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After a college career at Notre Dame and Florida, Malik Zaire is on the media side of the sport now as a producer at Overtime. I caught up with him at Elite 11 to get his perspective on Sam Ehlinger, Tom Herman, Tim Beck, modern offense, and more.
Inside Texas: What are your thoughts on Texas’ Sam Ehlinger?
Malik Zaire: You’ve got Sam Ehlinger who put Texas in a good spot. Now, he’s got to win for Texas and that’s a whole other position to be in to go from ‘don’t lose us the game’ to ‘now, you’ve got to win us the game.’ That’s going to be a different type of pressure for him, but Texas did a great job of recruiting. I think them beating Georgia at the end of the year kind of boosted their recruiting class a little bit, which is awesome for them.
IT: What about his counterpart north of the Red River, Jalen Hurts?
MZ: Jalen Hurts, he’s on a one year contract. I know what that’s like. It’s definitely a different deal than being a regular recruit. He also has a chance to redeem himself and put himself in a good spotlight amongst the conversation of being the best. Hopefully, being with a good coach in Lincoln Riley, he can develop his game to be standing out more obviously.
I think the beautiful part about Jalen and Sam Ehlinger is they get a chance to develop going into their next year. For them at this point, they want to put their names in the top quarterback conversation in the country. They’re at two programs they can do that at.
Like I said, now for those two guys you’re just trying to establish themselves at the top in college football. It’s a competitive league now. It’s going to be interesting.
IT: How does a dual-threat quarterback help an offense in the modern game?
MZ: Today, a lot of things are based off of putting guys in tough spots where they can’t guard multiple options. You’ve got to be a smarter quarterback these days because you’ve got a lot of reads. Having speed is always going to help you no matter what you do in football, but as you can tell the quarterbacks that are standing out the most not only here at Elite 11 but in college in general are the guys that can throw that thing. If you can throw that thing at an early age, you’re going to play early. That’s just the game of college football. If you’re a young guy coming up, make sure you can throw that rock.
Speed is going to come, but as you can tell from how the trends of quarterbacks they’ve been phasing out in the college football game, speed is whatever. Sam is obviously a hybrid in the sense that he’s a tough dude, so he can get those tough one, two, or three yards that you need on a broken play. Jalen’s coming out of that generation where running meant a lot. Running don’t mean as much because you’ve got five-wide offenses and everybody is just in long, extended handoffs to get in space. That’s kind of how the game has developed, so you need to be able to throw that ball for sure.
IT: When you were transferring from ND, you took a look at Texas, Tom Herman, and Tim Beck. What did you see in the program?
MZ: Coach Beck, I was really, really close with at Nebraska because I was thinking about going there out of high school. When I was transferring, I was already in the midst of doing what I was about to do in everything so it was kind of late for me in that process. I would have loved to play for Coach Herman and Coach Beck. I was close to playing with Coach Beck anyway, then Coach Herman was at Ohio State. I had interest from both of those places.
And it was Texas. It’s hard to deny a place like that. At the time, they needed a one-year guy and they had a good system. Now, they obviously have found their stride a little bit, which I knew Coach Herman would. In a different life, maybe I would have went there. I had some success playing against them, but it would have been cool to try to see what the other side would have looked like if I was on that route. Having the opportunity to go there… tough decisions, man. It’s not every day you get a chance to go to top programs like that.
IT: Last thing, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa?
MZ: Tua, because he’s left-handed. Easy. That’s a no-brainer. I’m a fan of both, obviously. I had Trevor when he was here at Elite 11. I love his attitude. If I’m closing my eyes, I’m definitely going with the left-handed quarterback. There’s no left-handed quarterbacks in the NFL, and Tua’s doing great. He’s putting us on the map.