Where is Gunner going now?
It is not every day that the very best quarterback in the nation is available to any and every school in the country. Gunner Kiel was exactly that coming out of high school a year ago.
However, after spending 2012 as a redshirt and being utilized as Notre Dame's scout team passer, the Domers still cannot guarantee this uber-talented young man playing time. Everett Golson took over the starting job and improved each and every week in playing a major role in the Irish's 12-1 season.
That is, of course, great for Notre Dame fans, but the fact that Golson still has three years of eligibility remaining really affected Kiel's odds of seeing the playing field.
Thus, the former five-star recruit has announced his intentions to transfer. He will have to sit out a year no matter where he goes (unless he drops down a level, but he, in all likelihood, won't do that), but where should he be looking?
Obviously, the team's current quarterbacking situation is going to play a key role in his decision making, and he is going to have plenty of time to really hash out the best environment for his future.
So where should he be looking in the first place?
We've put together a list of 10 schools who should be drooling for this young man's services, and probably are.
10. Northern Illinois Huskies
Don't laugh. Northern Illinois proved it can play with the big boys (or, at least, has access to playing with the big boys) after taking down Kent State for the MAC crown and earning an invite to the BCS Orange Bowl.
Further, Jordan Lynch set the all-time, single-season rushing record for a quarterback in 2012 with a whopping 1,815 on the year. Of course, that number signals the fact that the Huskies might be looking for a run-first type of signal-caller, but quite the contrary -- Lynch also passed for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns.
A commitment from Kiel would immediately transform this team into a dynamic force that could once again power through the Mid-American Conference and potentially to another BCS Bowl berth.
If Kiel transfers soon, he will sit out the 2013 season, Lynch's senior year. The Indiana native has signaled that proximity will be one of his conditions of a transfer, and the job would then be his for the next four years. You don't think the coaching staff could bring in a hyper-athletic Chicago kid to come catch passes from him?
9. West Virginia Mountaineers
There are a number of places Kiel could go if all he wants to do is set passing records (who doesn't?) and one of those is located in Morgantown.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has worked with some of the most prolific passers in the college game over the past several seasons, and most recently one-time Heisman hopeful Geno Smith. Smith is about to be the first quarterback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, meaning two things: First, Holgorsen understands how to get the best of the best from his passers and second, the team is looking to break in a new quarterback over the next couple of seasons.
Sophomore Paul Millard was the only other player on the roster to attempt a pass in 2012. He will be a junior next year, Kiel's transfer year, and then who knows?
Maybe Millard will prove so prolific that he can make the leap to the NFL and allow Kiel to step to the forefront. Maybe he will perform so poorly that Holgorsen does not hesitate to bench him in favor of Kiel.
Far more likely, of course, is somewhere in between. In that case, Kiel would only have to wait one more year at the most, and then have a few years to show off that golden arm of his.
8. Ball State Cardinals
Kiel is a young man who had offers to go play at Alabama, LSU, Michigan, and a zillion other big-time, automatic qualifying schools this time last year. Headed to Ball State might be a drop in stature, but as we've discussed with Northern Illinois, there is plenty of MACtion (it had to be done) at Ball State.
The Cardinals finished 9-4 in 2012 and should be an improved squad in 2013. Not only does the Indiana school provide the proximity Kiel may or may not be looking for, but it provides the opportunity to play immediately.
Ball State star quarterback Keith Wanning tied for second in the conference with 24 touchdown passes and his 3,095 yards passing were good for fifth. He will be a senior next season, Kiel's year on the bench as a transfer.
Thus, the proximity and the near-lock of a chance at starting makes Ball State a legit landing spot for the young talent.
7. Michigan Wolverines
While heading over to Ball State would be nice, at the end of the day, the Cardinals are not the Wolverines. Michigan was one of a number of very big-time schools to offer Kiel a scholarship out of high school and, two years later, coach Brady Hoke's squad would make an even better fit for the young man.
Hoke has been working to, very slowly, transition his team into a pro-style offense following Rich Rodriguez' failed tenure in Ann Arbor. His quarterback, Devin Gardner, is definitely a more mobile guy but can make the throws from under center.
Further, Gardner was just granted a medical hardship waiver, giving him an extra year of eligibility. He can remain on the team for two more years. However, if next year goes as spectacularly as he and Wolverines Nation are expecting, he may jump to the NFL for the 2014 NFL Draft. In that case, Kiel would be the perfect man to slide in and run Hoke's dream offense after sitting out his transfer year behind Gardner.
If Gardner stays the full two years? Then Kiel would have to wait an extra year for his time to shine, but he'd still have plenty of eligibility remaining and an offense perfectly tailored to his talents.
6. Oklahoma Sooners
Four-year starter and pure pocket passer Landry Jones has graduated to the NFL, and in his place steps in Blake Bell. Bell, at 6-foot-6 and 254 pounds, saw plenty of action in 2012 as the team's Wildcat quarterback. In fact, as a sophomore, Bell piled up 11 rushing touchdowns on only 59 total attempts.
Obviously, Sooners fans are excited for what is supposed to be a smooth passing of the torch. However, Bell's throwing accuracy is a huge question mark heading into 2013.
Coach Bob Stoops showed last year that he was not at all afraid of going with a two-quarterback system, despite the fact that he had a record-setter in Jones at his disposal. If Bell succeeds in 2013 but does not wow with his arm, what's not to say that Stoops won't go with a Kiel/Bell combo in 2014, Kiel's first year of eligibility after transferring?
After sitting out two full seasons, playing half the snaps and having a guy like Bell to carry the load (literally) could be an ideal situation. However, Notre Dame is an annual rival of Oklahoma's, and the Irish simply may not let Kiel transfer there.
5. USC Trojans
Back in 2009, a young freshman by the name of Matt Barkley wrestled the starting job away from two older guys and did not relinquish it until graduating this year. Now, two soon-to-be redshirt sophomores, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler and one incoming freshman, Max Browne, fight to take over for one of the program's best passers -- and all three haven't proven a thing.
A little more backstory: When most schools were staying away from Penn State's players prior to the 2012 season out of respect (when all Nittany Lions on scholarship were free to play anywhere without losing a year to transferring following the Sandusky scandal's sanctions) USC coach Lane Kiffin went ahead and poached their best player, running back Silas Redd.
Kiffin would have no trouble benching whomever wins the starting job this year if Kiel gave him the best chance to win in 2014.
Kiel's talent has been said to be on par, if not better than, Barkley. That could have the Trojans coach salivating.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes
Senior James Vandenberg took literally every single snap for the Hawkeyes in 2012, and he really should not have been allowed to. The senior entered the year with as high of expectations as should reasonably be put on a Big Ten starter (so, pretty high, honestly) and fell totally flat on his face. He only completed 57-percent of his pass attempts for 2,249 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Yes, that means Iowa only threw seven touchdowns all year.
Generally speaking, that should be getting a team excited for the replacement, in this case Jake Rudock. However, Rudock was unable to get on the field for even a single snap last season, and his ability to lead the program back to prominence is not exactly set in stone.
Once again, Iowa has the basics Kiel is presumably looking for in a school: Proximity to his native Indiana, an old-school, pro-style approach to the passing game and, at the very least, the chance to enter into an open competition for the starting job.
Following a four-win year, unless Rudock blows coaches, fans, and opposing defenses away, Kiel should at least be given the chance should he decide to head to Iowa City.
3. LSU Tigers
Several SEC teams will be looking to fill vacant quarterbacking slots after the 2013 season, but LSU is the one with the ties to Kiel. Granted, there are those that will point to the fact that Tigers coach Les Miles questioned Kiel's leadership abilities after he reneged on his commitment to Baton Rouge, but time heals all wounds.
Or shall we say, 'necessity creates strange bedfellows'?
Whatever cliche floats your boat, the fact of the matter is Zach Mettenberger (himself a transfer from Georgia and then junior college) is done after this year, and the school has not had very much luck with their personally recruited guys in recent seasons.
Stephen Rivers was just a freshman in 2012, and Hayden Rittig and Anthony Jennings were both four-star recruits. Again, while those are three extremely talented, young individuals, they are all also big question marks.
Kiel nearly found himself wearing Tigers gear in the first place. A year later, the place where he might find the most success might be right where he had been looking all along.
2. Purdue Boilermakers
First things first, Purdue may not be an option. The Boilermakers are on Notre Dame's future schedule, and the Irish may not allow Kiel to transfer there.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, the fact is Purdue would be the perfect landing spot for Kiel. Obviously, being Indiana's big-time in-state rival, Purdue is extremely close to home. Next, it is a big-time program, but its fan base has been waiting quite some time for its next great quarterback.
Drew Brees and Kyle Orton both starred in West Lafayette back in the day, but it may be a little while if Kiel doesn't fall into newly hired coach Darrell Hazell's lap. For the last two years, former coach Danny Hope badly mismanaged the playing time and overall careers of Caleb TerBush and Miami transfer Robert Marve. Now, both of those guys have graduated, leaving soon-to-be senior Rob Henry and soon-to-be soph Austin Parker as two other guys who threw passes in 2012.
Henry, simply put, is not a quarterback. He plays all over the field and is a weapon because of his versatility. Parker is only 5-foot-11 and a former walk-on. That leaves Austin Appleby, a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder who is set to be a true freshman in 2013.
Kiel has already spent time in a college weight room and with a college playbook. Appleby is still one giant question mark with a huge right arm. Advantage Kiel -- but the real winner would be the fans of this once-proud program.
1. Illinois Fighting Illini
We bet you thought you were going to see Indiana at this spot, eh?
In terms of returning to the program he had committed to originally, the mindset might be the same as it was for LSU, however the situation is very different. Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson has the program moving in the right direction, and at quarterback he is set up extremely nicely for the future.
Cameron Coffman was one of the Big Ten's top quarterbacks in 2012 (although, granted, that is not say too much after last season) and he was only a sophomore. Nate Sudfeld was a freshman and he is just waiting to show the nation how talented he is once Coffman leaves campus.
The same cannot be said for Illinois. Nate Scheelhaase is gone after 2013, but the dual-threat signal-caller isn't even that good. Reilly O'Toole, at 6-foor-4 and 220 pounds, was given several chances to supplant Scheelhaase and his relatively weak arm but failed to do so. Together the two combined for 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
We're not saying that O'Toole is not going to light the world on fire in 2013 -- well, actually, yes we are.
Illinois is close to home, desperate for the type of talent and excitement a guy like Kiel would bring and will have no problem airing it out with him under center.
It only remains to be seen if coach Tim Beckman (who some fans were disappointed to see returning for a second season) can actually pull this off.