Who would’ve thought that DeShone Kizer of all people would’ve caused so much division on his way to the NFL draft?
The latest opinion, and subsequent reaction, comes courtesy of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, whose Monday comments on SiriusXM NFL Radio quickly ventured into viral territory.
Notre Dame HC @CoachBrianKelly: DeShone Kizer has a strong arm and is physically gifted. I think he has all the tools but needs time.
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 3, 2017
Notre Dame HC @CoachBrianKelly: DeShone Kizer should still be in college. Needs more time to grow on & off field. He isn't complete yet.
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 3, 2017
Of course, tweets only tell part of the story. Sirius posted the interview later in the day, which ProFootballTalk transcribed:
“I’ve got a lot of relationships built on trust with G.M.s and head coaches in the NFL,” Kelly said. “I’m going to be honest with them and honest with DeShone. There’s a lot of growth that has to take place. But I go back to what are the common threads a great player needs to have. He’s got to have traits of excellence. He’s got to be able to have attention to detail and that focus, he’s got to be smart and he’s got to have the ability to grind and a great attitude. He’s got those traits but they’ve got to be continuously worked on. Whoever takes DeShone, he’s not a finished product in those areas. But when he does get more time to work on those traits, you’re going to have a great young man and a great quarterback. The skills are out there, you can see them. You can go to the workout and see that he’s got those skills, he’s just not complete yet.
“If you want to draft him and say come on, turn it over to him, you’re going to have to support him with great leaders around him and great leadership. But if you’re going to give him time and get a mentor for him, you’re going to have a great guy. That’s my honesty when I talk to G.M.s and head coaches.”
To recap: Kizer declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He started 23 games across two seasons with the Irish, completing 60.8 percent of his passes for 5,809 yards with 47 touchdowns and 19 picks, adding 992 rushing yards and 18 rushing scores.
Listed at 6-foot-4.5, 230-pounds by the school, Kizer said at Notre Dame’s pro day two weeks ago that he entered the offseason at 245 pounds and got down to 233 for the combine. Though widely considered to be a first-round pick later this month, analysts such as Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have said that Kizer should have gone back to school for another year.
While Kelly has publicly backed Kizer’s decision — and has done almost a 180 in recent years in terms of his public backing of players leaving school early — he has expressed similar sentiment in that Kizer might not be a Day 1 superstar for whichever NFL team drafts him, most notably right before Pro Day.
From the Indianapolis Star’s Laken Litman:
“I’ve had a number of conversations with GMs and coaches about DeShone, and my personal feeling is he has the biggest upside of all the quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “I don’t know that he’s prepared to come in and win a Super Bowl for you (immediately). Some may feel as though maybe one of the other quarterbacks are, I don’t know that firsthand. But I think in time, he has the biggest upside of all the three quarterbacks.”
He did add that in time, Kizer could be the right guy for an organization.
“Everybody’s under the same pressure of performing and needing somebody to come in right away,” Kelly said. “But I think he’s a guy that just needs some time. So if he gets in the right situation I think he’d be the guy to take.”
For the record, here are Kelly’s comments in the December press release announcing Kizer’s decision:
“DeShone is an extremely gifted quarterback that was faced with a difficult decision. He could return as a senior captain at Notre Dame — a place that he loves, and with a program that respects him immensely. Or, he could begin the next chapter in his life and accept the opportunity that likely awaits in the NFL.
“While he chose the latter, the type of leadership DeShone displayed this past season will benefit our program moving forward. He’ll certainly be missed on and off the field, but we’re very happy for him and his family. DeShone will always represent this University with the utmost professionalism and class.”
As Kelly said on Sirius, Kizer, like most 21 year olds, might not exactly be a finished product yet:
“He still should be in college,” Kelly said. “But the circumstances are such that you have to make business decisions. And he felt like it was in his best interest, and I’m going to support him in his decisions.
“But the reality is he needs more football. He needs more time to grow in so many areas, not just on the field but off the field. He’s a great kid, he’s got great character. Character, you don’t change character much. And he’s got great character so you’re not going to have an issue there with that young man.
“But he’s going to continue to learn, and he’ll learn with great coaches around him and a great mentor around him. There’s a huge amount of growth that will happen every single day with DeShone Kizer.”
Kizer is the eighth Notre Dame player under Kelly to declare for the draft before earning his degree. Yahoo’s Eric Edholm recently profiled the former Irish signal caller, listing Kizer as the No. 28 prospect in this year’s draft.
For more Notre Dame news, visit BlueAndGold.com.
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