Gunner Kiel to... Notre Dame, after all that?

The strange and drawn-out spectacle of the recruitment of Columbus East quarterback Gunner Kiel, the nation's top-rated high school quarterback, seems to have taken a last minute twist. To recap, last summer Kiel shocked the college football world by committing to Indiana over finalists Oklahoma and Alabama. A few weeks later, when IU was mired in a very ugly start to the 2011 season, Kiel decommitted, and Kiel's first post-IU visit was to Notre Dame for the ND-USC game in late October. For whatever reason, the Irish fell out of favor, and Kiel ultimately committed to LSU a couple of weeks ago. Kiel was expected in Baton Rouge yesterday, prior to the first day of classes at LSU, but was a no-show, and late yesterday, word emerged from Notre Dame's student newspaper that: "[a] University staff member has confirmed to The Observer that Kiel is expected to be living in O'Neill Hall by the end of the week. The staff member remained anonymous because the staff member was not authorized to discuss specific students and their enrollments." It gets stranger:


USA Today, quoting LSU's Rivals guy, says it was was simple as this:

"From what I have been told, he is no longer coming to LSU," recruiting expert Michael Scarborough of Rivals.com/TigerBait.com said Monday night. "He wants to come to LSU, but his mother (Aleta Kiel) got very emotional Monday and did not want her son to leave. He plans to enroll in classes at Notre Dame on Tuesday."

Wow. After years of careful research, consultation with coaches, review of game film, consideration of various schools' quarterback depth charts, and who knows what else, his final decision came down to his mother's tears. What I am about to say will sound like sour grapes, but I'm going to say it anyway: IU is probably better off without Gunner. The retort is obvious: "Gunner Kiel would have been IU's biggest recruit in decades! Neither Tre Roberson nor some juco transfer is going to match what Gunner would have added to the program!" That's all very possible. But the odd and flighty behavior of this family during the recruiting saga makes me think that the combination of the Kiel family's...activism, Kevin Wilson's short fuse, and the sort of leverage a player such as Gunner has over a program such as Indiana, might have made for an explosive situation. For IU, Gunner would have been a once-a-generation recruit. For programs such as LSU and Notre Dame, getting the top high school quarterback always is a big deal, but those programs land blue-chippers every year, and will in the future. There will be an appropriate balance of power between Brian Kelly and Gunner and has family. At IU, the Kiels would have had the upper hand. Perhaps it would have worked out. But it also could have been a disaster on and off the field.

All that said, best of luck to Gunner. As odd as the process was, at the eleventh hour he chose a school where he will receive an excellent education and a football program that hasn't found an answer at quarterback. But what a strange ride it's been.

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