Few programs in the country know the value that a graduate transfer quarterback can bring to a team like the Wisconsin Badgers can. Some guy by the name of Russell Wilson comes to mind.
Then again, few teams in the country know the value of a deep quarterback position overall better than the Badgers do as of late.
So, it came as little surprise that former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire was linked with a transfer to the Badgers earlier this offseason. With a shaky freshman season from Alex Hornibrook and just three scholarship quarterbacks overall, the Badgers could use a dash of experience on the roster.
However, following a rushed timetable that didn’t work out, many believed that UW had moved on back in January.
That appears to not be the case though, as reports indicate that Zaire has narrowed down his choices and the Badgers are a finalist for his services this upcoming season. It certainly would make for an interesting quarterback room this upcoming season, but perhaps it is also a move that would really benefit everyone involved.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Hornibrook was tabbed as the starter for UW before spring camp even got started, but one look behind him on the depth chart this year and a look back at the last five years of history and there’s room for concern.
That’s because Wisconsin has just two scholarship quarterbacks behind Hornibrook— neither of whom have thrown a pass in a collegiate game — and have seen multiple quarterbacks start and/or play in multiple games in each of the last five years.
UW could enter the season with a redshirt freshman (Karé Lyles) and true freshman (Jack Coan) battling it out for the backup role should Zaire not decide to come to Wisconsin. That’s about as scary as it comes considering quarterbacks have been dropping like flies at UW for the last five years.
Enter Zaire, arguably the biggest “free agent” in college football this season. The former Notre Dame starting quarterback will graduate in a few weeks, and he could come to campus quickly this summer to get in the mix.
Zaire named a final group heading in to his final three weeks before graduation at Notre Dame — Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Harvard.
Not only does playing time and the potential to battle for a starting spot seem to matter, so does academics. Otherwise why is Harvard in the mix at all?
As for the Badgers, Zaire, much like Russell Wilson before him, isn’t going to be handed the starting spot. It would be something he would have to earn through competition this summer and in to fall camp. Competition like that is nothing new for Zaire though, as he had to constantly battle for a starting spot at Notre Dame.
Landing Zaire may be a great thing for everyone involved in the Badgers quarterback room. On the one hand, Hornibrook would have a true competitor to push him to evolve and progress as a quarterback. On the other hand, Coan and Lyles can sit back and absorb the offense.
Let’s not forget that Lyles was out for all of last offseason and most of the fall thanks to hip surgery in the offseason. Coan would ideally be a redshirt candidate, but may actually be the second-best quarterback the Badgers currently have on the roster and without Zaire in the mix they may have to burn his redshirt year.
There’s no guarantee that Zaire winds up at Wisconsin, but should he come aboard it certainly would be helpful to a very shaky situation at quarterback heading in to the 2017 season.
With a schedule that is much easier than last season, getting solid quarterback play would certainly help UW become more than a contender in the Big Ten West division. It could vault UW in to a different conversation all together.
Of course, that depends on Zaire’s choice and ability to absorb a more pro-style offense in a short amount of time.