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.