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Notre Dame

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Irish backup QB talks big game

– Malik Zaire is confident he can be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.

“On Aug. 30 against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium, there will only be one guy on the field, and I believe that will be me,” the sophomore said Friday after the Irish’s fourth spring practice.

Zaire, who didn’t play as a freshman after enrolling early last year, will need to outperform Everett Golson to be the Irish’s opening day starter.

Zaire said he understands the challenge of taking the starting spot from Golson, who returned to the team this spring after being suspended for the fall semester because of an academic violation.

Golson went 10-1 as a starter in 2012 as the Irish finished the season 12-0 to earn a spot in the BCS title game. He threw for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and ran for 298 yards with six touchdowns.

The closest in-game experience Zaire has had at Notre Dame was in the 2013 spring game, when he threw for 62 yards with a touchdown and an interception and lost 31 yards on five carries.

“It is always going to be an uphill battle, at the end of the day, dealing with a guy who has been there and done that in a sense with the game experience,” Zaire said. “Being that it is an open competition, there are definitely some challenges and struggles to get up that hill. It is not going to be an easy ride whatsoever, because of the fact of the guy who has been there and done that. I’m confident in myself to be able to go out there and do what it takes to win games and practice like I’ve been there the same as the other guys.”

Brian Kelly has said the starting job will not automatically go to Golson, and the Irish coach has liked the growth Zaire has made.

“I would say in the big picture, Malik is doing well,” Kelly said. “One of the things I said to you, Malik gives a 10-second answer to a two-second question, and he’s getting better at that.

“He’s much more concise in everything that he does. His whole demeanor has to be that way, and I like that. We are shaping that to the level that we need to because that’s what you have to be to be the starter here at Notre Dame.”

While Zaire wants to challenge Golson for the starting spot, he also said he doesn’t see it as a direct battle between the two quarterbacks. The competition is which quarterback can prove to be the best to lead the Irish.

“It is not a one-on-one for me,” Zaire said. “It’s more of what is it going to take to be the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and what is it going to take to be on that field and win a lot of games for us.”

Note: Notre Dame announced that offensive lineman Christian Lombard (broken right wrist) and receiver Will Mahone (fractured right foot) will miss the rest of spring practice. Lombard had surgery Thursday, and Mahone had surgery March 6.