April 06, 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday that he won't let the competition for the starting quarterback job between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire keep Notre Dame's offense from establishing an identity, saying it was a problem that plagued Ohio State last season.

''It seems to me Ohio State really found their identity after the Michigan State game where, in a lot of ways, I think Ezekiel Elliott can be credited with kind of waking up the entire coaching staff and saying, `Who are we?' Right?'' Kelly said.

Elliott was critical of the Ohio State coaches after the then-No. 2 Buckeyes lost 17-14 to then-No. 9 Michigan State after he had 12 carries for 33 yards against the Spartans, snapping his streak of 15 straight games with 100 yards or more.

The Buckeyes went through a season-long quarterback carousel as it sought to find consistency, with Cardale Jones opening the season as the starter after helping the Buckeyes win the national championship the previous season. Jones was replaced after seven inconsistent games by J.T. Barrett, who was at quarterback when Ohio State beat Notre Dame 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season 12-1.

''So I'll make sure that doesn't happen to us,'' Kelly said. ''We'll have an identity. We'll know who we are. It doesn't mean you can't play two quarterbacks.''

When spring practice began last month, Kelly said Brandon Wimbush would compete for the starting job. But he said Wednesday that Kizer and Zaire were both No. 1 and he doesn't expect to decide on a starter until after summer.

Both have things they need to work on, Kelly said. He said the Irish had installed a lot of new plays after Zaire went down with a broken ankle in the second game against Virginia so he is still learning.

''So it's hard to evaluate strictly who is ahead of who because we're really installing for him. But communication, footwork, all those things, balance, those are the things Malik needs to continue to work on,'' Kelly said.

Kizer needs to work on reading defenses, red-zone efficiency and consistency, Kelly said.

Kelly said no matter what happens, he knows someone isn't going to be happy.

''You just can't keep three quarterbacks happy,'' he said. ''Somebody is going to be disappointed. But they're going to have to know their roles and accept their roles moving forward.''

You May Like