A quick rundown of Notre Dame’s quarterback room shows the remaining seasons of eligibility:
-- DeShone Kizer (junior): 3 seasons through 2018
-- Brandon Wimbush (sophomore): 3 seasons through 2018
-- Malik Zaire (senior): 2 seasons through 2017.
Kizer and Zaire are the only legitimate contenders for September starting assignments in 2016, and therein lies the rub for the preternaturally talented Wimbush.
Spot duty last season vs. Massachusetts and at Pittsburgh burned a season of eligibility for the true freshman, and though those snaps could arguably have been avoided, his on field assimilation was deemed necessary by the Irish coaching staff after Zaire was lost for the season to injury in Game 2.
Why? Because Notre Dame was a national title contender and it didn’t want an injury to DeShone Kizer to result in Wimbush playing his first collegiate action with a playoff berth on the line.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with Wimbush – a potentially lethal offensive weapon projected to sit and watch in an effort to make up for time, and eligibility lost, last fall.
For Notre Dame, and likely for Wimbush’s future, a redshirt season.
Irrespective of Kizer’s ticking college clock (is this his last year?) and regardless of Malik Zaire’s similar status, it behooves Wimbush to conclude the 2016 season with three years of remaining eligibility.
Even if Wimbush doesn’t use all three of them, or doesn’t use all three in South Bend, it’s still much better for his overall development if his eligibility clock is paused this fall.
To be blunt, separating Wimbush from Kizer in terms of remaining eligibility is paramount.
Wimbush starts the remainder of the 2016 season after Notre Dame has already lost two games. It’s a scenario plausible only if one among the Kizer/Zaire duo is injured and the other subsequently falls flat on his face in a defeat, especially a second defeat, one that would effectively end any post-season playoff dreams.
There aren’t many plausible worst-case scenarios in Notre Dame’s quarterback room for 2016, but the above would qualify.
Kevin McDougal attempted two passes in his true freshman season including one in Game No. 5, thus burning a season of eligibility for the 1990 Notre Dame team that played for a share of the national title (a 10-9 loss to Colorado in the Orange Bowl).
Should Wimbush not redshirt but also not start for the Irish this fall, he’ll enter 2017 as a true junior with minimal experience, likely to sit again behind a returning senior starter (Kizer/Zaire) – it’s the exact situation McDougal faced as a junior in 1992 behind senior Rick Mirer.
McDougal’s senior season – his lone campaign as a starter – was one of the most memorable efforts at the position over the last four decades at the program.
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
Wimbush was Scout.com’s 71st ranked player overall and tabbed by the service as the sixth-best quarterback prospect among the 2015 class. Though it’s expected a quarterback of his caliber would start by his third season at a program, Wimbush’s situation is unique – Notre Dame has the most impressive 1-2-3 at the position in the nation.
Barring a fifth season from Kizer, Wimbush is projected to start by 2018, though the youngster could get antsy in 2017 should he not overtake Kizer/Zaire for the job and thus be relegated to the bench as a junior/redshirt-sophomore.
WIMBUSH AT HIS BEST
How about this?
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Brandon probably has the furthest to go because he’s never had it be his football team. There are times where I start to see Brandon, when he’s out on that field, say ‘This is my football team. And this is the offense that I now am in charge of running.’ And I like that confidence in that group.” – Quarterback coach Mike Sanford during spring practice