Gunner Kiel

With Kiel to LSU, Irish should mull their QB options


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.



Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.