Kizer gets 1st start for No. 8 Irish vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech

Published 2:14 am Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — DeShone Kizer didn’t impress Notre Dame at first.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore, who bailed the Fighting Irish out with a game-winning 39-yard touchdown pass last week against Virginia, crossed Notre Dame off his recruiting list after throwing for then-offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

“I didn’t throw the ball well at all. He left, and Notre Dame left, and I kind of just X-ed them out,” he said.

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Although Kizer received his first scholarship offer before even playing a game at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, he was a raw talent with a long throwing motion of a baseball pitcher. He worked on his throwing mechanics, started receiving more scholarship offers, and he gave Notre Dame another call.

“It was my last call. I was getting ready to narrow down to a select few schools, and I was like you know what? If there’s ever a school that could adjust this list and hop into this list it would be Notre Dame,” he said.

Now coach Brian Kelly is calling on Kizer to help keep alive the hopes of the season for the Irish (2-0), who face three top 15 teams in their next five games. It starts with No. 14 Georgia Tech (2-0) on Saturday. That’s quite a responsibility for a player who spent the spring as the No. 3 quarterback.

Kizer found out last year’s starter, Everett Golson, was leaving school when his phone started vibrating non-stop in May while taking a final exam.

“It was obviously shocking,” he said. “I was preparing to learn from him another year and watch him and Malik (Zaire) battle it out through the summer and see who was going to be the guy next year.”

When Kizer flipped a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Durham Smythe on a fake field goal in the first quarter against Virginia, he thought that would be his highlight of the day and probably the season. Then Zaire fractured his ankle late in the third quarter.

Kizer said he got thrown into the game so fast he had no time to think.

“The quickness of it allowed me to settle down and really get going,” he said.

C.J. Prosise running for a 24-yard touchdown on Kizer’s first play helped calm the quarterback, as did encouragement from teammates.

“Those nerves kind of went away right away,” he said.

Kelly and his teammates describe Kizer as being less animated and less emotional than Zaire. Center Nick Martin said Kiser provides a consistent voice.

“It’s commanding and that’s huge,” he said.

Kizer concedes his freshman season was frustrating because he wasn’t able to get as much practice time as he wanted.

“But after a while I took it for what it was and accepted a year of not playing and took it and tried to allow myself to learn the game and become more comfortable with the speed of big-time college football,” he said.

The pace has increased significantly in the past week as the Irish coaches try to speed up his learning process while he has been inundated by social media. He said he’s been trying to ignore it by focusing on football and academics.

“I’m just trying to bury myself in my studies in the classroom and also bury my studies on Georgia Tech,” he said.

Kelly said the Irish won’t be running their offense any differently with Kizer, saying he was recruited because he fit Kelly’s system.

“He does things a little bit different than Malik does, but they all are within the realm of the offense. It’s just we’ll choose a little bit from different chapters within the offensive system,” he said.

Kelly hopes the next chapter has a similar ending to the one Kizer wrote against Virginia.

Notes: A teaser for the Showtime program on Notre Dame showed coach Brian Kelly telling the team left tackle Ronnie Stanley was not able to accept being a team captain. The scene wasn’t included in the actual episode and Kelly called it unfortunate that it got out. Stanley spoke to the media for the first time since the teaser aired and talked about why he couldn’t be captain: “I can reveal it was for parking reasons, but I can’t say anything else.”