''He can be emotional at times. We have to transfer that into just being enthusiastic,'' Kelly said. ''I told him, `You don't have to be the reason that we won. You just can't be the reason why we lost.'''
The 6-foot, 220-pound lefthander got the start for the Music City Bowl against LSU last year because Everett Golson kept making turnovers that contributed to Notre Dame stumbling to an 8-5 record after a 6-0 start. Zaire will see his first significant playing time at home Saturday night, but dismissed talk about feeling like a rookie.
''You can only really feel like a rookie, in my opinion, if you aren't prepared, you aren't confident in what you're doing,'' Zaire said. ''That's kind of in my mind a rookie mentality where you're unsure of yourself. I've been able to be decisive in practice.''
While Zaire knows the job is his alone, Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes doesn't have that security.
Swoopes, who started 12 games last season and struggled mightily, knows he will be sharing time with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard as he works to try to keep the job. Second-year Texas coach Charlie Strong isn't saying how the time will be divided. Swoopes said he and the rest of the Longhorns know they have to prove themselves.
''I think everybody kind of has a chip on their shoulder and is just kind of ready to go out there and show people what we've got,'' he said.
The two programs are playing each other for the first time since 1996. Expectations are high for the Irish with 15 returning starters. The Longhorns are coming off a 6-7 finish, including big losses in the final two games against TCU and Arkansas, and are depending on freshmen at key positions.
Other things to know about the Texas-Notre Dame game:
VETERANS VS. INEXPERIENCE: Texas will start six freshmen, including two offensive linemen, and 24 figure in their two- and-three-deep lineup, with many listed as the top backups at key positions. The Irish have no freshmen starters and only two sophomore starters, although some freshmen are expected to contribute, most notably defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, tight end Alize Jones and place-kicker Justin Yoon.
TEXAS COULDN'T HOLD 'EM: The Irish have a handful of players from Texas who could have an impact against the Longhorns, including wide receivers Corey Robinson of San Antonio and Torii Hunter Jr. of Prosper - the sons of former San Antonio Spurs great David Robinson and Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter. Robinson was second on the team in receiving last season with 40 catches while Irish coaches have been raving about Hunter, who was slowed by injuries his first two seasons.
KICKING CONTEST: Texas senior kicker Nick Rose posted a video of himself this summer kicking a 70-yard field goal. His career long is 51. Yoon has been drawing praise from Kelly, who says the freshman has been making nearly 80 percent of his attempts from 40 to 49 yards.
NO WALKTHROUGH: Texas coach Charlie Strong, an assistant at Notre Dame 1995-98, isn't bringing the Longhorns for the traditional walkthrough at Notre Dame Stadium on Friday because he knows how crowded campus gets. ''I don't want our guys chattering with their fans and hearing all that,'' he said.
COTTON BOWL MEMORIES: Notre Dame played Texas three times in the 1970s with national championships at stake. The Longhorns won the 1970 game to claim the 1969 national title, were upset by the Irish the next season and Notre Dame upset the Longhorns again to win the 1977 national title.
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report from Austin, Texas.