ORLANDO, Fla. — The prospect of former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire joining Florida as a graduate transfer remains of paramount interest for Gators fans, though it also remains a static issue until the SEC decides whether or not to adjust its grad transfer rules.
That is expected to be decided upon at the conference’s spring meetings late next month, and unless the league’s rule is amended Florida is not presently eligible to take a grad transfer.
But meeting with reporters prior to a spring speaking tour stop at the Orlando Museum of Art on Tuesday, McElwain continued to leave the door open that he’d welcome any addition that could create more competition within the Gators’ roster.
“I think the big thing is whatever position it is, you’re always trying to get better. And if there’s an opportunity to get better, that’s it,” he said. “You’ve heard me talk about it, great teams have competition at every position. You can never be comfortable and we have to get to that point. We’re not there yet. We’ve got to get to that point at every position.”
WATCH: Florida football coach Jim McElwain meets with reporters before his speaking tour event at the Orlando Museum of Art.
Posted by Florida Gators Insiders on Tuesday, April 25, 2017
McElwain couldn’t speak directly about Zaire, but he was asked specifically about the potential for adding a quarterback and his response was both vague and yet clear in its intimation.
Feleipe Franks beat out fellow redshirt freshman Kyle Trask to move atop the Gators’ quarterback depth chart this spring, while redshirt junior Luke Del Rio (shoulder) is expected to be healthy for fall camp while working back into the mix.
Zaire, meanwhile, has indicated he will make a decision on his future following his graduation from Notre Dame in late May, according to Rivals.com. The report says he is considering Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Harvard.
Zaire started the first 2 games of the 2015 season for Notre Dame before missing the rest of the fall with a broken ankle. He then served as DeShone Kizer’s backup this past season before indicating his intentions to transfer.
Overall, he was 58-of-98 passing for 816 yards, 6 TDs, and 0 INT while rushing for 324 yards and 2 scores in parts of 17 career games.
Asked generally if a veteran quarterback arriving this summer could get up to speed in the offense quick enough to make an impact, McElwain said, “Absolutely.”
The biggest hurdle remains whether or not the Gators can even consider taking one.
Two previous graduate transfers for Florida — offensive lineman Mason Halter and linebacker Anthony Harrell — didn’t meet academic requirements in Gainesville, resulting in the enforcement of the SEC rule that presently prohibits the Gators from taking another.
Halter did start 13 games for the Gators in 2015, though, 12 at right tackle and 1 at left tackle as a grad transfer from Fordham.
McElwain didn’t offer any indication as to whether he expected that rule to be amended at the spring meetings.
“You guys know me and rules, just tell me what they are and we’ll play by them. Whatever it is,” he said. “We’ll see what happens come whenever that is, I guess during the SEC spring meetings.”
That was about all the insight McElwain was prepared to give on the matter Tuesday, though he fended off a half dozen questions on that front.
And again, until a ruling is made at the conference level, that’s about all he can say — to indicate that there would be interest in adding a veteran player at a key position, such as, say, quarterback.
“Let’s put it that way. I know it really helped us, you know how desperate we were at offensive line when we first got (here). We were able to add Mason (Halter) that really got us through that season, as we tried to develop our offensive line so that was something that was really needed,” McElwain said. “It’s interesting, when you’re at a place like the University of Florida, with that national brand, the inquiries about that start even now for next year, guys that are looking that they can graduate and would you have a need? And obviously in our case, we’re constantly trying to get the roster better. So if it’s a position of need, or if we have the spot, we’ll obviously add one.”