Zaire Taking Comparisons To Miller In Stride

The Ohio State coaching staff grabbed current quarterback starter Braxton Miller out of the Dayton area. Could Malik Zaire be the next in line for the Buckeyes to come out of the area? For now he's taking the comparisons to Miller in stride.

Malik Zaire is a dual-threat quarterback from the Dayton area who is just starting to gain attention from college coaches.

That's about all one would need to know about Kettering (Ohio) Alter's junior quarterback to realize the inevitable is going to happen – comparisons to Braxton Miller.

"It is never annoying to be compared to somebody that is that good," Zaire told BSB. "We are both different and separate players, but it is always good to have someone you're like. It doesn't bother me as long as he is pretty good. I take the comparison more as a compliment."

Given what Miller has been able to accomplish, there's no question Zaire wouldn't mind following in his footsteps.

Starting at quarterback as a freshman for Ohio State, Miller made an impressive jump in just one year to go from a prep star at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne to the starting quarterback on one of college football's most prominent programs.

In attendance for Ohio State's 33-29 win over then-No. 12 Wisconsin – a game in which Miller threw a touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining to stun the Badgers – Zaire saw firsthand what players of his caliber are capable of accomplishing.

"I see a lot of similarities between us in terms of big playmaking ability," the 6-1, 190-pound Zaire said. "We both have unique skills and we have a lot of similarities. I saw a lot of myself in him with what he did out there against Wisconsin, but I also see there's a lot of things that we do differently."

The biggest variance is that Zaire's high school offensive philosophy is option-based out of the wishbone formation, a major contrast to the spread offense Wayne ran when Miller was still in high school.

Though Zaire led Alter to a 10-0 regular-season record in just his first year as the starting quarterback, he did so by running nearly 150 times and passing only 75. Still, Alter head coach Ed Domsitz prepared Zaire for the inevitable comparisons.

"When you play quarterback, and I have told him this all along, there are going to be comparisons made," the Knights coach said. "If you want to be a quarterback, you have to learn to accept the pressure that comes with the position. He understands that. He's been a quarterback for most of his life.

"I would hesitate to make a comparison yet, though. I think what we saw out of Braxton in high school, he was an amazing quarterback for Wayne, and I think Malik does the same kind of thing for us. I think we'll know a lot more about both of them a year from now."

What unfolds for Zaire in the next year may be every bit as interesting, particularly because the quarterback is still undergoing a developmental process on the field. Though Zaire runs the ball nearly twice as much as he throws it, Domsitz anticipates the Knights could put it up in the air more in 2012.

Of course that will go a long way in helping Zaire become an even hotter commodity on the recruiting trail, as his ability to run the option, use his legs to extend plays and throw the ball effectively makes him a triple threat.

"I feel like I can be a good pocket passer. I can be comfortable throwing out of the pocket and making plays with my arm in crucial situations and big third downs," Zaire said. "I feel like I can move the ball down the field doing that. I feel like even though I am considered a dual threat, I feel like I can do it with my arm better than my feet."

If Zaire can establish his throwing ability to complement what is already considered by many as a lethal running threat, Division I-A coaches will likely be champing at the bit to send him an offer.

Ohio State didn't need to wait to see more, however. The Buckeyes are one of three programs that have offered Zaire in his junior season. Cincinnati and Wisconsin are the others.

"I am very grateful for having those three offers, but I am always trying to work hard and I never want to settle for being good," he said. "I want to be the best. Other coaches want to see me more and that is a challenge of some sorts, but I have always been able to step up to a challenge and show doubters they're wrong."

Having coached current Miami (Ohio) quarterback Austin Boucher in the recent past, Domsitz is able to recognize if his prep players have what it takes to succeed at the next level.

Perhaps the most relevant comparison to Zaire is former Alter quarterback Jeff Graham, who left the Knights in 1987 to star as a wide receiver at Ohio State before eventually embarking on a successful NFL career.

Though Graham was a wide receiver at heart, Domsitz said he started running the wishbone offense with the former star in the backfield because he was dangerous with the football and there weren't other eligible quarterbacks on the roster who could get the ball to Graham consistently.

"They're both great athletes," Domsitz said of Zaire and Graham, "but I think they were different kinds of athletes. Certainly Malik has the ability to throw the ball. Both of them have that ability to accelerate and make big plays.

"I don't think there's any question that Malik is a better passer. I don't know if Jeff ever saw himself as a quarterback. They both had a way to turn a broken play or a play that looked like it was going nowhere into a big play. In that sense they're pretty similar."

The uncanny ability to make plays already has Ohio State's coaching staff high on Zaire, but landing the quarterback is far from a foregone conclusion for the Buckeyes.

Though Zaire admitted OSU is one of the schools he's very interested in learning more about, he doesn't anticipate thinking about narrowing down his recruiting list until at least the summer. He is instead satisfied concentrating on growing his game and trying to earn more scholarship offers while trying to take it one day at a time.

"I am going to take my recruitment in stride," Zaire said. "I am going to take visits and talk to the coaches who want to talk to me. I want to see campuses and what teams are all about, and then it comes down to making decisions with my family and my close friends."

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