Some scouts prefer Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer over Clemson's Deshaun Watson as the top QB prospect in college football, but that doesn't mean Kizer is exempt from having to fight to keep his job.
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said Saturday that Kizer's position, along with the other 21 starting spots on the team, will be up for competition following a 38-35 loss to Duke, which dropped Notre Dame to 1-3.
Kelly said Kizer's play was "below standard" and "not acceptable" in the surprising defeat.
The redshirt sophomore completed 22-of-37 passes for a career-high 381 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran for a score, too, but he also had two turnovers, throwing a pick and fumbling a snap that was recovered by the Blue Devils, who took their first lead of the game on the ensuing drive in the second quarter.
Kelly even left open the possibility of playing third-string QB Brandon Wimbush, who was expected to redshirt this season.
"He has given me the keys," Kizer said, per the Chicago Tribune. "To go 1-3 and not come up on some big drives at the end of games, that all falls on me as the commander of this offense. ... I haven't done that well lately."
Kizer opened the season sharing time at QB with Malik Zaire but was named the full-time starter after a dazzling performance in a Week 1 loss to Texas. His play has been spotty in the past two games, though. He turned the ball over 3 times in the back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Duke.
We've not seen Kizer at his very best the last couple weeks. However, as NFL.com analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah noted earlier this month, Kizer is the best option for the Fighting Irish under center. Barring some major regression, it would be a surprise to see Kizer sitting on the bench.
Kelly criticized his team for "severely" lacking "fire and energy" on Saturday, and Kizer indicated he'll take it upon himself to make sure the team improves in that area.
"I think my mentality and my poise is something that this team isn't benefiting from," Kizer said, according to Comcast SportsNet Chicago. "I'm going to have to be more verbal, I'm going to have to make sure that I take my job and put a little more effort into it, in the sense of the energy side of things. Guys are going to go out there and feed off of me and I need to make sure that I have the energy that it takes for all 11 guys to go out and play well, not just myself."
Kelly's remarks give Kizer an opportunity to show NFL scouts how he can respond to being challenged, and there's no doubt they'll be watching closely.