Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly might not have meant to do harm to DeShone Kizer’s draft stock, but his recent statements about his former quarterback could be damaging nonetheless.
A disappointed Kelly expressed his feelings to Sirius XM Radio in a recent interview. Notre Dame’s head coach believes Kizer should still be in school, preparing for his senior year with the Fighting Irish, because he still needs to grow on and off the field. In the same breath, Kelly also said he supports Kizer’s decision – though, public criticism and questioning the decision is an odd way of going about it.
Of course, there is an argument to be made that Kizer could use additional seasoning. It’s one that can be used for each of the top quarterbacks in this draft class. But where Kizer’s development is better off taking place is up for interpretation.
Notre Dame is far from a stable ground for quarterback development. Part of Kizer’s time on the South Bend campus was spent riding a quarterback carousel spun by Kelly himself. The low-point came in an October 2016 loss to Stanford . Kizer started, but was benched after throwing a pair of interceptions. After Malik Zaire struggled as his replacement, Kizer was re-inserted into the game with the Fighting Irish trailing by seven. Kelly said substituting Zaire for Kizer was a move intended to bring energy and momentum to Notre Dame’s side, but also said putting Kizer back in was a move motivated because Kizer’s experience gave the team its best chance of winning.
Sounds like an easy way to stunt a quarterback’s growth, as far as I’m concerned.
Notre Dame’s struggles to replace top-flight talent that left to the NFL Draft in 2016 also made things tougher on Kizer. The Fighting Irish’s offense was raided by the NFL Draft, losing offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (6th overall), wide receiver Will Fuller (21st), guard Nick Martin (50th), and running back C.J. Prosise (90th). That’s four top-100 talents, including two first-round picks, and three players in the top-50. Kizer is responsible for some of the disappointing play from Notre Dame’s offense, but the surrounding talent didn’t do him much favors.
Kelly has a point in Kizer not being completely ready for the NFL. But he also comes off as a bitter ex-coach who loses the most in this scenario with his quarterback leaving for the pros. Kizer could go on and not develop into a starting quarterback, but it won’t be an indictment on his decision to forgo a year of school for the NFL Draft.