Report: QB Malik Zaire favors Florida as Gators wait for SEC to rule on graduate transfers

By Adam Silverstein
May 30, 2017
Report: QB Malik Zaire favors Florida as Gators wait for SEC to rule on graduate transfers

Image Credit: AP

It sure looks like the Florida Gators‘ quarterback competition is going to get a whole lot more … competitive. Still undecided on his destination, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is reportedly expected to choose Florida as long as the Southeastern Conference clears the way for his transfer.

Zaire, who lost his starting job with the Irish due to injury and the superb play of eventual No. 53 overall draft pick Deshone Kizer, is deciding between UF and Texas, though Harvard and Wisconsin had previously been considered options. He is presently “leaning towards” the Gators, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman, who is citing sources close to the signal caller.

The reason Zaire is currently unable to transfer to Florida is that two prior graduate transfers under head coach Jim McElwain failed to live up to their academic requirements. As such, UF was banned from accepting grad transfers for a three-year period ending with the 2018 season.

However, Zaire may eventually earn the opportunity to transfer to the Gators if the rule is amended at the 2017 SEC spring meetings, which began on Tuesday in Destin, Florida.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has indicated that the restrictive rule will be up for discussion this week, though he has cautioned that “removing every restraint” from grad transfers may be unhealthy for the league. Despite that concern, no other Power Five conference has such a restriction in place, putting the SEC at a competitive disadvantage for grad transfers at this time.

Most coaches in the league agree. In fact, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp supports the adjustment. “I think we need to have the same rule as everybody else in college football,” he said Tuesday.

Should Zaire enroll at Florida, he would immediately join a competition with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who is considered the favorite to start, as well as redshirt freshman Kyle Trask and 2016 starter redshirt junior Luke Del Rio, who missed spring practice due to a pair of surgeries.

Del Rio is not expected to regain his starting job, but McElwain made it clear he would be part of the competition in the summer and fall. With Zaire in the fold, the Gators would be in a win-win situation as he would either be good enough to earn the starting job or additional competition for Franks. Even if Zaire does not win the job, Florida has not had a quarterback start every game in a season since 2010, usually due to injury.

Due to his own injuries, Zaire has never attempted more than 40 passes in a season. When he was the planned starter for Notre Dame in 2015, he completed 65 percent of his throws for 428 yards with four touchdowns. He posted a 86.4 completion percentage (19 of 22) while throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener against Texas. Zaire has never thrown an interception in 98 collegiate passes over three seasons.


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