While Notre Dame will inevitably put out a press release announcing Gunner Kiel‘s departure from the football program, head coach Brian Kelly‘s words — spoken to the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen before Kiel decided to transfer — said all we needed to hear about Kiel’s reported decision to leave campus and look to play football at another school.
“I don’t know what happened before we got here,” Kelly told Hansen, when speaking about the potential for a quarterback to leave school instead of take part in a five-man position race. “I know what I laid down within the program about expectations and the parameters for all positions, not just quarterback.I’m going to recruit somebody to beat you out.”
It’s not, “Get used to it.” But it’s close.
For the Irish football program, now in a new stratosphere after a Cinderella 12-1 season, competition only rises with elevated expectations. Those expectations allowed the Irish to land another blue-chip quarterback, Malik Zaire, who chose to jump into the fray knowing full well that the nation’s top QB recruit from a year earlier was there, and Everett Golson was in place to be a potential four year starter.
After years of coddling signal callers — CJ Leak holding a recruiting class ransom, Jimmy Clausen getting a quarterback coach replaced — it’s a new era at quarterback, and Kelly makes no apologies.
“If you’re a quarterback and you don’t think I’m going to bring in Malik Zaire to beat you out, then you need to transfer,” Kelly continued to Hansen. “I do it in the right way. I’m not saying it’s a callous, cold way of doing it, but my job is to continue to bring in the best fits for Notre Dame, both on and off the field. So if you’re a bit uneasy about the situation, then I welcome your transfer.
“I’ve done it since I’ve been at Grand Valley (State) that way. Try to continue that competition within the ranks, because the guys that crack are the ones you want to crack. I can tell you if the program’s humming and it’s doing it the right way, you’re going to have some transfers, because you’re building competition within the ranks.
“And it’s always going to be that way.”
Quarterbacks transferring to other schools for playing time isn’t anything new. The list at Notre Dame alone since the Holtz era, as Hansen notes, features just as many signal-callers that came and left than stayed in South Bend, and only three played their entire career at the position.
For Kiel, there’s every reason to believe he’s still got a bright future — just look at the NFL’s highest paid quarterback Joe Flacco, who left Pitt to get out from behind Tyler Palko and ended up at Delaware before making a pretty good living with the Baltimore Ravens.
But if you expect this to change Kelly and his offensive staff’s plan for recruiting quarterbacks, think again.