SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Quarterback Malik Zaire talked about how much talent Notre Dame has returning and quickly rattled off the name of just about every first- and second-team player on the roster except one: last year's starting quarterback Everett Golson.
Zaire said the omission had nothing to do with the battle for the starting quarterback position.
"I'm not really competing with anybody but myself at this point," he said.
Coach Brian Kelly said he doesn't care how Zaire perceives the competition as long as he is focused on improving.
"I think he clearly knows he has to go out there and compete every day," Kelly said.
It's the second straight spring the two are competing for the starter's job. This time the playing field appears a lot more level.
A year ago, Golson was returning from a semester suspension and coming off a 2012 season where he helped the Fighting Irish to the national championship game, while Zaire had yet to play a college game. Golson now is coming off a season where he committed 22 turnovers and the Irish lost five of their final six regular-season games. Zaire replaced Golson in the regular-season finale against USC and started against LSU in the Music City Bowl and was named the bowl's most valuable player, although both played.
Kelly said he might have turned to Zaire earlier last season if he had worked harder. Kelly was asked two days before the Louisville game on Nov. 22 how Zaire was doing.
"Probably his best week. I didn't have to wake him up after Chipotle today after our Thursday meeting. Usually he falls asleep after his burrito," Kelly said, joking.
Zaire concedes he could have prepared better.
"I think some of the opportunities that I've gotten, I didn't take the most advantage of," he said.
The left-handed quarterback, who has three years of eligibility left, said he's working on being more consistent. He answered, "secrets, secrets, secrets" several times when asked what he was working on and how the offense might be different.
Zaire said he doesn't want to share quarterback duties with Golson like he did in the bowl game because "there is only one captain to a ship."
"If that means we've got to do a little time-shared thing, then that tells me as an individual that I need to step up my game in whatever aspect I need to, just to make it clear-cut for whoever may decide," he said.
As for talking about Golson, Zaire mentioned him only twice while talking to the media for nearly 20 minutes and referred to him only by his number, 5, just as he did for third-string quarterback, DeShone Kizer, who he called 14. Zaire said he didn't mean anything by it, although he didn't refer to anyone else by number.
"I just didn't feel like saying the whole name. I think it's quicker to say the number," he said.
Zaire hopes Kelly calls his number when the Irish open the season against Texas on Sept. 5.
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.