Looking back at the rise of Kizer

Where would Notre Dame be without DeShone Kizer? Where would DeShone Kizer be without Notre Dame? Anna Hickey looks back at that recruitment from both sides.

Recruiting is about the prospects you land, not about the ones you miss. But for the sake of comparison, let’s revisit Notre Dame’s quarterback targets in the Class of 2014.

The Irish offered Kyle Allen, David Cornwell, Jacob Park and Brandon Dawkins before moving on DeShone Kizer that cycle. What happened to that quartet?
Allen is sitting out this year at Houston after transferring to Tom Herman’s program from Texas A&M last year. Cornwell is listed on Alabama’s depth chart as the fourth-string quarterback. Park is sitting out a year after transferring to Iowa State from Georgia. And Dawkins is the backup quarterback at Arizona.

Meanwhile, Kizer proved to a record audience on Sunday night that he deserves to be mentioned not only among the best quarterbacks in his class, but also among the best quarterbacks in college football. And maybe he’s even the best outright after a performance that might get him to New York City for the Heisman ceremony eventually.

Now, let’s revisit Kizer’s recruitment.


In April of 2013, Kizer, who finished in the Scout rankings as the No. 18 quarterback, narrowed his list to Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Ohio State.

But the Irish and Buckeyes hadn’t offered the Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic standout.  

The offer from the in-state powerhouse never came, though Urban Meyer and Kizer developed a close relationship in the process. Meyer was in attendance when Kizer led his team to a state championship his junior year, and the coach and recruit shared multiple hour-long conversations on the phone. In the end, though, Meyer offered former three-star quarterback Stephen Collier, a Georgia native that impressed Meyer in-person during summer camp.

Collier will miss all of 2016 after suffering a torn ACL in the spring. Prior to the injury, he was battling redshirt freshman Joe Burrow for the No. 2 spot behind J.T. Barrett.

Notre Dame offered Kizer in June of 2013, but not until making multiple in-person evaluations by former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. In fact, Kizer said the first time he threw for Martin in the spring of 2013, he threw so poorly that he “kind of X-ed” Notre Dame of his list.

But before releasing his top six, he called Irish assistant Mike Elston to see if Notre Dame was still interested. Elston said they were, and Martin made the trek to Toledo to watch Kizer throw once again.

A week later, Notre Dame offered.

Kizer was slated to visit LSU the following weekend, but he chose to visit Notre Dame instead. The rest is history.

Here are some notable quotes from Kizer at different points of his recruitment:

Following his sophomore year:

"Last year was my first year on varsity, and I started from the first game. The first five games of the season was a real learning experience and I think I started kind of slow. I didn't throw my first touchdown pass until mid-season. Once I started trusting my teammates and my talent, things really came into place."

"This college stuff is still a long ways away for me. My dream has always been to play for Texas, because they are outstanding in baseball, basketball and football.”

During his junior season:

"Football tradition is definitely No. 1. I am also looking for a great coaching staff. I want to be with guys that I want to work with and will keep me on my toes. Academics are big to me and my family too. The last thing is the social life. I want to be comfortable and feel like I am at home."

After adding a Notre Dame offer:

"I'm very excited about this offer. Notre Dame fulfills all the requirements that I'm looking for in a school. My family came up with a formula for how we are going to decide. Coaching staff is No. 1, style of offense is No. 2, academics is No. 3, and location is No. 4. Notre Dame is an excellent fit for all of those.”

“Coach Martin tells me exactly how it is. We haven't had a lot of conversations, but the ones that we've had have been really good and we've covered a lot of ground. Coach Kelly and coach Martin told me that they did a lot of research of me and they liked what they saw and the feedback that they got. They are Midwest guys and they talked with coaches that have offered me and coaches that have seen me in camps. They even talked with coaches that I have played against. The more they learned about me, the more the liked."

Upon committing to Notre Dame:

"Notre Dame has a great style of offense. They combine the pro-style and spread so well, and that's an exact combination of my skills. On 1st and 10, they may run a double tight end set and then the next play have an empty backfield. I want to be able to extend plays with my legs, and I can do that at Notre Dame."

"I called coach Kelly up today, and he was in an offensive meeting with the Patriots. Word got around the table to Tom Brady and Tim Tebow that I was committing, and they congratulated me and told me they wouldn't let the secret out."

"That was so cool because you have Tom Brady, who is one of the best pro-style quarterbacks of all-time, and Tim Tebow, who is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks to ever come out of college, and coach Kelly, who is the best at coaching both types. It was a little ironic."

A little more than a year ago, Kizer contemplated quitting football in order to pursue baseball after going 1-of-5 during the 2015 Blue-Gold Game. Everett Golson and Malik Zaire were both ahead of him on the depth chart.

On Sunday night, Kizer captivated the attention of the college football landscape and NFL scouts alike with his arm strength, accuracy, mobility, and just about every intangible coveted for the position. He had college football pundits rightfully suggesting that another quarterback by the same first game, albeit different spelling, Deshaun Watson, has some serious competition at the top.

If Kizer has already shown he’s capable of such accelerated growth, is it far-fetched to estimate in a year from now, the new quarterback darling of college football will be gearing up for his first game as a starting quarterback in the NFL? Don’t bet against it.

Talk about what a difference a year (or two) makes.


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