Following this bouncing ball: Gunner Kiel was, at one point, the top high school prospect in the country (or the top QB of his year, depending on how you read scouting services). Initially, he was headed to Indiana — he’s from Columbus, Indiana and pairing him with former Oklahoma OC Kevin Wilson (the new head coach at Indiana) seemed like a big deal. Eventually he backed away from Indiana and ended up settling on LSU. That didn’t work out — Les Miles even took a shot at him on his way out the door — and he ended up at Notre Dame. He was buried on that depth chart during a solid run for ND, so he decided to transfer to Cincinnati. Everett Golston had to depart ND soon after, and there was a brief window where maybe Kiel would return to the Fighting Irish, but ultimately he didn’t. He’s still at Cincinnati — if you’re scoring at home, that’s the fourth college he’s been associated with in the last couple of years — but now Munchie Legaux (great name) has an additional year of eligibility, and Kiel’s status is again kind of cloudy. You could view it through this prism:
Or this one:
Basically, we could have a situation where a once-in-a-lifetime stud prospect (OK, perhaps I over-sold that a bit) might get to a couple of years out of high school never having been the unquestioned starter at any of the four programs he’s been linked to. There are tons of stories about high school stars hopping around, but typically they do land somewhere, and it’s usually not four stops. It seems like there are two possible aspects here — either he’s a tough kid to coach (as exemplified by Miles’ comments above and his own admissions of his relationship with his QB coach at ND) or he’s just had a run of not-finding-the-right-place, which happens to all of us from time to time, be it job-wise, relationship-wise, etc. Here’s a quote from Kiel of interest:
“I just tell people I’m doing with what’s best for me. I committed to so many places but I did it all in the right way. I didn’t think I made any dumb decisions. Different places I looked at, the position coach or the coordinator isn’t there anymore. Alabama, Missouri, LSU, Indiana … the position coach isn’t there anymore or the (offensive) coordinator isn’t there anymore. People will have their opinion, but I thought it was in my best interest to not commit or de-commit for that very reason. You can look now, of the position coaches I would have had, none of them stayed.”
People sometimes throw this around in discussion or color commentary, but it really is hard to be an elite QB when your system keeps shifting all the time — look at Alex Smith in the NFL. He was en route to bust status, but after getting under Harbaugh and then Andy Reid, he looks like a top 10-12 NFL QB again. Consistency matters a lot, and it’s hard to get in the current era of football: after one-two bad seasons, a coach and most of his top staff can be suddenly scattered all over the country. That filters all the way to the recruitment of 17 year-olds, and Kiel may have been caught in that vortex.
Regardless, it’s likely that Munchie vs. Gunner might be among the most interesting QB battles of the spring/summer — remember, the Bearcats did go 9-4 last year and they are coached by a guy who’s recorded some elite seasons at other stops. With Louisville firmly on the rebound (no Bridgewater, no Strong), and a manageable 2014 schedule minus OSU, whoever wins that gig could be en route to a major bowl game — and maybe get the kind of late-career pop that Blake Bortles did too.