DeShone Kizer is no longer in the meeting rooms, but the former Notre Dame quarterback likes what he’s hearing from his ex-teammates.
After a 4-8 finish to the 2016 season, head coach Brian Kelly overhauled his staff and restructured the strength and conditioning program. The changes have been positively received by the current players, a sentiment that Kizer echoed Thursday after his pro day on campus.
“We sat up here in this same room and a thousand times we talked about the culture here and how something needed to change for us to get back to winning,” Kizer said. “Those guys have said that there’s been a big change in terms of the aggression in the weight room, the way that they’re attacking the field, attacking the position groups.”
Kizer has taken a lot of the blame for the poor 2016 season, repeating Thursday that he didn’t make enough plays for the team to have success during his much-hyped junior season.
He subsequently elected to forego his final two years of eligibility and enter his name into the NFL Draft, where he is considered an early round selection.
His departure leaves a thin quarterback room for the time being, with rising junior Brandon Wimbush the projected starter entering the fall.
“Coach Kelly has been around and has been locked in with developing at least the guys in the quarterback room from me talking to Brandon,” Kizer said. “I’m very excited to see where spring takes them. I’m excited to see what some of my best friends are out there doing going into next season.”
As a freshman in 2015, Wimbush served as Kizer’s backup. Wimbush redshirted last season as a sophomore, taking a backseat to Malik Zaire, who has since transferred.
Kizer said he talks to Wimbush “at least weekly.” While Kizer has the size and arm strength that NFL teams covet, the 6-1, 226-pound Wimbush has his owns strengths that have coaches and teammates excited about the upcoming season.
“We sat in this room and talked about how talented Brandon is going to be and now it’s his time to shine,” Kizer said. “He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.”
After being thrust into duty in 2015 when Zaire suffered a season-ending leg injury, Kizer thrived with limited experience, leading the Irish to a 10-3 record.
Kizer said he’s eager to help Wimbush learn how to handle all that comes with being a quarterback at Notre Dame.
“Obviously there’s a lot more to the quarterback position than throwing the ball far and running fast, so there’s going to be a lot that he’s going to have to do in terms of leadership and taking over and accepting the complete role as a Notre Dame quarterback,” Kizer said of Wimbush. “I’m looking forward to helping him through that process and as long as we continue to talk, I’m going to be his biggest fan.”
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