Zaire Makes Good First Impression on Gators

The graduate transfer from Notre Dame is in the running to be Florida’s starting quarterback. Gators head coach Jim McElwain on Tuesday at the SEC Football Media Days. (Photo: Jimmy Mitchell/Southeastern Conference) HOOVER, Ala. – They don’t know the new guy well other than he’s still No. 8 like he was at Notre Dame, but in his short time with the Gators, quarterback Malik Zaire has been a positive influence according to teammates.

That was the message delivered by Florida offensive lineman Martez Ivey and defensive back Marcell Harris on Tuesday here at the Southeastern Conference Football Media Days.

"He’s all about opportunity. He comes in, smiles all the time. He works hard. He never misses opportunities,” Ivey said. "He just loves the game and loves being at Florida. I haven’t seen him one day when he’s not bringing energy, he’s not smiling."

If Zaire’s smile continues to flash brightly, well, that could mean he will be Florida’s starting quarterback in the season opener against Michigan.

A fifth-year graduate student, Zaire enrolled at UF over the summer and has one year of eligibility remaining. It’s the second consecutive year the Gators have brought in a former starting quarterback at another Power 5 school for a second chance. Austin Appleby came from Purdue a season ago and started seven games.

The plan for Zaire is uncertain at the moment, but head coach Jim McElwain said Zaire didn’t come to UF "to hold clipboard."

Harris expects Zaire to have a significant role, whether that means as the starting quarterback, sharing time in a two-quarterback system or as the backup.

"We’re just happy and excited for another player to come in,” Harris said. "As long as he takes it where he needs to take it, take care of his responsibilities, he’ll do a great job at Florida."

Zaire enters camp in a competition with Feleipe Franks , the front-runner to start at the end of spring camp, and Luke Del Rio , who started six games a season ago before injuries sidelined him and Appleby took over. see more 01 OCT 2016: Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (9) during the game between the Syracuse Orange and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford,NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) Zaire spent four seasons at Notre Dame and has thrown only 98 passes in his career. He was named MVP of the Music City Bowl after the 2014 season and showed promise as the Irish’s starter in the first two games of the 2015 season.

However, an ankle injury ended his season and Zaire spent last year with a more limited role in South Bend.

He arrives at UF in search of a final opportunity to make his mark as a starter.

McElwain did not offer much insight into his expectations for Zaire on Tuesday, but he clearly likes having another veteran in the mix as the Gators enter a third consecutive season under McElwain without a clear-cut starter.

"We’ve been snake bitten a little bit,” […]