Malik Zaire Candid on College Football Coaching World (Exclusive)

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Playing football for Notre Dame comes with a tremendous amount of pressure. It’s a storied program, with weekly nationally televised games and an international fan base. I caught up with former quarterback Malik Zaire to discuss what it’s like to play for the Fighting Irish and the challenges he faced during his time in the program. 

In regards to Notre Dame’s 12-7 win against unranked Lousiville in October, Zaire said, “It’s definitely a lot of pressure that you put on yourself as an offense to perform. There are hidden gems in the offense, and it can be pretty frustrating only to score 7 points.”

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Having played quarterback at Notre Dame and Florida, Malik was able to provide an insightful look into the intricacies of the Notre Dame system and college football. 

The Notre Dame offense has turned the corner since mid-October. Still, as individual players remain uninvolved in the offense, Malik brought up one of the Irish’s challenges – too much talent. “It’s hard to get the ball to everyone and make everyone happy. The offense is one-dimensional and is hell-bent on giving a guy the ball 50 times.”

Zaire was forthcoming in a solution to the Irish’s problems offensively – simplify things and find ways to get the younger guys involved. 

“A lot of the problems that I had as a young quarterback in that room and developing in the offense was that there are too many options on plays. There are too many guys to read. So if you see Ian [Book] running around, late on throws, he’s probably reading too much.” 

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I asked if it was this complexity in the offensive scheme that was holding younger players back from seeing the field, and he said, “It could be a lack of understanding the playbook. But it could also be a coach’s decision. Coaches hold a lot of power in college sports.

In the NFL, they play who they pay the most, and in college, they play who they like the most.”

Zaire thinks there are no excuses for keeping talented players sidelined over a lack of football IQ. “Coaches find a way to put talented players in the game. Whether it’s a go route, a slant, they’re going to find ways.” 

Aside from Notre Dame’s offensive complexity, we discussed college football as an institution and the frustrations it can create for athletes, and the difficulty in finding great coaches. 

A graduate transfer himself, Zaire talked about the rejuvenating effect that transferring can have on a college athlete’s confidence. 

“It’s surprising to see the excitement other schools have for you once you do a second recruitment. You come to find out there are schools that want you right now, and you can play right now, which gives you the confidence,” he said. 

As more players enter the transfer portal, Zaire mentioned some of the problems that players face during their first recruitment. 

“You’re locked in on what they’ve told youm but you come to find out there are guys you haven’t heard of taking reps over you, and coaches have you jumping into different rotations that were never mentioned.”

He followed up by saying it’s incredibly important for athletes to develop a relationship with the head coach, not just the assistant coaches, in order to understand the team’s plans. 

We continued to talk about football and teams’ struggles to find winning coaches and the carousel of mediocre coaches continuing to still find jobs in football. 

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“A lot of nepotism plays in football [coaching]. If that’s your boy growing up or a guy was in the trenches with you as a GA, the relationships play a bigger role than qualifications. Even guys that are ‘qualified,’ if you’re 105-105, you continue to get jobs when you interview for positions,” he said. 

You can find Malik Zaire on CBS Sports as a national college football analyst and on Twitter @MalikZaire8

 

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