Notre Dame's quarterback situation entering next season is not set in stone, even with the return of Everett Golson from a semester suspension because of an academic issue.
Coach Brian Kelly made it clear Friday when he introduced offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur at a press conference that the job will not be handed to Golson.
Golson started 10 of 12 regular-season games during the Irish's undefeated 2012 run and started in the BCS championship game against Alabama.
"I just want to caution everybody that we have, I think a very good quarterback in Malik Zaire as well," Kelly said. "And I'm not ready to hand everything over to Everett. I love Everett, he played in the national championship game, I'm like everybody here, but I'm also someone that wants to make sure that the quarterback position is such, especially with Matt now with us, that we give every an opportunity to compete for that position and Malik is going to get that chance as well.
"Everett is doing great, he looks physically like he should be at this time, and the reports have been great and we're very, very excited. But I do want to caution everybody including anybody that's around the program, and our players in particular, I'll use this opportunity to do that, this is a pretty good quarterback that we didn't play this year, Malik Zaire, that's going to get a chance, too."
Zaire didn't play as a freshman after enrolling early and going through spring practice, sitting behind starter Tommy Rees and senior Andrew Hendrix, who has transferred to Miami (Ohio).
Kelly said Zaire checked out at times last season being buried on the quarterback depth chart, but the coach like what he saw from the quarterback in the spring game and Zaire's ability to show he grasped the offense toward the end of the season.
"We lost him there for about four or five games," Kelly said of Zaire. "Once we got his attention back, it was clear that he had a pretty good knowledge base of what we wanted to do. So I would tell you that by the end of the year, when we were quizzing him and saying, hey, listen, you have to be ready here, we felt like he had a pretty good knowledge base.
"When we get into game situations he makes plays. … When it's a competitive situation, he really rises his level of play, and I think you can go back to the spring game last year as a mid-year enrollee, he looked his best in the spring game. He didn't practice all that well, but in the spring game when it's a competitive situation, he rises up."