Graduate transfer QB Malik Zaire to join Florida this week: Four things to know

Malik Zaire is finally transferring to Florida.

I'm not saying finally because it was something that was pre-destined for Zaire the moment he came into the world but because most have been pretty sure this decision has been coming for a while. The only problem was some red tape that had to be torn up before it could actually happen.

Zaire began his college career at Notre Dame, but after receiving his degree, he felt it was in the best interest of his football career to seek greener pastures elsewhere, and there's a lot of green in The Swamp down in Gainesville, Florida.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman reported late Saturday night that Zaire plans to head to the University of Florida on Wednesday and begin preparing to join the Gators. 247Sports confirmed as much in a conversation with Zaire.

"I go down there Wednesday and kind of just see everything and tour everything and set some stuff up. Just try to engrain myself on being a Gator. Excited for the opportunity and eager to get there," the quarterback told GatorBait.net's Luke Stampini.

"I'm going down there and just seeing things. Just sit down with coach [Jim McElwain] and be able to just see everything. Just one step at a time."

There's plenty to know about Zaire what led to his decision, and we here at CBS Sports would be all too happy to share them with you.

1. He's not walking into a starting position at Florida: When it comes to graduate transfers, particularly at quarterback, a lot of times a player ends up at a new school and assumes the starting role. This is because, more often than not, the reason a school is in the market for a grad transfer is it needs somebody who can immediately fill the job.

That's not the case here.

Zaire could end up as Florida's starter, but he's going to have to earn the gig. Feleipe Franks is a redshirt freshman that was considered the leader in Florida's quarterback competition following spring practice, particularly as Luke Del Rio -- the most experienced QB on the roster -- missed the entire spring due to a few surgeries. Behind Franks and Del Rio is another redshirt freshman in Kyle Trask who's talented but raw.

Zaire will now jump into the fray, but given how late in the process he'll be joining the team, it's hard to imagine he's going to take over the starting role from the jump. You can't rule it out completely, though.

2. Zaire doesn't have the most experience himself: Florida is definitely better off having Zaire as an option, but it's not as though he comes to Florida with a ton of game experience. He began the 2015 season as Notre Dame's starter, but only for the first two games of the year before going down with a broken ankle. His two starts brought mixed reviews.

He was fantastic against Texas in the season opener, throwing 313 yards and three touchdowns while completing 86 percent of his passes in a 38-3 Irish win. The next week at Virginia wasn't as kind, as he completed 39 percent of his passes for 115 yards and a score while also rushing for 87 yards before going down with the ankle injury.

He served as a backup behind eventual second-round pick Deshone Kizer in 2016, appearing in eight games and completing 11 of his 23 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.

All in all, Zaire has only thrown 98 passes in his college career, completing 58 of them (59.2 percent) for 816 yards and six touchdowns. To his credit, none of those 98 passes has ever been intercepted.

3. Zaire wouldn't be at Florida if not for the SEC's recent change of heart: The conference announced on Friday that it had amended its grad transfer rules, which previously restricted schools from accepting grad transfers if any previous transfers failed to meet academic requirements. Florida had been banned from taking on any new grad transfers for three seasons -- through 2018 -- for that exact reason, but the new rules reduced that academic penalty to a single season, which is still counter to other Power Five conferences.

Considering that Zaire's other finalist was Harvard, odds are Florida won't have to worry about him failing to meet academic requirements in Gainesville.

4. Another grad transfer led to Zaire earning the starting job at Notre Dame: We went over the fact that Zaire was Notre Dame's starting quarterback in 2015 already, but we didn't discuss how he wound up with that job.

Notre Dame's previous starting quarterback had been Everett Golson, but after graduating, Golson decided to transfer to Florida State. I guess you could say both Golson and Zaire are like a lot of Midwesterners in that, after they retire (or graduate), they head to Florida.

Anyway, Golson's transfer opened the door for Zaire -- though some believed Zaire may have won the starting job even if Golson remained, that's debatable -- to take the reins. He lost the starting job after the injury and was replaced by Kizer, who went on to have a strong career for the Irish and get selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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