SEC graduate transfer rule change paves way for QB Malik Zaire to Florida

By Adam Silverstein
June 2, 2017
SEC graduate transfer rule change paves way for QB Malik Zaire to Florida

Image Credit: AP

It sure looks like the Florida Gators‘ quarterback competition is going to get a whole lot more … competitive. Still undecided on his destination, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is reportedly expected to choose Florida now that the Southeastern Conference has cleared the way for his transfer.

Zaire, who lost his starting job with the Irish due to injury and the superb play of eventual No. 53 overall draft pick Deshone Kizer, is deciding between UF and Texas, though Harvard and Wisconsin had previously been considered options. He is presently “leaning towards” the Gators, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman, who cited sources close to the signal caller.

The reason Zaire was previously unable to transfer to Florida is that two prior graduate transfers under head coach Jim McElwain failed to live up to their academic requirements. As such, UF was banned from accepting grad transfers for a three-year period ending with the 2018 season.

However, the SEC decided at its spring meetings in Destin, Florida, to reduce that three-year window to a single year, paving the way for Zaire’s potential transfer to the Gators to be approved now that the rule has been amended.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey previously said that “removing every restraint” from grad transfers may be unhealthy for the league. Despite that concern, no other Power Five conference had such a restriction in place, putting the SEC at a competitive disadvantage for grad transfers.

Should Zaire enroll at Florida, he will immediately join a competition with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who is considered the favorite to start, as well as redshirt freshman Kyle Trask and 2016 starter redshirt junior Luke Del Rio, who missed spring practice due to a pair of surgeries.

Del Rio is not expected to regain his starting job, but McElwain made it clear he would be part of the competition in the summer and fall. With Zaire in the fold, the Gators would be in a win-win situation as he would either be good enough to earn the starting job or additional competition for Franks. Even if Zaire does not win the job, Florida has not had a quarterback start every game in a season since 2010, usually due to injury.

Due to his own injuries, Zaire has never attempted more than 40 passes in a season. When he was the planned starter for Notre Dame in 2015, he completed 65 percent of his throws for 428 yards with four touchdowns. He posted a 86.4 completion percentage (19 of 22) while throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener against Texas. Zaire has never thrown an interception in 98 collegiate passes over three seasons.

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