April 18, 2015
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame’s spring game did little to determine who will be the starting quarterback in the fall other than showing Malik Zaire can throw a long pass but can’t catch one.
Zaire threw a perfectly timed 68-yard touchdown pass that Will Fuller caught at the 6 and raced in for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. But then on a flea-flicker play drawn up by a fan to start the third quarter, Everett Golson attempted a long pass to Zaire but safety Max Redfield jumped higher and picked it off. Redfield appeared to taunt Zaire lying on the ground, then took off and was credited with a touchdown even though officials blew the whistle at midfield.
Neither quarterback talked to the media after the game. Golson hasn’t talked to the media since the end of last season.
Coach Brian Kelly said each player needs to focus on his own play.
”All they can control is what’s in their purview and that is the fundamentals of what we’ve asked them to work on, and the rest they can’t really worry about. It’s not their call,” he said.
Zaire, who started the Music City Bowl in a win against LSU, had the slightly better game statistically, completing 8 of 14 passes for 137 yards with no interceptions.
Golson, who lost his starting job after committing 22 turnovers last season, was 7 of 15 passing for 83 yards with one interception.
Golson needs to work on consistency and efficiency with his read-option game and making good decisions. Kelly said Golson passed up a wide-open receiver that would have given the Irish more room to punt and instead tried to make a big play. He added Zaire needs to improve his focus and passing, saying he’s made great progress with his mechanics.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith said he’s pulling for whoever will help the Irish win.
”They both provide the ability to run and they both have a strong arm. It’s just about which one you want,” he said. ”I’m glad I don’t get to make that decision.”
Other things to know learned about Notre Dame in the spring game:
HYBRID PROSISE: C.J. Prosise was a safety as a freshman and played wide receiver the past two seasons. He has been working as a running back and was the leading rusher Saturday with 64 yards on 12 carries, including knocking Redfield down hard on one hit. ”C.J. Prosise was impressive with not only his ability to break into the second level but he showed his toughness in lowering his pads and playing physical,” Kelly said. ”He’s really rounding into a guy that you’re going to fear.”
ESTABLISHING IDENTITY: With the Irish opening the season with games against Texas, Virginia and Georgia Tech, Kelly said the Irish can’t wait to develop an identity. Tackle Ronnie Stanley said 11 of the first 12 plays in the spring games were runs and perhaps a signal. ”Just having the ability to run when we want to run the ball, go at the pace we’d like to as an offense. I do think that’s a big change in identity from a year previous to now.”
DEFENSIVE IDENITY: Linebacker Jaylon Smith said the defense has to develop an identity of its own as a physical defense. ”We have a bad rep of being soft, intelligent smart guys at Notre Dame. But along with that, we have to have that mental and physical mentality. We have the capacity. It’s just about turning that switch. So it’s something we’re emphasizing.”
GRACE RETURNS: Linebacker Jarrett Grace showed he’s ready to contribute again after missing the entire 2014 season after breaking his right leg in four places in 2013. He nearly sacked Golson on one play and nearly intercepted a pass. ”He has established himself as a middle linebacker that can come in and help us in a number of different situations. He’s smart, he gets guys lined up, he gets himself lined up and he can play,” Kelly said.
MAX PLAY: Kelly has been complimentary all spring of the play of safety Max Redfield, who had struggled last season. In addition to the interception, Redfield led the team with six tackles, including one for a loss.