Questions abound at QB as Notre Dame prepares for Texas

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Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly had a brutal 2016 season, but he bounced back with a strong 2017 recruiting class. (Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)

By Tom Coyne

AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Coach Brian Kelly surprised many when he revealed two weeks ago he planned to use both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire at quarterback when No. 10 Notre Dame opens the season at Texas.

He hasn’t revealed much more than that since then about how he plans to split the playing time. Asked Tuesday if he had decided yet who would take the first snap on Sunday, Kelly said he hadn’t “figured that out yet” saying it “may be something that we discuss in the locker room.”

“It’s not really an issue for us right now. It’s not something that we’ve contemplated,” he said.

For his part, Texas coach Charlie Strong hasn’t said yet whether he will start freshman Shane Buechele or senior Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback against Notre Dame.

Kelly said he doesn’t have a definitive plan of how he will decide which quarterback will be used when, saying he will do it by “feel.”

“The comfort level of the quarterback and his rhythm is something that is always an issue with them. I can’t help them with that. What we’re mostly focusing on is what Texas wants to do and then how we counter with our two quarterbacks and how we think effectively they can run our offense,” Kelly said.

“So there will probably be times where, man, that probably doesn’t feel good for his flow or tempo. That probably doesn’t work best for him. But what we’re trying to counter is the game within the game, and that is how Texas is trying to defend what we’re doing offensively.”

Kizer and Zaire each think they should be the starter and have expressed displeasure at having to share time.

Zaire thinks he’s the best quarterback and doesn’t think a broken right ankle in the second game last season should have cost him the starting position, especially after completing 19 of 22 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-3 win over the Longhorns last season.

Kizer thinks he should start after leading the Irish to nine wins last season, including three come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter. He completed 63 percent of his passes, which ranks fourth in school history for a single season, and his 10 rushing touchdowns set a school record for quarterbacks

While Kelly said last week the pair had “embraced knowing that both of them will play” he acknowledged Tuesday that they still don’t like the idea of sharing the position. But he said they will make the most of their chances when the game starts.

“They would like to be the guy, but they want to win, and they’ll do whatever is necessary to win and find a way to win the game,” he said.

Kelly wouldn’t say whether he hopes to come out of the game with a No. 1 quarterback.

“If they both play dynamically and feed off each other, my ideal situation would be I’m playing them both because they’re both playmakers,” he said. “And if we can find a way that they both can feed off each other, help our offense to be the productive offense that we want it to be, I’d love to see them both play. You know, nobody seems to think that this can happen. But we’re going to give it a shot.”

Notre Dame likely to have 4 arrested players ready for Texas

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says he intends to make four of the five players arrested by state police on marijuana possession charges available to play when the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish open the season at Texas on Sunday.

Wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and linebacker Te’von Coney were listed on the depth chart released Tuesday and Kelly has said he expects running back Dexter Williams and cornerback Ashton White to contribute this season.

Kelly said athletic department policy states that the first marijuana offense is an educational process and he has never suspended a player for a first offense. He said the school could still discipline the players, but there is no deadline for such a move.

“If something changes, the university will let us know,” said Kelly, who noted that the players will be in a program that will include random drug tests.

“We think that’s appropriate. We think that’s an important part of the education process as well,” he said.

Kelly dismissed a fifth player, safety Max Redfield, who also was charged in the same Aug. 19 incident with a misdemeanor charge of carrying a handgun without a license. Kelly said Redfield, who was sent home early from the Fiesta Bowl last season for violating team rules, was kicked off the team because of the gun charge.

“That’s what caused the dismissal. And as an upperclassman, not really living up to the standards that I set,” Kelly said.

Asked for comment outside court, Redfield said: “I wish the best to them.”

The five players were formally charged on Monday. Coney, Stepherson and Redfield appeared in court Tuesday in Rochester, 45 miles south of South Bend, where a judge entered not guilty pleas for them. Attorneys for Williams and White filed motions to waive initial hearings.

The five were arrested after their car was stopped for speeding and an improper taillight. Police say they found two bags of marijuana. The five players told police the gun was not theirs, court documents said.

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