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The Commitments: Quarterback

Jan 29, 2012, 5:10 PM EDT

Gunner Kiel

Part four of our series recapping the recruits ready to sign letters-of-intent with Notre Dame next Wednesday. (Or already on campus.) Previous installments include the running backs, offensive line and wide receivers.

When Notre Dame named Brian Kelly its head football coach, many assumed that thy were getting a quarterbacking guru. And for good reason. Kelly, while at Grand Valley, Central Michigan, or Cincinnati seemed to always get good quarterbacking play out of a diverse cast of characters — and often times from multiple in the same season.

Capable of fitting different styles of quarterbacks in his spread attack, Kelly found capable signal callers in many shapes and sizes, getting impressive performances each year from a diverse group. Consider the stats put up by Kelly’s quarterbacks in the four years leading up to his arrival in South Bend.

Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan — 2006
247 of 388 (63.7%) 3,031 yards 26 TD 10 INT

Ben Mauk, Cincinnati — 2007
235 of 386 (60.9%) 3,121 yards 31 TD 9 INT

Tony Pike, Cincinnati — 2008
199 of 324 (61.4%) 2,407 yards 19 TD 11 INT

Tony Pike / Zach Collaros, Cincinnati — 2009
304 of 464 (65.5%) 3,954 yards 39 TD 8 INT

It’s long forgotten now, but Kelly inherited a quarterbacking depth chart woefully thin. With Jimmy Clausen leaving after his junior season, the Irish scholarship quarterbacks consisted of Dayne Crist — recovering from an ACL torn on Halloween — and early enrollee freshman Tommy Rees, who moved up his commitment to give the Irish some much-needed depth for spring practice. Kelly re-recruited quarterback Andrew Hendrix, committed to the previous regime but looking around after Kelly took over, and added Luke Massa to infuse numbers to the depth chart, bringing in three quarterbacks to try and remedy a positional grouping critical to success. After Massa transitioned to wide receiver after falling to fourth in the depth chart, Kelly brought in Everett Golson in his second recruiting class, pulling the two-sport star away from a commitment to both the North Carolina football and basketball program to fulfill the dual-threat prototype still lacking in the depth chart.

Notre Dame saw positional instability rear its ugly head early in 2011, with Crist losing his starting job to Rees, only to have the sophomore perform poorly down the stretch thanks to turnovers and limitations within the system. By season’s end, Hendrix was able to push into the mix, while Golson preserved a year of eligibility. A season that looked poised for a BCS run ended up in ruins thanks to the one position most  responsible for offensive evolution.

With four quarterbacks eligible to be on the 2012 roster, Notre Dame chased a limited slate of recruits at the position. One that stayed on the Irish radar, even while he showed little interest in playing in South Bend, was the state of Indiana’s best player, and the top drop-back quarterback in the country. Gunner Kiel was the type of recruit that Charlie Weis landed while at Notre Dame, but had yet to say yes to Brian Kelly. Thanks to dogged pursuit by the Irish coaching staff, he’s the first blue-chip offensive skill player Kelly has landed, and a potential leading man in an offense desperate for one these past two seasons.

High School: Columbus East — Columbus, Indiana
Measureables: Six-foot-four, 220-pounds
Other major offers: Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, Michigan, Georgia.
Fun Fact: Rated the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country.
On choosing Notre Dame: “This recruitment process was a roller-coaster ride at times, but I know I have made the right decision for my family and me. There were three critical elements I was looking for in my future school: the quality of education I would receive, the distance from home and the comfort level I would have with the players and coaches in the football program. Notre Dame was the perfect fit for me because it hit all three areas. Coach Kelly was great throughout my recruitment, as many times our conversations had nothing do with football. That really showed me he had my best intentions in mind. He was persistent yet also patient while recruiting me and I look forward to playing for him the next four years. I couldn’t be happier to be a member of the Fighting Irish football team. I’m excited about the future of the program.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: If Brian Kelly uses a positional profile to help guide his recruiting philosophy, Kiel fits the mold of a blue-chip quarterback perfectly. At six-foot-four, 220-pounds, he’s the prototype for the position, replacing Dayne Crist almost immediately as the guy who looks most like an NFL quarterback on the Notre Dame roster. While the track record for five-star quarterbacks is hardly fool-proof, Kiel immediately adds the type of stability needed at a quarterback position where there’s plenty of promise but results have been hard to come by. Enrolling early, Kiel will get to show the coaching staff first hand what abilities he has, but also give the program the ability to develop his skills, thanks to three capable players on the depth chart in front of him. That said, if he’s as good as advertised, Kiel will fight his way onto the field sooner than later, solidifying a position that just weeks ago looked up in the air.

  1. papadec - Jan 29, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Very timelypost- especially the comments from Kiel. I hope some of the other top recruits, trying to make their big commit decisions read & take to heart what Gunner had to say.

    • trbowman - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      More like what the media guy told Gunner to say.

      ” I couldn’t be happier to be a member of the [football team]. I’m excited about the future of the [team].”


  2. vegasmark - Jan 29, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Man, that’s going to be fun to yell on Saturdays!
    Go Irish!!!

    • trbowman - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      Not so fast my friend, first he was to win the job against three good QBs!

      • nudeman - Jan 30, 2012 at 9:47 AM


  3. idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 29, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Armstead just went to the Ducks citing their sports business program and their Nike connection as two big positives.

    • irisheyesinsd - Jan 29, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      Certainly there are positive reasons to attend Oregon which include sports marketing and a connection to Nike. Plus, Oregon has been consistently in the top 10 the past few seasons while ND struggles to be included in the receiving votes column. Oregon is an excellent 4 year choice. However, ND remains the top 40 year choice. If Armstead was looking for a strong business school program, Mendoza is #1 nationally. The alumni connections ND has to offer blow away Oregon’s. Plus, our program, while not at OU’s level the past few years, is on the rise.

      And I guess Arik won’t be playing with Armond–SC will undoubtedly not release him to play out his eligibility at Oregon. So, apparently that was not the most compelling reason either. Wish we got both of them, but I am also happy they did not end up at SC together.
      I am sure this sounds like sour grapes to those who support other programs, but clearly my priorities and how I would go about deciding on a program (if I were in a recruit’s position) are different than Arik Armstead’s.

      Maybe we still get Armond? Or was Kelly only offering to include Armond as part of the package deal?

      • papadec - Jan 29, 2012 at 7:36 PM

        Irisheyes – you don’t really believe Arik will graduate from Oregon – do you? The NIKE connection I buy, the degree – I doubt.

    • papadec - Jan 29, 2012 at 7:31 PM

      idrather – call me a cynical native New York a**hole, if you want – I think today’s announcement was timed to put pressure on other institutions. As Nude has said, more than once, I think ND was & still is being used by the Armstead family. I don’t think this circus is over – just moved to the next town. It will be interesting to see which Athletic Dept actually gets a FAX next Wednesday – if then.

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 29, 2012 at 8:03 PM

        Actually Papadec, i think you had it right with your reply to irisheyesinsd. This kid isn’t worried about graduating from an institution. If that was his main objective, he could have picked a number of other schools that were on his list to provide a better education than Oregon. Cal, UCLA, USC, Stanford, and ND to just name a few.

        Also, kinda wondering what the SD stands for in irisheyesinsd? San Diego?

      • irisheyesinsd - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:12 PM

        SD = San Diego

      • irisheyesinsd - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:16 PM

        If he is not interested in graduating, then it would stand that playing a season with Armond would trump the institution. Then why pick a school that his brother cannot attend? Or maybe I do not understand the 5th year transfer rule and Armond can enroll in a program at Oregon that SC does not offer?

    • heartofgoldandblue - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      Don’t know about you guys but I’m certainly not heartbroken over not getting this guy. Don’t get me wrong, it seems like he’s an incredible talent but in it for the wrong reasons. The connection to Nike is a first that I’ve heard. I know that schools having different and flashy uniforms has become somewhat of a draw to these kids but never heard of one of them coming out and giving it as one of his main reasons for choosing a school. We can always use more depth but I’m ecstatic having the horses we do now on the DL.

      • papadec - Jan 30, 2012 at 4:02 AM

        irisheyes – maybe the health issue with Armond is such that no one will risk playing him. If so, the issue of the brothers playing football together is no longer relevant. It will be interesting to see what Armond does now. I think he has missed the date to declare for this year’s NFL Draft. I saw someplace, after the ND visit with his father, that he is back at usc taking classes.

      • nudeman - Jan 30, 2012 at 9:59 AM

        As I wrote earlier, he and his family were completely disingenuous. His dad actually said “if we got the paperwork done on time we’d be enrolled at ND right now”. Anybody believe that? Blames paperwork. Very weak.

        Nike. Seriously?
        If the recruiting lasted another week he’d be saying he wanted to be close to where Lewis & Clark settled.

        I smelled a rat on this one weeks ago. Most definitely.

        BTW, someone said “maybe we still get his bro”.
        Don’t count on it. If two medical staffs haven’t cleared him to play after months of study, odds are against him ever playing again.

  4. ct111 - Jan 29, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    Called it!

  5. gtizzo - Jan 29, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Something crazy about this commit. Kids pick for reasons that having nothing to do with football. It is realistic that he could have seen the field as a freshman at ND. He could have been a two sport athlete if he wanted. He could have followed his coach from Cal to Washington. He could have played in the best conference in college football by going to Auburn. Instead he picks Oregon for there connection to Nike… I guess when your 18 being close to a shoe company matters.

  6. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jan 29, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Good evening gents. Sitting here watching the snoozefest that is the 2012 Pro Bowl and hearing Mike “Are you kiddin’ me?” Mayock call the game. It’s gonna be a long wait til Dublin and the ’12 opener. I’m excited to see Kiel play but still want Golson to get his shot first. Seems like he will be our D Rob but only with a more powerful and accurate arm. Keeping a linebacker at home to contain his running should open up the field for Eifert to have some huge games. His play will add a dimension that we haven’t seen since Tony Rice. Can’t wait for that. Still hoping we snag a last minute surprise(s) to the class this week, but if we are done where we are now, I’m not disappointed. Armstead can go study Sports Marketing or whatever he wants at Oregon, I’m sure he wil “most definitely” succeed at whatever he wants to do. Did the sarcasm come through there ’cause I was laying it on pretty thick? What’s the graduation rate if you’re a Duck? Probably not that good. Anyway, keeping my fingers crossed for NSD and GO GIANTS!

    • 1historian - Jan 30, 2012 at 8:37 AM

      Go Pats!

  7. idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 29, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Oregon’s GSR (Graduation Success Rate) hovers between 50%-63%. The most updated statistics available on the NCAA website are for the Graduation year 2004.

    FYI, Notre Dame’s rate during the same tracking period hovers between 93%-97%.

    Stanford is the most competitive school among Division 1 CFB programs when compared to ND, ranging from 86%-94%.

    Alabama and LSU are all over the map ranging from 44% to 77% over the last seven years.

  8. idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 29, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    Here’s the 2011…

    Top 10 Football Grad Rates: FBS
    Notre Dame 96%
    Duke 95%
    Northwestern 95%
    Rice 93%
    Navy 92%
    Boston College 90%
    Vanderbilt 89%
    Rutgers 88%
    Stanford 86%
    Air Force 86%

    Bottom 10 Football Grad Rates: FBS
    San Jose St. 42%
    Oklahoma 44%
    South Florida 46%
    Hawaii 46%
    Florida International 46%
    Arizona 48%
    Texas 49%
    Georgia Tech 49%
    Houston 51%
    Eastern Michigan 51%

    Here’s where i found it…

    It’s got graduation statistics for the three major sports from all major conferences. There are also some CRAZY numbers regarding racial disparity. For example, Auburn’s FB program graduates 49% of it’s African American student athletes and 100% of it’s caucasian student athletes.

  9. dickasman - Jan 30, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    Definitely this is the biggest area of concern but also has the largest room for improvement. Whoever starts next year and I really don’t care who that is, if they play halfway decent, we ll have 2 loss season. I dusted off my rosary for this praying for a legit qb next year.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 30, 2012 at 2:21 AM

      I’d agree penisrumpfellow, but i wonder if BK’s history of QB management might give us the best insight into his QB plans. He hasn’t gotten through a season with one healthy QB since Dan LeFevour at Central Michigan in 2006.

      Our lady of victory….

      • dickasman - Jan 30, 2012 at 4:44 PM

        Hey man, didn’t you hear me? I got the rosary out mangggg…..this rosary is so big its bound to cut through even the most narrow minded thick skulls, such as BK’s.

        I believe in my rosary, not BK’s QB coaching ability.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jan 30, 2012 at 8:34 PM

        That’s a good one. How about dongbuttockschap or better yet weinerheineyboy!

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