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QB Malik Zaire likely headed to Florida after change in graduate transfer rule

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NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns are now almost certain to loss out on another graduate transfer quarterback, as the path for former Notre Dame Fighting Irish signal caller Malik Zaire to choose the Florida Gators is now open.

At the annual SEC meetings, the conference altered a graduate transfer rule that would have kept Zaire from enrolling it Gainesville had it remained in place.

Created in response to former Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s alleged lack of academic progress in Oxford back in 2010, the rule banned schools from accepting graduate transfers if players fail to meet academic requirements.

Florida took two graduate transfers in 2013 who failed to qualify, which resulted in a three-year ban on the Gators accepting such players.

But now that ban is no longer in place, days after a report from Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports that Zaire was “leaning towards” playing for head coach Jim McElwain at Florida.

Texas is officially still a finalist for the quarterback who helped the Irish torch the Longhorns in South Bend back in 2015, but all signs point to Texas losing out on Zaire after missing on LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris earlier in the offseason.

As a result, head coach Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck are almost certain to enter the 2017 season with only two scholarship quarterbacks on campus — sophomore Shane Buechele and early enrollee Sam Ehlinger.

Despite the lack of depth in Austin, Zaire will likely settle on Florida because there is an easier path to the starting job, as Buechele now appears all but officially entrenched as the starter, while the Gators struggled at the position last season before the young quarterbacks looked average in the spring game.

So position coach Derek Warehime is going to have to earn his salary this season as he works with an increasingly experienced offensive line that will be tasked with keeping Buechele upright and healthy this season.