Malik Zaire transfer: SEC rule change could send QB to Florida

Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is likely heading to Florida as a graduate transfer, according to multiple reports. He’d be eligible to play immediately.

It’s been a long decision process for Zaire, who first announced his transfer in November of last year. Just last month, he cut down his list to four schools he was reported to be choosing among: Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, and Harvard. It was reported last week that Zaire had chosen Florida, but there was a rule standing in the way of making that official.

The SEC rule, implemented in 2014, says that if a graduate transfer to a particular program doesn’t meet certain academic requirements, the program isn’t allowed to use the exception for three years after his enrollment. It was a roadblock for Zaire, due to grad transfers Mason Halter and Anthony Harrell failing to meet academic requirements in 2015.

From SEC bylaw 14.1.15.3:

The student-athlete must earn all possible APR points applicable for each term of enrollment. If the student-athlete does not earn all possible APR points, the certifying institution may not use the SEC Bylaw 14.1.15.1 graduate student exception in the particular sport for three years following the student-athlete’s first date of initial full-time enrollment at the certifying institution

But on Friday, the SEC announced a rule change that could make Zaire to Gainesville official.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey did say there was a possibility that the rule would be revisited come spring meetings in late May in Destin, Fla.

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“It will come up,” Sankey said via SEC Country. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

For Florida, the pickup could be big, given that there hasn’t been a consistent talent at the position since Tim Tebow left.

The Gators have former blue-chip quarterback Feleipe Franks, as well as Kyle Trask and 2016 starter Luke Del Rio on the roster, but Zaire could win a battle over all of those guys.

Gators blog Alligator Army sizes up the race:

If and when Zaire does land at Florida, he is likely to compete for the starting quarterback role with redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and redshirt junior Luke Del Rio. At the conclusion of spring practice, Franks was seen by most as Florida’s most likely starter for a season-opening game against Michigan, but Zaire’s talents and experience would make him the most likely candidate of a pool including him, Del Rio, and Trask to beat out Franks for that role.

Given the revolving door at quarterback, it’s obvious why Florida would be an attractive option for Zaire. Out of all of his choices, Florida is probably his best shot at landing the starting job.

Zaire’s move would come after the signal caller announced his transfer from South Bend following a relatively short career with the Fighting Irish. Zaire won the starting job as a redshirt sophomore in 2015, but during a Week 2 game against Virginia, he suffered a broken ankle that sidelined him for the season. In 2016, he was beat out by future second-round pick DeShone Kizer.

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During his time at Notre Dame, he threw for 816 yards and six touchdowns. His career in South Bend didn’t pan out, so it’s nice to see he’ll get a chance for a fresh start elsewhere.

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