Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is still trying to identify who he is as a passer.
He didn’t achieve that during his two seasons as a starter for the Irish, especially not during an inconsistent 4-8 junior campaign in 2016. That led to accuracy issues (58.7 completion percentage), which many analysts consider the biggest question mark on Kizer’s NFL résumé.
“When you’re at the college level there’s so many different ways you can go about quick game. There’s so many different ways you can go about drop-back game,” Kizer said after his pro day workout Thursday. “For us at Notre Dame, when you have so many different bright-minded coaches, there’s always going to be adjustments that need to be made.
“Going into the NFL, I want to make sure that I know who I am. Not what Coach [Mike] Sanford wanted me to do, not what Coach [Brian] Kelly wanted me to do, not what Coach [Mike] Denbrock wanted me to do, but truly where am I most comfortable, where am I most accurate?”
The potential first-round pick took another step toward proving that Thursday.
Kizer unofficially completed 47 of his 60 attempts at pro day. Approximately six of his incompletions were drops. For a complete breakdown of Kizer’s throwing performance, read Blue & Gold Illustrated’s breakdown.
The 6-4, 233-pound Toledo, Ohio, native was working with an unfamiliar set of receivers. He threw passes to former Irish wide receivers Corey Robinson and Amir Carlisle, former Irish tight end Chase Hounshell (who transferred to Ohio State for the 2016 season). and former Irish running backs Tarean Folston and Jonas Gray.
Kizer did not complain afterwards about his less-than-ideal pro day setup.
“That’s football. That’s how it’s going to be when I step out there come two months from now when I’m throwing to guys I’ve never thrown to before,” Kizer said. “… Not necessarily the best situation in terms of having a guy you’ve been throwing to for years in advance, but we made the best out of what we had.”
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last month, Kizer was occasionally erratic with his throws, particularly on passes to his left. He attributed those struggles to attempting something he wasn’t comfortable with.
“At the combine I was really jerky at the top of my drop and I wanted to show that wasn’t really me,” Kizer said. “It was definitely an emphasis that I had at the combine, to be a guy who turned aggressively at the top of his drop to kind of separate myself, but it then threw me kind of off-balance.
“So to kind of get back to drifting left rather than jerking and turning left is something I really wanted to put an emphasis on today.”
Kizer said his throwing script was put together with the help of QB coach Zac Robinson, Jordan Palmer and the input of NFL teams. Kizer threw from under center, in the shotgun, and simulated play-action and on-the-run throws Thursday.
The former Irish signal-caller was throwing in front of dozens of NFL coaches and scouts Thursday, including San Francisco general manager John Lynch, who raved about Kizer’s interview at the combine. Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley was also in attendance.
Kizer said he’s been training in Orange County, Calif., the past several months, reshaping his body in the process. He said he’s improved his diet — cutting down on his beloved oatmeal cream pies — and increased his cardio in slimming down from 245 pounds to his current weight of about 233 pounds.
“I’m not going to have to run anymore quarterback-driven power run game,” said Kizer, who wanted to get his endurance up in the training process. “I don’t have to be 250 like I was in the USC game. At 235 you’re a solid guy, but can still extend the play. I like the range in between there.”
Kizer will have a hectic pre-draft schedule, he said. He’ll participate in the John Gruden QB Camp for ESPN next week while staying open to interviews with all NFL teams.
“I’ll hop on any flight to go check those teams out,” said Kizer, who’s not sure if he’ll attend the NFL Draft in Philadelphia. “We’ll see how many days I’m away, but there’s going to be quite a few trips.”
Kelly said Wednesday he believes that Kizer has the most upside of any of the quarterbacks in the draft. Kizer remains in a battle with North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to be the No. 1 quarterback selected.
The Irish head coach also said that Kizer needs some time to develop in an NFL system. Such quarterbacks are often not drafted near to the top of the first round.
Kizer was asked Thursday about his feelings on where he gets selected.
“The number means absolutely nothing,” he said. “I want to be put into the right position that’s going to allow me to win. Obviously there is a financial … there’s something good with being drafted higher, but as long as I’m in a position where I can be good and contribute to the team as early as I possibly can to get to as many Super Bowls as we can, I’ll be happy.”
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