In this breakdown we'll look at the main aspects of the passing game that the Elite 11 event is based on.
Drop, Set up, Release
While Zaire will see more snaps from the shotgun at Notre Dame under head coach Brian Kelly, on Friday he had to show the ability to make the throws from a pro-set offense, taking 3, 5 and 7-step drops during the day.
Over the past year this is where Zaire has improved greatly. Plays with a 3-step drop are normally high percentage passes where the routes are quicker and shorter. Zaire shows the ability to deliver the football at the proper time hitting his open receiver quickly. The key here is for quarterbacks to take a big step with their lead foot while balancing their weight as they land. Zaire grades out here above average as he's able to deliver the football quickly and on target.
This is where footwork and technique are paramount. In the 5-step drop, the quarterback must take several steps that change with each step. In the end he must be able to keep his feet moving before delivering the football. I watched Zaire during a private workout earlier this spring and its an area he's always working to perfect. Friday he was solid getting proper depth on his drops and staying in a straight line. This technique also shows off arm strength as deep-outs are a must.
It can be harder to get a true feel of a passer's performance with 7-step drops as the quarterback is given plenty of time to wait on his receiver without a pass rush forcing a quick throw. Zaire is solid mechanically and shows the arm strength needed to make the throws required on the deep routes featured with 7-step drops.
Zaire was solid in all three areas as he showed the ability to get set up and positioned to get the ball out quickly.
The one thing we heard a lot on Friday was how much the receivers working during the day enjoyed catching Zaire's throws. At times there were throws with a little bit too much mustard on them, but overall he showed the ability to hit the short, medium and long throws you want out of a top quarterback.
Many high school quarterbacks have long deliveries (winding up) before they can get the ball in position to release it. Zaire is solid in this regard, not using wasting movements in his delivery that instead features a quick snap of his wrist.
This is where Zaire is at his best, able to roll out of the pocket in both directions and delivering an accurate throw with velocity without having to set his feet. Because Zaire is a southpaw we have to watch his hips to make sure he's got solid flexibility and is able to throw the ball across his body.
STRENGTH, ZIP, TOUCH
Zaire has the arm to make all the throws required without having to muscle the ball with his body. The ball is delivered with great velocity and the majority of times with a tight spiral. Despite playing in an option attack, Zaire showed good touch that should continue as he takes more reps.