The Tar Heels still have one final game to play this season as the team gears up for their matchup with Stanford in the Sun Bowl later this month. While we’re not quite done with 2016 yet, we still must look towards 2017 when it comes to the quarterback position. Mitch Trubisky is widely expected to declare for the NFL Draft following UNC’s bowl game, so the program needs to start thinking about what they will do next. Lucky for them they have a potential answer in transfer quarterback Malik Zaire.
After three seasons with Notre Dame, Zaire has been released from the program, at his own request, so he can pursue an opportunity with another school. The 21-year-old senior will graduate this month before officially transferring for his fifth year. Right now he is considering Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina, with plans to visit Chapel Hill this weekend. Any plans he has involving UNC will obviously come down to whether or not Trubisky decides to declare.
Zaire’s football career took an unfortunate turn almost before it even began. He first got his feet wet in 2014, winning MVP honors in the Music City Bowl that year. He had the chance to take over the starting job in 2015 but missed most of the season after suffering a broken ankle. By the time Zaire returned, the program had seemingly passed him by and DeShone Kizer had become too entrenched at the position to simply give it back. Instead, head football coach Brian Kelly decided to have them share time at the position before outright giving the job to Kizer.
Overall, Zaire leaves the program having made 58 completions in 15 games for a 59.2% completion rate. He accumulated 816 passing yards at 8.3 yards per attempt with six touchdowns. He also added 324 rushing yards to his resume. It should be noted, however, that his completion percentage was far better prior to this season, averaging 62.5% across his first two years before struggling with a 47.8% rate in limited playing time in 2016.
He might not set the world on fire, but Zaire would represent an interesting option for the Tar Heels. Larry Fedora might prefer to install someone with experience over the several options they have who will end up needing to compete in camp. For a program that especially values dual threat quarterbacks, he could be of some use to Fedora as a one-year stopgap until they can prepare another quarterback to take over.
Remember, Trubisky saw a significant amount of playing time behind Marquise Williams before becoming the starter. None of the program’s internal options have that same experience. Nathan Elliot, a dual threat QB himself, saw nine attempts on the season. Then there’s Logan Byrd, who has a similar skill set to Trubisky but isn’t considered to be as agile around the pocket. Chazz Surratt can keep up with the up-tempo offense but is far too unrefined as a passer.
Recruiting Malik Zaire could be something this program needs right now, even if it sounds somewhat unorthodox and slightly unnecessary. What do you all think? Should the Heels bring in Zaire or try and turn one of their internal options into a working starter?