Richt faithful . Lot of griping about McGarity. Offensive coordinator complaints. 2018 recruiting defections. Coach Smart's stubborn arrogance .

Hard time to be a Dawg.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@mgunter  Yeah because St. Richt never had 8-5 seasons or anything.  Sure.  If Richt were still the coach all you'd be hearing about is excuses about a true freshmen QB, a thin o-line and a young team.  Everybody loved to make excuses for the world's greatest guy Mark Richt.  Kirby is held to a different standard and that's a good thing.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@mgunter  By the way, "stubborn arrogance?"  What an absolutely laughably idiotic comment.  The man has been the coach for a grand total of ONE year.  This proves that you're a sad and pathetic hater just trying to stir schitt up.  Your hero Mark Richt did absolutely jack squat in 10 years and you had no problem with that but Kirby doesn't win a championship in year one and you're ready to kick him to the curb.  You=JOKE.  Take a hike to Coral Gables you poser fraud. 

dawg fan
dawg fan

No koolaid anywhere. It's that time of year where the haters manufacture this false narrative (i.e. LIE) that UGA fans are going around claiming future dominance and national titles.

If it ever got to the point that I hated a football program and its fans so much that I made up lies about them I'd probably take a breather from college football.

It's pathetic.

dawg fan
dawg fan


@UnbiasedObserver Your crap post below was a nice piece of fiction as well.  Kirby recruits south Georgia as hard as anyone.  Just a bunch of bull**** made up by a sad individual who is owned by a college football team.  You should be proud of yourself. 


Mutley
Mutley

No koolaid here. Florida beat Georgia without a true qb leading them. Georgia will not beat Florida again until they learn HOW TO WIN.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@Mutley


HOW TO WIN comes long after  after perfecting whining and making excuses. Therfeore, dogs have a long road ahead. 

dawg fan
dawg fan


YAWN.  If we don't win the East it won't be because of this guy.  Take the Notre Dame away from his name and nobody knows who he is or even cares. 


TOJacket
TOJacket

@dawg fan What is your feelings on your Super Hero Herschel Walker endorsing President Trump?

Contractor1
Contractor1

@TOJacket @dawg fan


Kind of in the same position Eason is currently in.  Georgia fans are already chanting for Fromm.  My how the Dawgs loyalist are quick to turn on the guy they said would win six Natty's while in Athens.

dawg fan
dawg fan

Nobody said that. Not a single soul. You haters just make schitt up. My how pathetic some haters are to be this owned by a football team they don't like.

Unbelievable.

dawg fan
dawg fan

My feelings are that Herschel was a great football player but I give a flying two cent crap who he thinks should be President. Unlike the dumb trailer trash who voted for Trump I'm not easily swayed by celebrity and bling bling.

Any more questions?

TonyHut
TonyHut

@dawg fan You dang fool. The left ain't nothing but celebrity arse kissers, baby murders and degenerates. That was funny though.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@TonyHut I'm not on "the left."  I'm a reasonable and rational American.  We're a dying breed. 

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

By the way....Jim Harbaugh has been in South Georgia the last 2 summers at camps....looking for players.


I dont believe Kirby Smart has been a single time.    Guess he's lounging at the beach.

Meaty Urologist
Meaty Urologist

Between the "my mother's father's brother's sister's cousin's dog made $5 scamming people online!" and "Georgia's gonna win the SEC" posts....I can't tell if there's any actual posting going on here or if it is ALL spammers.

Takit Itzfre
Takit Itzfre

@Meaty Urologist I think they're all looking forward to an examination from the meaty one to give them focus.  1-800-urologist

Jon Tossoff
Jon Tossoff

Georgia sucks. What a yearly waste of 5 star talent.


TOJacket
TOJacket

What a bunch of homers!!

neutral site
neutral site

As a UT fan, I can assure you Butch Jones will engineer several close, inexplicable losses, as his rear-end tightens so much a greased bb wouldn't scoot by.


In simple english, Butch chokes at clutch time, and his team follows suit.

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

Lots of poor Ga fans drinking the koolaide

Florida wins again

MoreySims
MoreySims

Zaire is not that good---he couldn't even beat out a medicore kizer at ND. Kirby's D will eat him alive in October and the dogs will get the upset win.

Contractor1
Contractor1

@MoreySims Kirby's D couldn't even eat Vanderbilt alive last year, or Tech, or Florida, or Tennessee.  Forget about the Ole Miss disaster.

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

The dogs should win 7 games easily..

Go dogs..

greenedefense
greenedefense

I call BS on your opinion! Zaire couldn't even start for a 4-8 Notre Dame team.

kerryb
kerryb

I fail to see how it got tougher. The guy couldn't beat out Kizer and has been a backup. He also doesn't play defense which is what Florida needs. That great defense they had the last few years that saved their team is in the NFL now. They also have been average at recruiting the last few years and have no replacements. He's going to have to play like Peyton Manning to make up what their defense is going to give up.

Termigator
Termigator

@kerryb They lose defenders every year to the league and yet with a crappy offense the last 3 years they still beat the Leghumpers. Make it 4 in row; 30-17.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

UGA's biggest opponent is UGA-