Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer 412d

Grad transfer Malik Zaire to get first start for Gators

College Football, Florida Gators

Randy Shannon has made his first big move since being named interim head coach of the Florida Gators, opting to start Malik Zaire at quarterback against Missouri.

Zaire, who came to Florida as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame during the offseason, has been a backup until now. He played in relief of Feleipe Franks during the Gators' season-opening loss to Michigan and hadn't played again until getting more mop-up duty during last weekend's blowout loss to Georgia.

"Malik is the starting quarterback for this upcoming game at Missouri," Shannon said Thursday in a news release. "This is his opportunity to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he's the starter.

"Today is an opportunity for him to run the offense and understand the expectations that we have for him. This is not a time for him to feel comfortable and feel like he's made it. We want him to keep grinding and understand that competition is very good."

Shannon announced he was opening up the quarterback competition when he took over for the fired Jim McElwain earlier this week.

Franks, a redshirt freshman, started six of the seven games in which he played, completing 60 percent of his passes for 830 yards while throwing four touchdowns and four interceptions. He was benched for Luke Del Rio in three of those starts. Franks also has been sacked 19 times, including five in each of the past three games.

The Gators' offense has struggled, ranking 112th in the nation.

Zaire has completed 12 of 23 passes for 142 yards this season. He has not started a game since the first two contests of his junior season at Notre Dame in 2015. With the Irish, where he was 3-0 as a starter, Zaire had a career 59.2 completion percentage for 816 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Florida (3-4) will travel to Missouri (3-5) for a noon ET kickoff on Saturday.

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