All eyes on quarterbacks when Texas hosts Notre Dame
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly apparently couldn't make up his mind about his quarterback situation and will play two.
Texas coach Charlie Strong may or may not have made a decision on his starter at quarterback, but he isn't saying who.
Such is the situation as the Fighting Irish and Longhorns prepare for Sunday's season opener at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin (ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Kelly said veterans DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will split duties for the 10th-ranked Irish, who are coming off a 10-3 season that ended with a loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
“They have both have been outstanding, they both make plays,” Kelly said. “They both are playmakers. We would just continue to practice and continue to see both of these guys make plays. So we're going to play both of them at Texas.”
Kelly said last season he felt a two-quarterback system was not a path to failure, whereas much coaches follow the football mantra that if you “have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Perhaps Kelly is challenging both players, but he said this week he truly wants to find out if one or both are ready for primetime. Kizer replaced Zaire in the 2015 opener and helped the Irish to a 10-3 record last season. Kelly is playing his cards so close to the vest that he even said he would consider putting the quarterbacks on the field at the same time.
Though Strong didn't reveal any choice, he really has just one legitimate option.
Texas senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes hasn't shown the ability to command the position the last two seasons. That means it will likely be true freshman Shane Buechele's turn.
If Buechele does start against Notre Dame, he will be the first true freshman to start for the Longhorns since Bobby Layne in 1944. But that's what Texas fans are hoping to see. Anything less will not sit easy, but that won't be Strong's determining factor.
“The fans, they'll be fine,” Strong said. “Both of those guys are competing. It's been a great matchup. Our team's going to know who the starting quarterback is.”
Those aren't the only issues with the two teams, of course
The Irish have among the fewest number of returning starters in the country after losing their top rusher, three leading receivers, four top tacklers, a sack leader and several offensive line standouts.
So Kelly is taking a back-to-basics approach.
“Chuck Noll made it famous with his football team with the Steelers, but that's true with this team,” Kelly said. “If they just do the basics — the ordinary things — and they do them very well, this is going to be a good football team.”
Strong, meanwhile, is looking for a turnaround for his Longhorns, who struggled through a 5-7 campaign in 2015 that began with a 38-3 whipping at Notre Dame.
But Strong said that the team's attitude has changed since last season as has the intensity and the bond among the players and coaches.
“We're not that team anymore,” Strong said, referring to the 2015 squad. “That's not us. We're a totally different team than we were last season.”
This will be the 12th meeting between the two storied programs. The Irish hold a 9-2 advantage in the series and have won all four prior games played in Austin. The Irish also have won the last five meetings.
- DeShone Kizer
- FOX Sports Southwest
- FOX Sports Southwest - Big12
- Malik Zaire
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Shane Buechele
- Texas Longhorns
- Tyrone Swoopes