I have a golden rule when it comes to recruiting: Until a recruit actually enrolls early or faxes in his signed letter of intent, anything can and will happen. Recruits will be poached, they will change their minds, and Bob Diaco will show up at your house before you even wake up.
Last year, the Irish faithful that dared to strap into this rollercoaster were taken for a ride by Aaron Lynch. For those that do not remember, before finallyÂ committingÂ to Notre Dame, he committed to Notre Dame (and, no, that isn’t a typo). In between those twoÂ commitments, he decommitted from the Irish and then committed to Florida State, only flop right back into the Irish fold just days before enrolling early at Notre Dame.
It seems that yet again, the Irish will be coming out on top of some blue chip drama right before early enrollment.
Today, LSU had a meeting for all early enrollees, but there was a major problem: the top quarterback recruit in the nation, Gunner Kiel, was reportedly nowhere to be found. Reports then started to surface that Kiel had indeed decided, quite literally at the last minute, that he would instead be heading to South Bend to join the 2012 recruiting class of Notre Dame. With no comments from the family, day turned to night and just hours ago, it has been confirmedÂ that Kiel will be the newest member of the Fighting Irish.Â The entire one-day saga makes you completely forget that this summer Kiel initially committed to Indiana only to open his recruitment back up again during the season.
Like I said, anything can and will happen.
So why did Kiel change his mind at the eleventh hour? Who knows? Having Russell Shepard publicly voice his displeasure with LSU via Twitter probably didn’t help. The circulation of now debunked rumors of a “heated argument” before the BCS title game may have been a factor, even if it never happened. Perhaps he had second thoughts about putting his quarterbacking future in Les Miles’ hands after seeing Jordan Jefferson in action. Apparently, his mom may have been a huge factor as well. Or maybe Brian Kelly did some kind of crazy last minute pitch that just wowed him.
Overall though, as usual, this is a teenager making the biggest decision of his young life and clearly this kid was conflicted throughout the entire process. I’m sure he has aÂ myriadÂ of reasons as to why, some of which will never become public.
The bottom line is that Notre Dame’s recruiting class just got a huge boost (and it could potentially get another one). When the top quarterback in the nation decides to call your team home, you don’t say no, especially when you had what can only politely be called “issues” this past season at said position.
Even if you believe Notre Dame will have either Golson, Hendrix, or even Rees rise into greatness, you still want someone like Kiel in your recruiting class. Injuries happen (see: Dayne Crist), one of your expected 5-star studs turns out to be not as great as you thought they would be (see: Dayne Crist…again…) or your starting QB decides to leave early (see: Jimmy Clausen). Much like recruiting, anything can and will happen.
To see what I mean, just take a look at the years of eligibility left for each QB entering 2012:
- Rees – 2
- Hendrix – 3 (redshirt used)
- Golson -4 (redshirt used)
- Kiel – 4 (with potential to redshirt)
You may notice that ND entered the 2011 with nearly the exact same situation. Put Crist at the top of that list, bump everyone else down a spot and the years are the same (save for the fact that Rees didn’t redshirt). This flexibility allowed Brian Kelly to redshirt Everett Golson without hesitation. Of course, nothing went exactly to plan. Crist faltered, Rees had a sophomore slump and Hendrix didn’t exactly light the world on fire despite being redshirted for a year.
Despite the QB failures of 2011, Kelly is again in a situation in which he has the luxury of being able to redshirt a stud QB in Kiel, making him the third straight QB to get the benefit of a redshirt. Compare that to Quinn, Clausen, and Rees who were thrust into the starting QB role as true freshmen, a situation best avoided; however, the Irish haven’t exactly had the luxury of being able to do otherwise.
In the past decade, the only signal callers that were not thrown to the wolves as true freshmen were Dayne Crist, Demetrius Jones, and Carlyle Holiday–not exactly a top tier list of QBs. Throwing in such young QBs doesn’t help for any sort of offensive continuity either. Your starting QB is seemingly always playing catchup and adjusting to the speed of the college game, forcing the playbook to become much smaller. As examples, look no further than Quinn and Clausen as it took them both two years of frustration before things “clicked” during their junior years.
So, yes, the Kiel commitment is very huge for Brian Kelly and the Irish for both next year and years down the road, regardless of where your opinion on the current stable of QBs happens to be.
UPDATE: Notre Dame has made it official, Gunner Kiel is Irish. Check out the full press release and breathe easy.