The collegiate debut of former No. 1-rated quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel was put on hiatus two years. What’s an extra two weeks?
In a most peculiar scheduling anomaly, the Cincinnati Bearcats did not open the 2014 season until Week 3. The media’s preseason choice to win the American Athletic Conference and its quarterback both proved to be worth the wait in a 58-34 romp over Toledo.
Kiel looked very much like a player making up for lost time on his first drive, completing passes of 52 and 17 yards for the first of six touchdowns.
His six scoring strikes match the single-game high in FBS this season.
Indeed, Gunner Kiel lived up to the lofty standard set for him when he was the nation’s most coveted quarterback prospect coming out of Columbus (Indiana) East High School in 2012.
Not bad for a player Les Miles once quipped “didn’t have the chest and the ability to lead” LSU.
Yes, Kiel’s transition to the college football landscape didn’t just take two years (plus games); he was also tied to four different programs.
For those who need a refresher: Kiel originally committed to in-state Indiana, but after de-committing, was rumored to be headed to LSU. A few outlets outright reported Kiel was headed to LSU on the very same day he showed up on campus at Notre Dame, enrolled in classes.
Kiel was redshirted during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the BCS Championship Game, but faced the proposition of being buried on the depth chart behind talented starter Everett Golson. Kiel opted to transfer a few short weeks before Golson’s temporary dismissal
How the 2013 Fighting Irish may have fared with the Gunner Kiel who was in action Friday against Toledo is one of the great what-ifs of recent years–particularly given quarterback Tommy Rees’ turnovers in losses to Michigan and Oklahoma proved critical.
Brian Kelly’s current program looks just fine with Golson back behind center, while Kelly’s former program gets a substantial boost. Talk about a win-win.
Kiel’s winding road from preps to college is certainly one of the more bizarre in recent memory, but his splashy debut is a reminder that a recruit can’t be written off just because he isn’t an immediate star.
It can take four schools, two years and two weeks for even the highest rated of prospects to shine.