Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein will "dare to compare" prospects to NFL players throughout the college football season. This week, he provides a scouting report and comp for Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, who dazzled scouts in his season debut against Texas.
I traveled to South Bend, Ind., a year ago to scout a loaded Notre Dame team as it took on an overmatched Texas squad. The Fighting Irish rolled the Longhorns, 38-3, thanks in part to the work of quarterback Malik Zaire.
However, a week later, Zaire was lost for the season due to injury and DeShone Kizer stepped into the starting QB spot for the remainder of the season. Fast forward to the 2016 season opener, and what started as a two-QB system in Notre Dame's rematch against Texas in Austin quickly became a one-man show with Kizer proving himself to be the best option.
Although the Irish fell just short in double overtime against a resurgent Longhorn squad, Kizer put together a game that had everyone in the press box talking.
Here is a scouting report and NFL-player comp for Kizer based on previous film study and my scouting notes from Kizer's game against Texas on Sunday.
Kizer has the prototypical build of an NFL quarterback. He has the height to stand tall in the pocket (6-foot-4, per school measurements), and possesses the muscular definition and thickness of frame that scouts covet. Kizer excelled in three sports in high school and has the poise and confidence of a player used to succeeding and performing at a high level.
Kizer has more than enough arm strength and is able to attack all three levels of the field. He throws with decent touch and is unafraid to challenge safeties with intermediate and deep throws. Kizer operates seamlessly between pocket passer and zone-read quarterback. He's able to run with conviction when asked. Against Texas, he never appeared to press and showed plus pocket awareness and poise throughout the game.
Kizer has plus zip on his throws, but there are times when he's overly reliant on arm strength over mechanics to generate that velocity. Kizer needs to sit down and drive the ball with his lower half to create better consistency of velocity as well as accuracy.
Speaking of accuracy, one area of improvement for Kizer is ball placement. I would like to see him lead receivers more frequently on his slants and crossing routes. There were also throws that came up a little short.
My comparison for Kizer, a redshirt sophomore, is still a work in progress, but from a size and diversity of talent standpoint, he reminds me of the late Steve McNair. While McNair was more of a game manager in the pros, he was a gunslinger at Alcorn State. McNair had a very pedestrian yards-per-attempt average (6.9) in the pros, but "Air McNair" had the ability to push the ball down the field, especially coming out of college. Kizer has that same arm strength to attack down the field and can make winning throws on the move.
What really stands out to me is the mental makeup and toughness of Kizer in comparison to McNair. McNair was extremely difficult to rattle and Kizer appears to operate with that same confidence and calm. While McNair could beat teams with his legs, he looked to win from the pocket and I believe Kizer has that same trait.