Florida Sports Information
Malik Zaire is a fifth-year senior who has undergone multiple quarterback competitions in his collegiate career. Now, as a member of the Florida Gators, Zaire is hoping to win a close battle currently raging on between himself, Luke Del Rio and Feleipe Franks.
Each brings something unique to the table.
Zaire spoke to the media on Friday, and talked about the impact that his arrival has had on this quarterback group. “We're all here for the same thing, but I think me coming here; I definitely feel like I've raised the level of competition in the quarterback room and pushed those guys to be better each and every day, whether it's spoken or unspoken”.
Zaire also went on to talk about redshirt freshman Franks. “I just think that Feleipe’s a great fighter. I think the competitiveness in the room has definitely increased, in my opinion, with me coming here. So for him, that command that he has is something that is showing as of late.”
Regarding Del Rio, Zaire had this to say, “Luke, Luke’s just like me. We’re fifth-year guys. We’ve been to the Elite 11 together so that grind is always the same.”
Based off of what we heard from Del Rio, Franks, and Zaire today, the competitive fire and drive to improve everyday has been present with each quarterback. Although Zaire is a little behind the eight ball as a graduate transfer arriving in June, he seems to have fit in well with this Gators football team.
The dual-threat transfer from Notre Dame talked about what it’s been like with the Gators and how he has fit in. “Obviously, it takes some adjustments, but I feel really good about it.” Zaire said.
He continued by saying, “Being out with those guys with a lot of talent and a lot of potential, it makes it a lot easier on me. For me to do my job is important and making everything go smoothly is key going through camp.”
One of the areas in Florida’s offense that Zaire hopes to help improve is their red zone conversion rate. Last season, Florida made it to the red zone 42 times; they scored 21 touchdowns and made 9 fields goals, which netted them the second worst red zone conversion rate in the entire NCAA last season.
When asked about Florida’s deficiencies in the red zone, Zaire said, “That’s huge for me, and being able to go out there and really be decisive and kind of focus on being perfect in that red zone, keeping the offensive mind-set that we’ve got to score down there, and the importance of being down there is everything. That red zone is very important for me and for this offense to get better and take that next step this year.”
The Gators’ offense can potentially see a resurgence this season, according to Zaire. “I like the versatility. For us, especially (with) the talent that we have, it’s going to be really hard to game plan against what we bring to the table. I think we’re very dynamic with the many assets that we have on the outside and the inside.”
Zaire also went on to praise the position group that Coach McElwain and other players have been raving about in camp: the offensive line. This is what he had to say about a talented group that features Jawaan Taylor and Martez Ivey. “That confidence in that front five is what’s going set the tone for us this year.”
“I think they’ve done a really good job of coming together as a team and coming together as a unit. And I think that’s going to be infectious for the rest of us to play off of that, and just that offense in general and the things we’re putting in has just been something special.”
Another positive sign for the Gators was the scrimmage that they held a week ago. Although they will be going through another one tonight, Zaire had this to say about what transpired last week. “I thought the first scrimmage went well. Being in The Swamp for the first time was a great feeling. Being able to score in The Swamp for the first couple times I did definitely felt like home.”
After a scrimmage that featured a 40-yard touchdown from Franks and two red zone conversions for touchdowns by Zaire, Coach McElwain continued to hold off on announcing who the starting quarterback will be for the season opener against the Michigan Wolverines. This may be frustrating for some players, but Zaire seems to be mentally prepared for whatever decision Coach Mac makes.
“So, obviously, we want that distinct person to be known, but at the end of the day, you just have to focus on what it’s going to take for you to be the best you can be. You let the decisions handle how they handle. You just have to be able to adapt and be ready to play whenever the opportunity comes.”
This falls right in line with what Zaire echoed to the media throughout his entire interview: focus on yourself. It may be tempting to focus on the competition with the other talented quarterbacks on the roster, but Zaire seems to be only concerned about the inner competition within himself and doing everything in his ability to make himself and his team better.
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