DeShone Kizer: The Next Russell Wilson?

DeShone Kizer: The Next Russell Wilson?

The Notre Dame backup has filled in more than adequately for Malik Zaire in 2015 and is more similar to Wilson, a Super Bowl champ, than you'd think.

zach-drapkin
Zach Drapkin

If you were asked which football player stated his goal after defeating a top opponent was to "Go 1-0" and "just keep winning," who would you guess?

Most likely, it'd be Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. But the speaker of that mantra last Saturday was Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, a capable dual-threat signal-caller filling in for Malik Zaire as the starter in Brian Kelly's offense with the Fighting Irish.

Kizer racked up 442 total yards along with two scores on the ground and another through the air versus Temple on Halloween night. Down 20-17 with under five minutes to go, he led Notre Dame downfield, hitting Will Fuller in the far-right corner of the endzone from 17 yards out to claim a 24-20 triumph.

Fuller's touchdown and a subsequent KeiVarae Russell interception capped the third fourth-quarter comeback Kizer has led for the Fighting Irish. Earlier in the 2015 season, Kizer hit Fuller for a game-winner with just 12 ticks left on the clock at Virginia, and then in Week 7 led the offense to 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points to claim a 41-31 win over the always-tough USC Trojans.

Wilson has developed a strong reputation with Seattle of being a final-quarter QB, completing five game-winning drives in each of his three seasons prior to the ongoing 2015 NFL season. A dual-threat runner and gunslinger as well, he has made defenses fear his 'Danger-Russ' capabilities at the helm of the Seahawks' offense.

Now, there's a big size gap between Kizer and Wilson, as 5.5 inches separate the 5-11 Wisconsin grad and his much-less experienced counterpart, who stands at a palpable six feet and 4.5 inches.

Regardless of height, the most glaring comparison of the two quarterbacks is their elite work-ethic and ability to spiritually lead their teams past any road blocks they may face. And the best part about it is both have a great way of letting that emanate when they speak to the press.

"He's a resilient kid," said coach Kelly of his current starter. "He doesn't carry anything with him." Will Fuller added that the team knows "he's going to get his job done" and that they "have a lot of confidence in him."

It's pretty impressive to have earned that much trust and responsibility as the starter for just eight weeks and a fill-in for Zaire and the transferred Everett Golson. But Kizer says he "just [tries] to stay as smooth as [he] possibly can" in those tough situations on the field. 

If only it was just that simple, talents like Kizer and Wilson would not be nearly the rarities that they are. Wilson's been quoted saying that "to be a great quarterback, you have to have a great leadership, great attention to detail, and a relentless competitive nature."

Both of these guys possess those three qualities, but what separates them even further is their confidence. Wilson preaches that "belief that you can do something great means you will do something great," similar to Kizer shrugging off the Temple comeback as "just part of the 2015 Irish season."

That mental advantage has brought Kizer to a 7-1 mark through eight games and put him on the unexpected track to attract attention from NFL scouts and earn consideration for qualification as an elite quarterback nationally.

Just in his sophomore year, Kizer has quite a ways to go to get to even the level of an NFL Draft-worthy QB. But don't be surprised when he emerges as the next successful dual-threat quarterback.

Notre Dame has three relatively less-challenging games before their season-ending clash with current No. 11 Stanford. If the Irish want a chance at the College Football Playoff in 2015, they have to look to Kizer to lead them to dominant victories against Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and Boston College.

Though those three mentioned squads won't go down too quickly - Pitt is 6-2 and the others are 3-6 - the Fighting Irish must step up to an even higher level to increase their chances as the CFP polls start to become the main focus of the college football nation's attention.

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