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With Kiel to LSU, Irish should mull their QB options

Dec 28, 2011, 3:23 AM EDT

Gunner Kiel

Don’t blame Gunner Kiel for turning his recruitment into a soap opera. He was merely a bystander as dozens of college football programs battled for one of the country’s most heralded quarterbacking prospects.

With fans from Notre Dame and Vanderbilt holding their breath, Kiel decided to pick the hat that belonged to, well — The Hat. At LSU, Les Miles welcomes a quarterback that will walk into one of the nation’s premiere football programs, and also into a depth chart that’s actually far more inviting than what would have lied in front of him in South Bend.

The Irish’s pursuit of Kiel was one of dogged determination. The Indiana product supposedly grew up a fan of Notre Dame, cooled on the Irish early in recruiting when he committed to Indiana, then circled back as the football season heated up. The Irish always seemed to be a good fit for Kiel personality wise, but Notre Dame never offered enough for Kiel to pull the trigger and commit, a sign that there was likely something keeping him from joining the 2012 recruiting class.

In all likelihood, it was the trio of Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, quarterbacks with two, three and four years of eligibility remaining respectively. It doesn’t take much of a rooting interest to notice the Irish depth chart behind center is a crowded one, and even the transfer of Dayne Crist does nothing to open a pathway for Kiel to quickly ascend to the starting role. We’ll likely only be able to speculate that the depth chart was a factor, but either way — the Irish’s No. 1 quarterbacking target is off the board for 2012.

Let’s take a look at what’s left for options moving forward.

Go get Devin Fuller.

The romance might have the tenure, but once Devin Fuller came onto Irish fans’ radars, it’s been hot and heavy ever since. The dual-threat quarterback is one of the nation’s top athletes, and is a pretty great fallback plan after missing out on Kiel. (Whether it’s sour grapes or not, a ton of Irish fans immediately aimed their sights at Fuller over Kiel, even before Gunner made his decision.)

Fuller was open about his love for the Irish, and he was waiting to see what happened with Kiel before deciding to take an official visit to Notre Dame. Now that Kiel has moved on, the Irish will push to get Fuller to campus as soon as possible, hoping to make up for lost time in the recruiting process.

On film, Fuller looks like a more explosive runner than Everett Golson, but lacking the throwing touch and polish of the Irish freshman. Fuller wants to play quarterback in college, and the Irish will give him that opportunity.

Go get somebody else’s quarterback.

Last year, the Irish came out of the blue to snag Golson out from under Butch Davis and North Carolina’s nose. Could the Irish be planning to do the same thing right now? We likely won’t know until after the 3rd of January, when the coaching staff will go full speed into recruiting, making a final push to secure a full allotment of recruits.

Rounding up the usual suspects, you’d expect the Irish to kick the tires on guys that you’ve heard about in the past. That includes recruits like Maty Mauk, now committed to Missouri, potentially Chad Kelly of Buffalo, now committed to Clemson, and a guy like Washington commit Cyler Miles, who Tony Alford was recruiting out of Denver. Maybe the coaches even take a Hail Mary on Jameis Winston, who’ll be getting a good look at the Irish when they take on Florida State, where he’s currently committed. (Winston is also a big-time baseball prospect, so ask Nebraska fans how the Bubba Starling experience has been so far.)

Realistically, another name is going to pop up on the board fairly quickly, with an even higher chance it’ll be one that I didn’t guess. But we’ll know how the Irish really feel about the three men battling for the starting job next year with how the Irish handle the final month of the season.

Go get cracking on 2013 quarterbacks.

I won’t pretend to tell you I’ve watched Matt Alviti play — a Chicagoland junior quarterback that the Irish targeted early. But if there’s nobody available on the Irish board, expect Brian Kelly and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin to be working hard on 2013 quarterbacks.

In many ways, this could be the preferred situation. It’ll give a little space for a young quarterback to believe he’ll be able to both learn the offense and make an early claim on a starting job. Still, there’s a danger whenever you leave a position open in a recruiting class, and the success rate of multiple quarterbacks in a single class is never very good.

Losing Kiel hurts in the short term, if only because a five-star quarterback would help build momentum amongst the skill players still on the Irish board. But only time will tell if Kiel is truly the one that got away, or another five-star recruit that fails to live up to the hype.



  1. gtizzo - Dec 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    Brain Kelly didn’t want to hand his offense over to a freshmen…big mistake. Kiel was a QB that Kelly should have built his offense around. When a QB is compared to anyone named Manning you tell him “yeah you can start” it is just that simple.

    • bernhtp - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:09 AM

      So how did handing over the offense to Clausen his freshman year work out? ND had the most dreadful season almost ever and lost its QB depth. A significant percentage of top-rated recruits, especially at QB, won’t pan out, and you can’t make promises to an incoming freshman when you have some top talent on the roster already.

      Kiel clearly saw far less competition for the job at LSU and within a program that has a recent history for greatness and championships. His ability to win the job at ND was far less determinate. Watching Dayne Crist on the sidelines this season likely gave him big pause.

      I was hoping to get Kiel not just because of his (possible) individual contribution, but because of the pull he would give to the class more generally. But the effect of Kiel is secondary to a good performance tomorrow night.

      • nudeman - Dec 28, 2011 at 5:23 PM

        Before we start a funeral procession for Kiel, remember the graveyard of college football is littered with “can’t miss”, 5 star guys who missed. Remember how Mitch Mustain had everyone slobbering over him?

        A little closer to home, Blair Kiel and Ron Powlus never came close to living up to their advanced billing. Both were shockingly mediocre in my opinion.

        So there’s no guarantee Kiel is going to be a star. I’ll take my chances with Golson and Hendrix for now. Maybe Fuller too.

      • gtizzo - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:34 PM

        Bad example. First of all Jimmy didn’t start every game in 2007. Second the Irish had more problems then just a new QB they also lost 9 offensive starter. Kiel would come in with a solid offensive line and a pretty young group of receivers. Also even if Kiel throw 12 pics he wouldn’t be any worse then Rees and even with the turnover the Irish were 8-4. Plus Kiel gets a much easier game to start the year in Navy and South Florida.

    • 1historian - Dec 28, 2011 at 12:41 PM

      So now we’re 3 at the QBs. Kiel had his reasons for his choice, he’s history. If we don’t get another QB in this years class (and it would be a desperation move) there is always Luke Massa.

      IMO any QB that they recruit now will know that there is a distinct possibility of his watching the games from the sidelines for the next 4 years, because next year they will be sure to go after a stud QB. For now if Golson can stay healthy I think he’s the man, given that he is Kelly’s kind of QB – the first one he recruited. (Hendrix and Rees were recruited [partially?] by both Weis and Kelly.)

      As of this Friday there are only 246 days left until the kickoff in Ireland against Navy.

    • 1historian - Dec 28, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      Are you trying to imitate that car dealer in SB? – “It is JUST that simple!!”

      Actually it’s not.

    • runners00 - Dec 28, 2011 at 7:57 PM

      I don’t think that Kelly affirmatively said he wouldn’t “hand over” the offense to a freshman. And, I doubt that Les Miles will “hand over” the offense to Kiel, either. He will have to compete with the country’s best players. LSU has been amazing, from a recruiting standpoint, for the last several years. Kiel may go down there and see one snap.

      I doubt this had anything to do with seeing Crist on the sideline, either. This had to do with Kiel wanting to attend an already-rebuilt school, one which will allow him the chance to win national championships. A big part of recruiting is believing in the system: that the coaches can get the players; that the coaches can demonstrate game-coaching ability; that the players can win national championships.

      Right now, we are not there. We’ve attracted some very good recruiting classes but we lost to South Florida this year. LSU doesn’t lose to South Florida. We lost to Tulsa last year. We have to win, consistently, for the top-notch recruits to want to come to ND. And the SEC, right now, is dominating college football. If you are a recruit and you want to play against guys you’ll see in the NFL, will you play against the Arkansas/Georgia/Florida teams or will you play against Navy?

      And one final note: who wins has a lot more to do with the linemen — the guys in the trenches — than it does with the quarterback. We need offensive linemen who can create big holes for running backs.

      • nudeman - Dec 28, 2011 at 11:01 PM

        Well said runners00
        All of it

        No guarantee Kiel becomes a star. Or even a starter.

  2. nudeman - Dec 28, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    I’m not crushed about this.
    Yes, I wanted Kiel, but that opens things up for a AH/EG battle in the spring. That doesn’t suck.

    • domer77blowsgoats - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:53 AM

      so let me get this straight Pubes – you truly thought this kid was going to come in and compete for starting job as a Frosh when Kelly has held back AH for 2 seasons saying he hasn’t grasped the entire offense and has a stud redshirt waiting? Not even to mention TR….

      brilliant – you sir baffle this board on a daily basis

      simple – there was no foreseeable playing time as Keith noted so he bounced elsewhere

      keep up the good work!!!

      • 1historian - Dec 28, 2011 at 1:18 PM

        It’s entirely possible that neither Hendrix nor Rees is really THAT good – Hendrix has had two seasons to grasp the offense, Rees has had 2 seasons and a spring practice, and neither is setting the world on fire. Division 1 football is NOT rocket science.

        In the 1966 season Terry Hanratty and Coley O’Brien were #1 and #2 QB, and ND won the whole thing. Sooner or later it comes down to pure talent. Maybe Golson has IT, but I haven’t seen IT in either Hendrix or Rees.

      • tedlinko - Dec 28, 2011 at 3:30 PM

        i think it’s far too soon to even speculate whether or not Hendrix has “IT.” The guy has played ONE half of one meaningful game, and beyond that a smattering of plays as a change-of-pace guy. Before tossing him aside, could we perhaps give him at least a couple of games to show what he can do?

      • nudeman - Dec 28, 2011 at 5:53 PM

        Exactly right. Both are unproven.

        Not sure if Kelly was just blowing smoke or what, but it always seemed strange that AH supposedly hadn’t learned the offense.

        The guy is a pre Med major and was a star QB in HS so there’s talent and gray matter there.

  3. alsatiannd - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    Ask me what I think about this in 3 years. If I tell you now, I’ll have a 50% chance of looking stupid in three years and 50% chance of looking lucky.

    • tedlinko - Dec 28, 2011 at 3:41 PM

      I guess I just don’t get some of these comments that seem to presume that Kiel wen’t somewhere else because of something that ND did, or didn’t do. It’s as though some of you people assume that BK should have said to Kiel, son, you come here and you’re the starter from day 1.

      First of all, if BK had done that, not only would it likely have caused his other 3 scholarship QBs to consider transfers, what message would it have sent the rest of the team, who are teammates, classmates, and friends of those other three guys.

      Beyond that, would Kiel have believed that offer, even if it had been made? What’s the guarantee.

      I think Keith is absolutely right — Kiel looked at the situation behind center in SB and saw a crowded field. Then he looked down on the bayou and saw a team with championship pedigree and one weakness — depth at the QB position.

      If in three years Kiel is setting the world on fire, ND may look unlucky, but not stupid.

  4. grantlandrice - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    I agree with bernhtp – starting a freshman is not any coaches first choice. How many freshman start on Les Miles LSU squad? While I wish Gunner Kiel the best at LSU, it will probably work out best for the Irish as well. Right, wrong, or indifferent, Notre Dame offers a different experience for a student athlete than does LSU or Alabama. If Notre Dame is what a recruit is looking for then great, if not, they will probably be happier somewhere else. LSU has an excellent top rated football program and I am sure it is a fine institution. Notre Dame is clearly focused on student athletes that are interested in competing both in the classroom and on the field, as evidenced by having the highest graduation rate for football players in the country. Notre Dame will never only be a farm club for the NFL – it strives to offer student athletes a broader experience. Just ask Manti Teo and Michael Floyd.

    • gtizzo - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:37 PM

      Worked for Matt Barkley.

  5. joewyoming - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Look to 2013 – No Question.

    While I quake at its impact on the ND Blogosphere, the 2012 & 2013 seasons are on the backs Golson, Hendrix or Rees. May BK be blessed with the right decision and good luck.

    Next QB up will be for 2014. (2015 if Golson catches on.) Get a blue chip in the 2013 class and give him a year to prep.

    • 1historian - Dec 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Well said, but let me add – “Keep your fingers crossed!”

  6. barneysbullet - Dec 28, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    How goes the old saying…oh yeah, if you have 3 good qb’s on the roster you have NO qb’s on the roster.

    Just sayin

    • tedlinko - Dec 28, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      Um. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that saying…nor do I entirely get what you’re trying to suggest.

      • runners00 - Dec 28, 2011 at 8:03 PM

        I’ll fill it in for ya: If you have three quarterbacks that are “good,” you don’t have one quarterback that can compete, week-in and week-out, at the highest level of college football.

        Now whether that is true or not I have no idea. But it’s a valid point. It means we don’t really have a great quarterback yet. It’s the same thing as saying if everyone is in charge no one is in charge. . . .

  7. oldndgrad - Dec 28, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    I think it’s good that Keil went elsewhere. There’s no guarantee he’s going to be a top qb ( Christ was a 5 star) and we would probably have lost either Hendrix or Golson or both. Neither of which has adequate time to showcase their talents. In addition, grantlandrice’s comments about student athletes and the ND experience is right on. He commited to Indiana and vascillated since–he probably wouldn’t have been a good fit at ND.

  8. fitz79 - Dec 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    I have no doubt it was a log jam at the QB position that helped scare Kiel away. Along with, probably, the allure of LSU’s recent success at competing for national titles. Sure would’ve liked to have him aboard but I don’t think it’s cause for panic. If we get another highly skilled QB this year fine, but if not there’s plenty of time. Truth be told I’m hoping Hendrix steps it up and seizes the position in the offseason, if not Golson, and we won’t have to worry about a new guy for a long time. No offense to Rees who I think will be a very capable back up but the Kelly spread offense will thrive with a dual threat QB (which incidentally Kiel was not anyway).

    • grantlandrice - Dec 28, 2011 at 1:22 PM

      Agree that it is time for Hendrix to step up, and then hopefully Golson when he is ready. I think that Tommy Rees has done an admirable job given the circumstances, but he is not the dual threat QB that drives Kelly’s spread offense and I see him helping the Team more in an Evan Sharpley role.

  9. Celsior - Dec 28, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    Standing next to Peyton with his helmet on, Blair Kiel’s nephew does not look 6’4″. Maybe he had a growth spurt. He has a better chance at playing right away at LSU. That’s why he picked the Tiger program, though I can’t think of one LSU QB that’s succeeded in the NFL. Let’s just move on.

  10. oldndgrad - Dec 28, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    celsior you’re right. Peyton Manning is 6ft 5in. Keil is 6ft 2in at most!

  11. leftcoastirishfan - Dec 28, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    I say skip the QB position this year and our chances to land the #1 QB next year increases. What we need is a couple more studs on the OL, a S and another great RB. Other than that our 1012 class looks pretty solid.

  12. 1historian - Dec 28, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Nudeman (LOVE that handle, don’t need to know the history behind it!):

    Hendrix – talent and gray matter are unquestioned – he wouldn’t be at ND if he lacked either one.

    What I’m looking for is the guy who MAKES THE TEAM AROUND HIM PLAY BETTER when he is on the field. Hendrix does not strike me as that guy.

    Hope I’m wrong

    • nudeman - Dec 28, 2011 at 11:04 PM

      Truth is we don’t know if AH can make everyone better.
      Maybe yes/maybe no

      If I had my pick of guys on the QB depth chart, I’d go to war with EG

      • papadec - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:16 AM

        nude – go to war with EG based on what? HS tapes? I think we’ll get a good look at the future on Thursday night.

  13. trbowman - Dec 28, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    I like our quarterbacks, personally.

    This Devin Fuller kid looks pretty good!

    And how good could LSU be with a quarterback that doesn’t suck?

  14. cpfirish - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    nudeman i like what u said. go to war with EG!! but first we need a win tomarrow against FSU! go irish!!

  15. 1historian - Jan 1, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    The fact that Golson is Kelly’s 1st QB recruit and that he was red-shirted this past season tells me that Golson will get some very serious consideration as #1 QB next season.

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