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Gunner Kiel passes first test

Mar 26, 2012, 3:51 PM EDT

Kiel Kelly

Lost in the madness of recruiting this weekend, Brian Kelly made the quarterbacks available to the media for the first time this spring. That meant our first look at highly touted early enrollee freshman Gunner Kiel, who made quite a few headlines before ever starting his college career.

Kiel, who ended up at Notre Dame in a shocking eleventh hour twist, started his recruitment committed to Indiana, backed away, came close to committing to Notre Dame during midseason, then selecting LSU in late December, all before changing his mind and heading to South Bend before the first day of spring classes. (Follow all that?)

That last second flip didn’t sit all too well with LSU head coach Les Miles, who publicly stated that Kiel, “Didn’t necessarily have the chest and the ability to lead a program,” a blow leveled during an annual fundraiser celebrating the newest recruiting class.

Given his first chance to publicly respond to Miles’ low blow, Kiel showed the kind of decision-making skills that will do him well during this four-man quarterbacking race.

“You can’t really control that,” Kiel said, deflecting Miles’ comments. “I did pull out at the last minute. I still have all the respect for LSU. Their fans definitely understood. LSU is a great place, but it wasn’t the best fit for me. I’m a Midwest guy and I like to stay close. I’m just going to use that as fuel, but I’m not going to disrespect him in any way, shape or form. He’s a great coach and they’re a great team.”

The response was a smart one by Kiel, who seems intent on changing any perception that came from a recruiting machine he helped fuel for months. In fact, while many expected to meet Gunner Kiel: Big Time Quarterback — the Irish’s highest-profile signal-caller since Jimmy Clausen rolled into the College Football Hall of Fame in a Hummer — Kiel impressed mostly with his honesty and modest nature.

Many may have forgotten during the months following his every recruiting move, but Kiel is in many ways just a kid who is still dealing with the culture shock of moving from small-town Indiana to one of the biggest stages in college football. And while the adjustment period has been stark (his high school classmates are on spring break this week while Kiel is up before dawn working out), it’s been a move that’s immediately felt right.

“I feel great to be at Notre Dame,” Kiel said. “Love the place, love the guys, love the coaches, love the surroundings. It’s a great community, they’re all welcoming, everyone is really nice. It’s definitely the perfect fit for me.”

While some expected Kiel to be a wildcard in the quarterbacking race, it seems that adjustment to the football field has also been quite a challenge. As you’d expect, the jump from Indiana high school football to Notre Dame has been sizable, and Kiel is just hoping to stay above water while finding his way through the spring’s 15 practices.

“It’s pretty unreal,” Kiel said of the transition. “Looking at the playbook and terms and concepts it’s hard, but it’s something you can do. Definitely for me, being in the spread helped. But there’s so much more new stuff out there to learn and do and process, it’s going to take time. But I’m definitely going to put the time into it, and be in watching film and in my study book, just getting after it.”

It’s hard not to compare Kiel’s arrival to Clausen’s. In many ways, the Irish program had far more goodwill built up than it does now, with Notre Dame coming off two consecutive BCS appearances. But whether its the personality of the quarterbacks, or the head coaches, it appears Kiel understands that arriving at Notre Dame doesn’t just mean starting the clock on three years of eligibility, but learning the college game from the ground up.

Even if the game is still moving too fast to recognize, Kiel has shown quickly that his first instincts have been good. When asked about the quarterback race and his ability to get on the field, Kiel simply deflected things, happy to bide his time before making any grand proclamations.

“Right now, I’m just picking everyone’s brain, just trying to get better,” Kiel said. “Working on little things like footwork and mechanics, and knowing the playbook.”

  1. domer77blowsgoats - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Talent talent and more talent

    We lacked studs across the board and BK is delivering – we have always had a select few in the last 20 years but nothing like we are starting to see

    With the Zaire commit, EG redshit, GK likely redshirt (yes I know ND doesn’t redshit so spare me the 87 comments nude) – the QB stable is incredibly full of young, albeit raw) talent unlike we have seen since I can’t remember when

    now its down to execution and discipline – the 2 areas BK needs to step up his game bigtime

    He hasn’t really stamped his offensive prowess mark that he was know for at ND, which is no doubt attributable to lack of QBs fitting his system, but now the excuses are gone and only acceptable results are points and Ws

    • nudeman2point0 - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM

      Yes goat, but aren’t you the owner of the “Tommy is 17-2 as a starter” thing?

      • islandsdomer - Mar 27, 2012 at 1:58 AM

        Okay so if everyone wants GK to sit out a year or two and have TR, AH or EG start, does one of those guys just get benched in a couple years?? Or if TR starts, why wouldn’t he start his senior year as well. If GK shows strong enough signs, then lets get the ball rolling with him, he can act as our M Barkley. Doesn’t BK just need to make an investment and stick with it?? (being whoever it is)

      • domer77blowsgoats - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:48 AM

        Yes – your point?

        The kid was winning games inspite of his limited ceiling (note the past tense)

        Where did I even reference TR in the above post?

        My post was solely a comment on the significant talent uprgrade at QB

        I’m not going to resort to my usual comments re: your posts as they so rightly stand on their own

        here’s to the RISING talent at ND!!

        (oh no, he used the term RISING – which meaning does it have this time, so confused, damn this football vernacular, hopefully my Corel Wordperfect 2.0 thesaurus has alternative word use….)

      • nudeman2point0 - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:47 AM

        Well this must be “goat2.0”
        Actually talking FOOTBALL?
        My point was to tweak you on your credibility when discussing QBs.
        But since you have now posted two straight football comments I’ll let you slide.

    • nudeman2point0 - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      One more thing: The recruitment of Zaire absolutely guarantees that a current ND QB will x-fer.

      No program can keep 5 scholarship QBs around.

    • 1historian - Mar 27, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      domerdomerdomer – check your spelling. EG ‘redshit’? I BEG your pardon!!

      • nudeman2point0 - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:41 PM

        A new way to have a crappy season

  2. bernhtp - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Kinlaw just committed as well. This was an amazingly productive junior week.

  3. fnc111 - Mar 26, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    Kiel will hopefully someday be like Clausen was his junior season.

  4. bionicpeter - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    Kiel will surpass our expectations on the big stage. He should redshirt his first year and really get things in order. As far as LSU is concerned he handled it like a mature young man. Certainly a quality Notre Dame recognized in their pursuit of him.

  5. nudeman2point0 - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    What an incredibly poised, intelligent young man.
    I saw his interview last week and the guy is older than his years.

    Hope his play matches his demeanor.
    Then again, if Tommy improves on the deep ball this offense will be just fine.


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