Malik Zaire to start at QB for Florida Gators at Missouri

By Adam Silverstein
November 2, 2017
Malik Zaire to start at QB for Florida Gators at Missouri

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The Florida Gators are making another quarterback change. A third different caller will start a game for Florida this season as interim head coach Randy Shannon announced Thursday that graduate transfer Malik Zaire will take the reins for Saturday’s road game against the Missouri Tigers.

“Malik is the starting quarterback for this upcoming game at Missouri,” said Shannon in a release. “This is his opportunity to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he’s the starter.

“Today is an opportunity for him to run the offense and understand the expectations that we have for him. This is not a time for him to feel comfortable and feel like he’s made it. We want him to keep grinding and understand that competition is very good.”

Zaire transferred to UF from Notre Dame this offseason but has only played sparingly thus far. He saw action behind redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks in the season opener against Michigan and played garbage time last week in a 42-7 loss to Georgia, leading Florida to its lone touchdown drive of the game.

Injuries and competition in South Bend, Indiana, derailed Zaire’s career, though it is telling that he has been unable to win the job over a very green Franks thus far since joining the Gators.

With head coach Jim McElwain jettisoned on Sunday and Shannon now in charge, a change was made in the hopes of getting Florida bowl eligible. UF must win three of its remaining four games to achieve that goal.

In limited action, Zaire is 12-of-23 passing for 142 yards since joining Florida. Franks will serve as the No. 2 quarterback on Saturday with redshirt junior Luke Del Rio out for the year after suffering a season-ending injury a couple of weeks ago.

The question now is what happens to Franks, who unquestionably has seen at least some of his confidence rattled both due to his play and benchings this season.

With four-star QB Matt Corral (Long Beach, CA) set to enroll this spring and expected to compete for the starting job next season — along with Franks, redshirt freshman Kyle Trask, freshman Jake Allen and potentially Del Rio (should he rehabilitate again and choose not to retire) — Franks may decide it better to look elsewhere for an opportunity to develop and then start in two seasons.

He may also realize that he simply needed more time to develop and was thrust into a position for which he was not prepared. Should Florida hire a true quarterback developer — such as UCF’s Scott Frost or Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, it might be foolish to even consider leaving the program without giving it one additional season.

That is nothing more than speculation at this time, of course, but considering the recent track record of Gators quarterbacks transferring — and then flourishing — elsewhere after either losing a starting job or being passed over for one, it is most certainly a topic of conversation, particularly if Franks does not regain the job at some point this season.


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