The Notre Dame Fighting Irish granted Malik Zaire his release Wednesday, enabling the senior to pursue a new opportunity as starting quarterback at another school thanks to his graduate transfer eligibility.
Per ESPN.com’s Jared Shanker, Zaire confirmed Notre Dame granted his release on the condition he can’t transfer to any team on the Irish’s schedule next season with the exception of North Carolina.
According to Scout’s Pete Sampson, the Florida Gators, Pittsburgh Panthers, Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers have emerged as the “primary contenders” to bring Zaire aboard. Under terms of his release, however, Michigan State can be crossed off the list because the Irish play the Spartans on September 23.
The 21-year-old never saw extended action under center in South Bend, but he did flash glimpses of star potential. The first showcase came in the 2014 Music City Bowl, when Zaire completed 12 of 15 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown while rushing 22 times for 96 yards and a score.
He proceeded to open the 2015 season with a 313-yard, three-touchdown display in a convincing win over the Texas Longhorns. However, his campaign was derailed the following week against the Virginia Cavaliers when he suffered a fractured ankle.
DeShone Kizer proceeded to take over at quarterback, and Zaire was never able to reclaim the starting job on a permanent basis.
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Despite his limited exposure with the Fighting Irish, Zaire proved he has the tools necessary to slide in as a starter for a team with national title aspirations.
When it comes to the four teams Sampson listed as potential suitors, they should all be pining for Zaire as the chase for his services ramps up. Wisconsin, Florida, Pittsburgh and Michigan State all rank outside the top 70 in terms of passing yards per game this season, meaning none of them topped an average of 225 yards through the air.
That said, the Gators and Badgers do rank among the nation’s top five in terms of scoring defense. So if one of those teams can maintain elite form on defense and bring a gunslinger of Zaire’s caliber aboard, its College Football Playoff hopes figure to be bolstered in a big way for the 2017 season.