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  • Associated Press Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, who announced Monday that he’s entering the NFL draft, threw for 2,926 yards this season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 11:35 am

Irish's Kizer to enter NFL draft

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – Brandon Wimbush, the floor is yours.

DeShone Kizer announced Monday he’s entering the NFL draft, news Notre Dame fans had been bracing themselves for and which means the Irish’s immediate and long-term future at quarterback is cleared for Wimbush.

In a video Kizer recorded with Bleacher Report, he credited his upbringing at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, and he said attending Notre Dame had been "the best decision of his life."

"Guidance helped me along the way," Kizer said in the video. "To be a part of something bigger than us, thank you. NFL-bound."

The draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia, and Kizer is projected as at least a second-round pick in the seven-round event.

Kizer arrived in South Bend in 2014 and redshirted, then made 23 starts for the Irish over the two following seasons and won 12 of them.

Despite Notre Dame’s 4-8 record this year, Kizer finished with impressive numbers: 2,926 yards passing, 26 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions.

Kizer submitted his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board to get a feel for where he stood in the eyes of general managers and scouts. When he met with media Friday night as the Irish handed out their annual team awards, Kizer said he was awaiting receipt of his draft grade before deciding whether to stay in school for his junior season in 2017.

"DeShone is an extremely gifted quarterback that was faced with a difficult decision," Irish coach Brian Kelly said in a statement issued by the team. "He could return as a 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."

Teammates voted Kizer the Irish’s 2016 Most Valuable Player, and left guard Quenton Nelson explained the faith they had in him.

"He’s the best," Nelson said. "He’s so calm and so cool in the huddle, no matter the situation. Game on the line, we’re up, it doesn’t matter. And he’s a hell of a player. He can pass the ball, run the ball. He can do it all, and I’ve very lucky to have played with him. I can’t be thankful enough for that."

Kizer’s size at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds is considered ideal for an NFL signal-caller. The biggest questions about Kizer involve the length of his development timeline and whether he’ll be able to use his legs as much as he did at Notre Dame, where he set a school record for career rushing TDs by a quarterback with 18.

Former starter Malik Zaire, whose season-ending injury in 2015 opened the door for Kizer’s rise, announced last month his intent to transfer, thus leaving Wimbush, a much-hyped prospect, as Kizer’s heir apparent.

In November, Kizer said of Wimbush, "He’s going to be one heck of a player one day."

cgoff@jg.net