Tag: Gunner Kiel

Andrew Hendrix Stanford

Hendrix, Kiel ready to move into starting roles


While only two quarterbacks remain on Brian Kelly’s scholarship depth chart, two departed signal-callers are on their way to taking over starting jobs at other programs. Last weekend, former Irish quarterback Andrew Hendrix capped off a strong spring with a nice performance for Chuck Martin’s Miami RedHawks.

Hendrix, who earned his degree from Notre Dame and will play out his eligibility in Oxford, completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. The Cincinnati native returns to his home state and continues with his former Irish offensive coordinator, who was his typical self when asked if Hendrix was set to be named the starting quarterback.

“There’s no naming,” Martin said. “You spend five minutes out there and he’s clearly our No. 1 quarterback. Everyone knows it. For the public, you can name him if you want. But everybody on the team knows who the No. 1 quarterback is.”

Winning the starting job might not be the most enviable spot on the baron Miami roster. After finishing last season winless and hardly competitive, Martin is rebuilding the program from the foundation. And he’ll have three former Irish players to help him in this first season, with Lo Wood and Alex Welch joining Hendrix in Oxford.

After the spring scrimmage, Hendrix talked about the experience playing under Martin and how that should help expedite the rebuilding process.

“After two years of playing in this offense, I think I know the ins and outs,” Hendrix said. “And that’s helped me bring the other guys along. And when you have other veterans out here like myself,  Lo Wood, even Alex Welch, it really helps to break down the learning curve and get us where we want to be.”

Meanwhile, 45 minutes away another former Irish quarterback is ready for his star turn. Last month, Gunner Kiel supplied hope for the future of Cincinnati football when he completed 17 of 22 throws for 300 yards in the Bearcats spring game. Running Tommy Tuberville’s No. 1 offense in the first half, Kiel looked sharp as he stretched the field with some vertical throws.

After the offense received a public scolding from Tuberville, Kiel’s performance seemed to lock in his role as the team’s starter, though injured quarterback Munchie Legaux could be back and healthy before the start of the season.

After the game, Kiel had the sound of a guy that was ready to step into the role of starting quarterback.

“I want to play perfect every game,” Kiel said. “I came out here with a chip on my shoulder to get better and compete have fun and play fast because that’s what we are good at. So it was fun. I definitely enjoyed my time and I’m ready for the season to begin.”

If Irish fans are looking for a fun Saturday on the Irish’s off weekend in late September, tune in to Miami vs. Cincinnati, where Hendrix and Kiel will face-off at Paul Brown Stadium.



Reports: Gunner Kiel to transfer

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.

Irish eyes will be on the quarterbacks

NDFB practice

Anyone that expected a tidy conclusion to the open four-man quarterbacking battle taking place under the close watch of Brian Kelly and new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin should’ve thought twice before making that assumption. With Kelly entering his third year in South Bend, a season that’s largely been a sink-or-swim proposition for Irish head coaches, Notre Dame will exit spring practice without having a starting quarterback.

It’s not lip service when Kelly says he’s giving every quarterback a chance to win the job. Whether that’s returning starter Tommy Rees, fellow junior-to-be Andrew Hendrix, redshirt freshman Everett Golson, or early-enrollee Gunner Kiel, the job is truly up for grabs. While many fans had hoped to see the stars align, it was never a battle the Irish staff expected to be resolve after 15 practices. Besides, you can’t blame the head coach for taking as much time as possible to make a decision that could likely have an impact on his fate as the face of the Fighting Irish.

“I need all those practices,” Kelly said, acknowledging that this race will bleed into August camp. “Now let’s go see who takes that and runs with it.”

Each quarterback isn’t without his own virtues. All four player bring something tangibly different to the table, and a logical argument can be made for every scholarship quarterback on the roster taking over the offense — an oddity that hasn’t existed in South Bend in over a decade. With talented players stocking the depth chart, spring wasn’t designed to be a competition, but rather a crash course on the fundamentals, this time applied by Kelly’s most trusted lieutenant.

“Each one of them has improved in the areas we’re looking for,” Kelly said. “The biggest point of emphasis was taking care of the football and not turning it over. We tracked all our throws, all of our decision-making, and I feel really good after the spring that our quarterbacks are well on their way to being the quarterbacks that we need, and that is very efficient, takes great care of the football, and can make the throws when necessary.”

There’s no exaggeration when Kelly claims the staff tracked every throw, and the progress made by a team that was a dreadful 118th in the country in turnover margin has been immediate. After throwing seventeen interceptions in 473 attempts last season, Irish quarterbacks have only thrown nine interceptions in 502 spring attempts.

We’ve spent thousands of words over the past few months looking at the candidates. Looking to get another perspective on things, I reached out to someone that’s probably been closer to these quarterbacks than just about anyone. Former Irish quarterback Matt Mulvey, the one-time captain of the Red Army, and Brian Kelly’s right-hand man on the sidelines, broke down the four quarterbacks with me, helping to give another look at the four-way battle that’ll likely continue until the Irish board a plane for Dublin.


The Skinny: Presumptive favorite to win the starting job after starting 12 games last season. Limited as a runner, and possessing the smallest arm of the four candidates, he’s got the best knowledge base of the offense, but needs to cut down a turnover rate.

Mulvey says: “He knows his job inside and out. Ninety-nine percent of those plays he made the right changes at the line. He’s got such a quick release and he protects himself so well that it’s hard to get to him. Right now, his knowledge of the playbook is far above the other three guys.”

My hunch: It’s Rees’ job to lose and Brian Kelly has all but said as much. While that might cause some bellyaching among the Irish faithful looking to break out one of the three shiny new cars in the garage, Kelly stated his opinion as candidly as possible: “Tommy’s thing was turnovers. If Tommy didn’t turn the football over at the rate he did last year, we’d be talking about this kid at the highest level. He did though, so that’s why it’s open competition.”


The Skinny: Possesses everything needed to be a top-flight collegiate quarterback. The best mix of runner and passer on the roster, Hendrix is a physically impressive athlete that is still a bit too mechanical as he finishes his third spring practice.

Mulvey says: “He’s capable of doing everything. He’s one of those Brady Quinn-type guys that’s a freak in the weight room. He’s a strong kid with an absolute cannon arm. That and his mobility are strengths. It comes down to knowing the playbook inside and out like it’s second nature. I think he’ll get more confidence with experience.”

My hunch: On paper, there’s nothing not to like about Hendrix. He tackles quarterbacking like he does his work in the classroom, with a tireless work ethic and diligence. But there’s an art to being a quarterback and the next evolutionary step for Hendrix is to find comfort in the uncertainty of the position. After missing out on the back-up quarterback reps last season with Dayne Crist still on the roster, he’ll benefit the most just by getting more time and comfort behind center.


The Skinny: The people’s champ, Golson’s skill-set is unrivaled. A natural athlete with preternatural instincts for the game, he’s got the athleticism of a point guard and an arm to make every throw on the field. Now the mental game needs to catch up to his abilities.

Mulvey says: “He’s so naturally gifted, he just grabs the ball and it comes out of his hands like a laser. It’s like watching Robert Griffin throw the football, just a flick of the wrist and it flies out of his hands. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going on in his head. He’ll run the right play, make the right read, and the right everything, but when you ask him about what his read and progression was he’ll hesitate. He’s come a long way with the playbook, and if he can instill some confidence in the coaches they will give him a shot.”

My hunch: A starting quarterback is in many ways an equity partner with the head coach. Golson has the biggest market cap of any of the competitors, but he’s also got the most risk. For a coach that just went through a season where erratic quarterback play sunk the offense, putting his team on the shoulders of a guy still learning is a big risk. He’s a true boom or bust candidate, but is the most intriguing player on the roster.


The Skinny: Early enrolled freshman is the first blue-chip quarterback Brian Kelly has every worked with. Swimming in the deep end for the first time, Kiel has an NFL set of talents that are just waiting to be developed.

Mulvey says: “He’s getting his fair chance and all the necessary reps. He’s coming in at the right time. They’ll give him his shot. Physically he’s got all the necessary tools, but high school is so much different than college. He needs to understand that he’s behind and he needs to catch up. Hopefully he’ll have a chip on his shoulder and work twice as hard as the other guys.”

My hunch: Kiel very well might be the quarterback of the future, but this spring as been a crash course in football, and Gunner’s head is probably still spinning. If Kiel emerges as a viable starting quarterback option, something has likely gone very wrong this season. There have been questions asked about Kiel’s potential by some analysts questioning his star rating. Those questions don’t exist on the Irish coaching staff, who know they’ve got a big-time prospect on their hands.

Practice Report: Day Five update

Andrew Hendrix Stanford

With one third of spring practice finished, the team at UND.com gave us a much anticipated update on the quarterback battle, the main storyline of spring practice. With some nice footage of all four quarterbacks competing, it’s clear that head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin are truly going back to the basics and making sure they reteach the guiding principles of this offense after last season’s turnovers kept the Irish from being more successful.

Starting at square one and reteaching isn’t just the only thing the Irish are doing. With the change to Martin, the offense will also be given more structure.

“We want our guys to be instinctual at the quarterback position,” Kelly told UND.com. “There was a little too much thinking, too much programming, a little too much open for the quarterback to interpret. We’re going to get away from that. We’re going to control it a lot more. We can make sure we’re not open to interpretation. By the time we get through spring, we’re going to see our guys reacting and not thinking too much.”

That change could be a large one heading forward, and also likely signals a shift away from the read and react nature of the offense, which saw the Irish make a decision based on defensive personnel as opposed to playing quickly and forcing the defense to react.

Here are some observations from the practice video, a well edited piece of footage that does its best not to give anything to opposing teams likely just as interested in the quarterback battle brewing in South Bend.

  • 0:13 — Nicely done, Jack Nolan. Another piece of Notre Dame garb and a perfect weather report. Watch out, Brick Tamland.
  • 0:33 — A nice look at Kelly working with Gunner Kiel, going through the basics while Martin and Andrew Hendrix work in the background.
  • 1:12 — A nice look at multiple throws by both Hendrix and Everett Golson. Drawing too many conclusions from watching guys throw zero-step drop slants is pretty silly, but you can tell the contrasting styles pretty quickly, with Hendrix muscling throws while Golson looks smoother.
  • 1:45 — First look at walk-on quarterback Charlie Fiessinger (No. 17) who joined the program from Moeller high school, where he will once again serve as Hendrix’s back-up.
  • 1:56 — There’s our Amir Carlisle spotting for the day, his crutches on the ground as he watches drills and catches off for the quarterbacks.
  • 2:15 — While previewing Tommy Rees, it’s interesting to see the Irish run the stretch playaction play from under center, something we didn’t see much of the last two seasons. If there’s a revealing bit of film in all of this, I guess this qualifies.
  • 3:20 — Bravo to Andrew Hendrix, who acknowledged that he’s still learning the offense and needs to get better. The shift to Chuck Martin should pay dividends for Hendrix, who is still pretty raw as he enters his third year in the program.
  • 3:47 — A little Everett Golson run play to get Irish fans salivating.
  • 4:19 — Gunner Kiel showing why any freshman under center is scary, with a snap bobbling from his hands before getting it back under control. (Thanks edit team — trying to give us flashbacks?)
  • 4:45 — What a genuine sounding kid.
  • 5:00 — Looks like Chuck could play QB if needed. Nice work on the playaction drop back.
  • 5:50 — If you look carefully, it doesn’t look like Everett Golson throws with the seams, gripping them with his left hand and unloading with the backside of the football.
  • 6:05 — And the key statement by Kelly, acknowledging the need to get the QBs to play better: “We’ve really gone back to the basics with our quarterbacks. When we turn the football over as many times as we did we have to go back and really reteach all the principles,” Kelly said. We’re going to back things up and get back to the basics of this offense.”
  • 6:30 — No opposing coach is going to gain an advantage out of watching this Football 101 drill, with ND playing this segment pretty close to the vest. I don’t think we’ve seen a throw over 10 yards or anything more than a three step drop.


Gunner Kiel passes first test

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.”