The Florida Gators' 2017 quarterback competition just became more exciting.
Former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire will join the Gators this fall as a graduate transfer, choosing the Gators over Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina, he told 247 Sports late Saturday night.
"You just want to be able to be a part of something special," Zaire said of the decision. "You're playing in basically like a minor league from the league. For me, I didn't want the challenge to dissipate at the end of the day. Coming from Notre Dame, you're playing top games every week, and I wanted to continue that trend. I didn't want to run from the challenge, I wanted to embrace the challenge."
Zaire decided to leave Notre Dame after the Fighting Irish's disappointing 4-8 season last year, but has withheld a decision on where to play his final season of NCAA eligibility until roughly two months before fall camps open.
The delay led to speculation that Zaire preferred Florida, and was waiting for the SEC to address a conference rule that prohibited UF from accepting him. Under the rule, SEC schools whose graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements would be disallowed from accepting more for a period of three years. At the league's annual meetings in Sandestin, Fla., on Friday that rule was relaxed to one year, allowing Zaire to enroll at UF.
Zaire will join veteran Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, and freshman Feleipe Franks as the most likely candidates for the Gators' starting quarterback job this fall. The fifth-year senior has played only in parts of the last three seasons at Notre Dame, so his game experience is limited. He won the starting job in 2015 but an ankle injury ended his season after just two games, and he was unable to unseat his replacement, DeShone Kizer, in 2016.
Zaire completed 58 of 98 passes for 816 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in his Fighting Irish career.