- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Two weeks ago I asked you who Notre Dame's starting quarterback would be by the end of the 2013 season. It seemed like a given that Tommy Rees would end up starting in Week 1 -- something Brian Kelly announced shortly after -- but would the coach stick with the senior the whole way?
Kelly obviously gives his quarterbacks a short leash. Rees turned the ball over 19 times while starting 12 games in 2011, but he bailed the Irish out a number of times in 2012, and he clearly knows the offense better than anyone. (Not to mention his 18 starts, which are 18 more than any other quarterback on the roster.)
Rees came away with 37 percent of the votes, while Andrew Hendrix notched 14.
The leader? True freshman Malik Zaire, who gained 49 percent.
Allow reader Greg from Buffalo, N.Y., to explain:
Choosing Malik Zaire because I think his development will be "on-the-field" opposite of Golson's of the past year. Instead of starting Golson and closing with Rees, it will be a more subtle steadily growing injection of Zaire as the change of pace QB as the season goes on. No one can trump Rees' experience, so leverage that while getting Zaire the in-game reps he needs to accumulate that experience. There are some soft games in the back half of the season where he can grow, and I could see him pushing to start by the Stanford game.
This makes perfect sense to me, and I think it's the reason Zaire won this poll, even if it may take a lot of wishful thinking on Irish fans' parts.
Zaire right now has to be one of the most popular players among the Notre Dame fan base — as is usually the case with any quarterback who has yet to play, and therefore has not made any mistakes to draw criticism.
He's the flavor of the month right now, a dual-threat who enrolled early and impressed the coaching staff during spring ball. He's a lefty, too.
While I think it is probable that Zaire sees the field at points this fall, the staff will have to see great improvements during camp and in the day-to-day operation of the program if it eventually turns the reins over to a true freshman, especially when there are two fourth-year players ahead of him who have plenty of game experience.