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Notre Dame has granted a release to quarterback Malik Zaire, who plans to continue his college football career as a graduate transfer at another school next season, the player told ESPN on Wednesday.
The release from the Irish only restricts him from playing for the team’s 2017 opponents, Zaire said, which leaves the door open for three of the four teams Zaire was reportedly considering: Florida, Pitt and Wisconsin (via ESPN’s Matt Fortuna).
The Gators accepted two transfer signal callers ahead of the 2016 season. Purdue’s Austin Appleby, who did not win the starting job out of camp but has taken over due to injury and performance, will graduate at the end of the season. Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio, a former walk-on at Alabama, does not appear to be the answer Florida is looking for at the position.
UF also has Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, both of whom will be redshirt freshmen in 2017, though neither was apparently ready to have his redshirt removed to play this season, so head coach Jim McElwain may opt for another year of seasoning. The Gators also have four-star Jake Allen (Fort Lauderdale, FL) committed for 2017, though recent play suggests he may not be ready to see the field for a couple years.
Florida has also been linked to Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who spent the 2016 season at a community college and would be eligible immediately upon signing with a team. Stidham, however, appears to be leaning towards Auburn or Texas A&M; contact with UF and LSU has reportedly been minimal.
Between the two, Stidham is by far the more accomplished quarterback, having started most of the 2015 season for the Bears. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Zaire has only played extensively in four games during his college career (two in 2014 as an injury replacement, two in 2015 as a starter before getting injured). However, in those games, he completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 694 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions, also rushing 47 times for 217 yards and two more scores. Zaire was named a co-starter in 2016 but failed to win the permanent job with DeShone Kizer taking the reins all season.
Florida has struggled to find a quarterback since the departure of Tim Tebow with nine different signal callers taking snaps behind center in the last seven seasons. Only Will Grier appeared truly promising, and he was suspended midway through the 2015 season for a banned substance and has since transferred. Of those nine players, six transferred, including four prospects rated as four-star recruits or better.