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Reports: Gunner Kiel to transfer

Mar 7, 2013, 8:52 PM EDT

Gunner Kiel

A relatively quiet month for Notre Dame’s football program was given quite a shake up today with Irish Sports Daily’s report that quarterback Gunner Kiel was set to transfer. The freshman who sat out the 2012 season and played on the scout team has yet to take a snap for the Irish.

The former blue-chip recruit, who enrolled early at Notre Dame after making a last minute decision to head to South Bend instead of play for LSU, won’t likely take part in spring practices, but should be expected to finish the spring semester in school, so he stays on track academically.

Kiel’s reported decision to leave, which hasn’t been confirmed by Notre Dame, is another twist in a decision making process that’s brought a lot of schools into play. Early in Kiel’s recruitment, he was committed to Indiana, where his brother was a quarterback. He verbally committed to the Irish before picking LSU, only to double-back to Notre Dame in the end.

From a football standpoint, you certainly can’t blame Kiel for leaving now. Incumbent Everett Golson is coming off a 12-1 season and has three years of eligibility remaining. The depth chart is filled with veterans Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. Pushing for time with be newcomer Malik Zaire.

Kiel will likely have more than his share of options and isn’t likely to have many restrictions put on him by the coaching staff. He’ll also likely hear the sales pitch to stay in South Bend, where the quarterback job was set to be an open competition this spring, even with Golson’s impressive debut season. While he didn’t see the field, the staff was more than impressed with the freshman, who had impressive arm strength and better than expected speed and mobility.

Leaving Notre Dame will likely be bittersweet for Kiel, who spoke candidly at the media day in Miami about his unknown future in South Bend. With only one football to go around at the quarterback position, he clearly understood the numbers game of it all, but had this to say about his first season to CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a ton better since when I first arrived,” Kiel told Feldman. “I didn’t understand the terminology, the signals or coverages. I’ve made huge strides. I couldn’t have asked for better coaches and the quarterbacks have helped the most. We push each other to get better.

“I just have to be patient and strive to get better each day and realize that anything can happen. I hear that the talk a lot (that I’m gonna transfer) and people are going to have their opinions and are gonna talk, but at the end of the day, I gotta do what’s best for me and I’ve gotta get better.”

It appears what was best for Kiel is to leave South Bend, the second high profile recruit to exit during the Kelly era.

The loss of Aaron Lynch didn’t bring any ill effects to the team. And while Kiel’s departure will receive plenty of headlines and snide remarks to a good kid that had a tough time with the recruiting process, this won’t likely change any immediate plans for the Irish offense.

  1. dudeacow - Mar 8, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Good luck, Gunner. I will cheer for you wherever you go and I hope you have a very successful career. ND was never the best fit for you, as Kelly prefers mobile QBs. But unlike Aaron leaving last year, I have no bitter feeling towards you. You deserve to start.

    But what you should do is say you’re going to LSU and then go somewhere else. It would be interesting to see just how mad the Mad Hatter can get.

  2. dudeacow - Mar 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    But really, he should stay for the spring and see if he can crack the two-deep. If he can’t, he should transfer. But Golson is always one interception from being yanked, and then it would be Kiel’s turn. I hope the coaches and his parents council him on this decision and that he takes their advice.

    • bernhtp - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Golson is no longer a single interception away from being yanked. His leash got longer as the season went on and it will be longer still in the fall.

      But I agree that Gunner should stay and compete. He must be having a crisis of confidence to give up on it before even starting. He would certainly gain lots of meaningful snaps as #2, and maybe even as #3, depending upon the injury and performance situation.

      • nudeman - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        Three things here that scream that Gunner is right to leave ND:

        1. How many 5 stars have the oppty to play QB for the Irish and leave? Bad sign that he threw in the towel

        2. BK’s comments in the Hansen article. Though he probably likes GK as a person, he doesn’t have a high regard for his heart.

        3. The schools he’s supposedly considering. Northern Illinois? Come on. He obviously doesn’t think he can compete at the highest level.

        All this adds up to the fact that he’s made the right decision. There’s an old saying:
        If you think you can, maybe you can. If you think you can’t, you definitely CAN’T.
        Gunner didn’t think he could make it at ND.

      • bernhtp - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        Nude: I agree, but am unsure about his reason for not sticking around to compete. Is it because he sees that his competition is better and has little chance of rising to the top, or if it is mostly psychological insecurity. Either way, though, Kelly’s response is the same: show him the door, albeit kindly. Kelly shows no signs of tolerating drama or talking kids into sticking around that are unsure whether Notre Dame is the right place for them, unless they are “six-star” potential returnees like Floyd, Te’o, Eifert, and (next year) Tuitt.

  3. mediocrebob - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Gunner deserves to start? I don’t think anyone but the coaches and players can make this claim.

    If he deserved to start, he would’ve.

  4. mediocrebob - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Shocked at the lack of confidence/support shown for Golson. I must’ve been watching a different team last fall. Kid got better all season AS A FRESHMAN.

    • danirish - Mar 8, 2013 at 4:07 PM

      I don’t have a lack of confidence with EG but I don’t think he had as great a NC game as everyone said. Fade routes suck, and a lot, A LOT of his comletions were great efforts by WR’s. His TD to Riddick was a great pass but sometimes he looks like he is trying to finesse his throws esp deep balls.

      I also think that he may need to look out for Zaire – I think he is going to be very special….

  5. don74 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    GK seems like a nice enough kid and everyone raves about his talent. Maybe Les Miles is right and he “doesn’t have the chest” to lead a program. Good luck to him and I hope he finds the right place to showcase his ability.

  6. idratherbeinsouthbend - Mar 8, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    I just spent about a half hour reading random blogs about GK leaving…HOLY SHEET…that was amusing. Here’s the truth according to random blogs…

    *GK has always wanted to play in the big10 and sees now as the best time to get in that conference and make a name for himself

    *GK slipped to fourth or fifth on the depth chart

    *Multiple Big 10 teams have rejected GK after people on his behalf reached out to him..

    *GK was diagnosed with elephantitis of the balls and gold pants no longer fit him

    *GK felt to much pressure to live up to the standards set by Matt Lovecchio

    ………..This kid isn’t going anywhere until he goes somewhere. It’s a 50/50 at this point. Just like Manti/Lennay…this is news, but because it’s attached to NDFB it’s bigger news.

    The only sure thing is that nobody writing this blog or any other blog knows for sure that the kid is going or staying. Let it play it…don’t judge the kid.

    • nudeman - Mar 8, 2013 at 5:01 PM

      Big 10 teams are rejecting him? Seriously?

      I sort of find that hard to believe. Kid was a 5 star just 12 months ago and has done nothing to diminish that. You’re telling me Iowa, Illinois or Indiana wouldn’t want GK with 3-4 years of eligibility? I find that hard to believe.

      Mostly I think he felt a lot of pressure to live up to the hype at ND (just as he would have at LSU) and probably wants a lower wattage spotlight on him.

      Nothing wrong with that. Good luck Gunner.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 8, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        If mustain had half a brain he would scoop up Kiel. He is a better passer today than their qb will ever be.

  7. nchdomer - Mar 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    In my view, the analysis is simple. If this is your son, you would want what is best for him. And a number 1 recruit out of high school necessarily dreams of playing in the NFL. One rarely makes it to the NFL sitting on the bench in college. Whether he transfers or stays is not a “right or wrong” decision. It is a decision about the young man’s life and the only opinions that matter are his and his parents. As a father, my view is to always take the opportunity to get on the playing field but my opinion regarding Kiel is of no real significance. If another school wants him to start (and he believes them), he will go. Waiting for someone to get hurt so you can play does not seem like a good gameplan for mapping out your future. If 2 QBs don’t get hurt in the same game, you never hear the name Joe Montana in a Super Bowl. While I understand many of the opinions expressed, Kiel’s decisions seems a sound one under the circumstances and I for one cannot be critical of it.

  8. 10of14 - Mar 8, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Zaire will be in the slot position by year 2. I saw him twice too; he is average as a passer. The guy that said he has a high ceiling needs to realize the competition he faced in his HS conference was just ok. His HS team failed in 2012 and Zaire was a big part of that…in spite of some injuries he didn’t improve from a stellar Junior campaign which is when ND offered. He will be a star slot receiver by his 3rd year.

  9. mediocrebob - Mar 8, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    People who have seen him play also need to realize he was a senior in HS. Watching him play you can see his athletic ability and his leadership qualities. Not saying he’s coming in and taking Golson’s spot. He’ll compete and be ready to go when it’s his time. BC Kelly actually develops (although people seem to disagree).

    There’s a reason he was invited to elite 11 and competed at a high level while there. Not saying he’s winning Heismans.

  10. mediocrebob - Mar 8, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    Seems a bit premature to say he’ll be at WR before he takes his first snap of his first spring.

  11. nchdomer - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    While the Spring competition at QB is to be “open,” it is hard to believe such will actually be the case. By the middle of the second half of the BCS game, it seemed clear that Golson was firmly entrenched as the quarterback of the present and the future. I actually think he has the talent and “big game” comfort level to compete for the Heisman next year. The current quarterback competition is similar to one that occurred with Tony Rice and Kent Graham. Both were fine players but it was clear that Rice was the QB Holtz was going to trust with his coaching career. That is the reality that oftentimes is overlooked in why one player is selected over another. Coaches are making their best guess as to who should play and their livelihood and current residence are a function of those decisions. Even good coaches show the guesswork involved in who plays and who doesn’t. San Francisco and New England are examples of NFL teams that have benched successful quarterbacks for unproven replacements and succeeded. Of course, there are many more examples of those changes not working out, with the coach ultimately being fired. The point being, only those on the team truly understand the locker room dynamic of playing time and competition for it.

    Clearly, Kiel (like Graham before him) knows his time is up at ND. If he can’t get on the field now, why would he wait for a future opportunity that may never come? Every year there will be a new hotshot QB added to the competion, along with the incumbent player now comfortable with the big stage of competing for a title. No one learns from the bench. That is media nonsense and coachspeak. Golson improved because he played. Kelly guessed right with respect to removing him from games and still winning. If Rees doesn’t perform well when Golson is pulled, the team does not compete in the BCS game. If Kelly doesn’t show faith in Golson by continuing to play him, we never see him again and, in my view, never make the title game. Of course, sooner or later Kelly had to risk the season and give Golson the chance to win a game that was going badly, in part, because of his play. If he doesn’t, Golson never advances to the next level in his maturation as a player. I believe that occurred for him in the Pitt game.

    Finally, it’s not a question of players having heart or confidence in their ability to compete on the field. You see all the time players not successful with one team become starters on another. Again, it is coaches making educated guesses. If you believe you should start and the coach doesn’t agree, there are few options for these kids – none of them good. Given the personal bias inherent in coaching decisions, I come out on the side of the player pursuing his dream as he deems best. After all, it is his life.

  12. rcali - Apr 5, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Golson is fools gold.

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