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Georgia coach Kirby Smart

QB Malik Zaire could transfer to Florida: Here’s how that affects Georgia

Cy Brown

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How a transfer to Florida could affect Georgia

This coming edition of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party seems like it will be a more manageable affair for Georgia than the last, in part because there is no obvious starter under center for the Gators. But a graduate transfer QB could be making his way to Gainesville, and it could have a huge effect on Florida’s season.

Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire, best known as a fine understudy for Deshone Kizer while in South Bend, is looking for a team to join to wrap up his college career, and the Gators are reportedly in the mix. Zaire threw for a little more than 800 yards, 6 touchdowns and no interceptions in his time at Notre Dame. His best performance came in the 2014 Music City Bowl, when he was named MVP. Although he never received much run for the Irish, he was considered one of the best backups in the country while playing second fiddle to Kizer.

He may not have the best numbers for a senior QB, but there is no doubt that he was fine player when called upon. And with an injured Luke Del Rio as the only QB on Florida’s roster with experience, Zaire would compete for that starting job the moment he stepped on campus and probably win it. From there, who knows how it would affect Florida’s 2017 season.

But Zaire’s decision isn’t solely his. Because of an SEC rule that requires graduate transfers to reach certain academic benchmarks at their new school, and if they don’t, a restriction is placed on the amount of graduate transfers the school can take in the future. Unfortunately for Florida, it accepted two graduate transfers in 2015 that didn’t meet the requirements, and are currently barred from taking any more. The SEC is reviewing the rule, though. 247Sports’ Thomas Goldkamp first reported on the mutual interest between Zaire and Florida.

However, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey intimated in December that the league may review that rule in its spring meetings, and coach Jim McElwain also made it sound like he thinks there’s a good chance the rule is overturned, or at least altered.

“Well it’s one that hurt us actually,” McElwain said. “With the two guys that we took that first year — or I guess second year or whatever it was, first year, second year — and yet it’s something that they’re going to look at, because we’re unique to any other conference in the NCAA as far as those requirements.”

This potential change in rules would obviously have ramifications beyond The Swamp, with Georgia partially in that boat right now. Maurice Smith — who helped Georgia’s defense immensely last season as a grad transfer — has two years to complete his master’s degree or Georgia’s ability to admit graduate transfers would be reduced, should the rule not be amended. (Kirby Smart is attempting to get a waiver on Smith’s academic progress should he make the NFL, by the way.)

It seems likely that the rule will be changed if only because it puts the SEC at a serious disadvantage to other conferences without a similar rule. Graduate transfers have become an important part of the college game in the last few years. Aside from Smith, Greyson Lambert also came in as a graduate. The Bulldogs also added kicker/punter Cameron Nizialek as a grad transfer from Columbia. Bringing in graduates is a great way to fill a couple holes on the team or bring in immediate reinforcements at lacking positions, as happened on all three of the previously mentioned cases.

In the short term for Georgia, it’s better if this rule stays in place and prevents Zaire from joining the Gators. He wouldn’t turn them into immediate national title contenders, but he would improve them at one of their most underserved positions, potentially turning it into a streak. But long term, this is a rule Georgia should want overturned, lest the Dawgs miss out on the opportunity for really good players such as Smith or Zaire in the future.

More on Mecole

Kirby Smart seems amused with the public’s obsession with Mecole Hardman. He once again fielded questions about the position of the rising sophomore after Hardman wore a red jersey, the color worn by Georgia’s offensive players, in practice on Tuesday. From Seth Emerson:

“This whole Mecole fascination,” Smart said, smiling. “He’s really been working at both. He just worked today at wideout; he was really going to be at wideout more, so we opted to put him in a wideout jersey.”

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Good dog

You should watch all seven minutes of this good dog ruining a soccer match.