Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just When You Thought the Irish Were Out, Kelly Pulls Them Back In

It's official. Gunner Kiel, consensus number 1 quarterback in the 2012 class, has decommitted from LSU and is enrolled in classes at Notre Dame. This is an extraordinary recruiting coup for Brian Kelly - it's not every day in the modern college football world that a top notch quarterback drops his commitment to an SEC team that was in the National Championship game to attend Notre Dame. This is different than the Taylor Decker/Urban Meyer situation, where Meyer poached a recruit from ND. Here, Kiel made the decision himself with his family. Moreover, it speaks volumes to the preparation, hard work, and true appeal of the current Notre Dame coaching staff under Kelly, and could open the floodgates down the homestretch to National Signing Day.

Kiel is an absolute stud and a huge recruiting coup
Go to Kiel's Rivals recruiting page. Who does he remind scouts of? That's right, Peyton Manning. Sitting at 6'4, 210 pounds, Kiel has the size and mobility to flourish in the spread system. I'm not saying that he'll be up to Manning's caliber, but this is quite simply the perfect QB at the perfect time for Notre Dame. Sure, I feel that redshirt freshman Everett Golson or redshirt Sophomore Andrew Hendrix should see the bulk of playing time next season, but having a player of Kiel's caliber on the roster ensures that the problems that plagued Notre Dame this year, namely terrible production at the quarterback position, will be seemingly assuaged going forward. I honestly do feel that Kiel might have to wait a year or two to start, and I hope that during that time he does not transfer, but real stars do not shy away from competition. I do love Golson's game, and Hendrix showed flashes in limited time this year of what a stud he can be. But isn't this a great problem to have? Who doesn't want to have at least three stud QB's on the roster? Imagine a quarterback competition in spring practice between Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix, and Gunner Kiel (leaving out for a moment Tommy "Turnover" Rees). Doesn't that just make everyone better? I'm extraordinarily excited to see what unfolds.

Just as importantly is the impact that Kiel's enrollment will mean for the rest of the class. As it stands right now, ND is sitting right with several elite recruits, the first and foremost being Arik Armstead out in California. Armstead, another consensus top defensive lineman, had originally committed to play for USC in order to play with his older brother Armond. Yet, when USC refused to medically clear Armond to play, both Armsteads began looking elsewhere. Armond has been cleared to play at several different schools, so we're looking at a similar situation to what occurred with Jarvis Jones. Jones was seriously injured while at USC and wasn't medically cleared to play. He then transferred to Georgia, where he was subsequently named an All American. That is part of the reason I'll be ok if he comes to ND. The younger Armstead is an absolute freak on both sides of the ball. He wants to play defense in college, but he also projects as a cornerstone left tackle, a position from which he absolutely dominated in high school. Arik was taking a long hard look at going to play with a bunch of his Northern California high school peers at the University of California-Berkeley, but when stud Cal recruiter Tosh Lupoi bolted for Washington, that all but eliminated Cal. Thus, that leaves ND and Auburn vying for the Armsteads' services, and because Arik wants to enroll early, we should have finality on this within days.

This can also help with Ronald Darby, an absolute track speed beast at cornerback who had committed to ND in early spring 2011, only to recently reopen his recruitment. His world class speed would line up perfectly in the defensive backfield and add a certain athleticism that seems to have been lacking in South Bend since the glory days of Rocket Ismail and Tim Brown. Supposedly, Brian Kelly had an in-home visit with Darby last night, presumably to ward off any chances of him committing to a school like FSU. Let's hope that Kelly reiterated to Darby the special class that is coming to ND, and how he could be the capstone of it. Maybe the news of Kiel and (hopefully) the Armsteads will sway him to return. Regardless, there is an elite class on the way to South Bend. The next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting.