Thank goodness for 17-year-old kids. Because on a Martin Luther King Day that was devoid of virtually any major college football news, a couple of high ranking football recruits made headlines by changing their verbal commitments. In the process they did us a favor here at Crystal Ball Run, by giving us something to gab about.
The first of those two players is someone who is already very familiar to college football fans, despite having yet to play a single snap on a fall Saturday. His name is Gunner Kiel, and he’s the No. 1 high school quarterback in the country. Maybe most importantly, he’s become famous (or infamous might actually be the right word) for being more indecisive on his college decision than a teenage girl trying to pick out a prom dress.
If you may remember, we last heard from Kiel right after Christmas, when the strong-armed signal-caller from Indiana seemed to finally, mercifully settle on a school. After originally committing to Indiana before de-committing just a few months later, Kiel decided on LSU. He chose the Tigers after a strong push from Notre Dame and Vanderbilt (as well as basically every other team in the country), and as we discussed at the time, seemed to be the final piece of a potential dynasty on the Bayou. After all, if Les Miles could surround Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson with enough talent to make a BCS title game, imagine what he could do with a truly legitimate, potential future NFL superstar under center?
Well, it will have to remain a pipe-dream for LSU fans, since it sounds like Kiel to Baton Rouge ain’t happening. According to Michael Scarborough of Rivals.com and LSU-affiliate TigerBait.com, there was a snafu in the Kiel household Monday that will preclude him from going to LSU. Now the more likely destination seems to be Notre Dame.
Here’s Scarborough via USA Today:
"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."
So there you have it. What is LSU’s loss is now potentially Notre Dame’s gain, with the Kiel-drama adding extra intrigue to both schools.
For LSU, the answer to their problem is simple: Go find another quarterback. While it seems unlikely that the Tigers will match anyone of Kiel’s stature this late in the game, Scarborough did mention Jeremy Liggins of Mississippi as a replacement. Liggins is ranked the No. 14 dual-threat in the country, a far cry from Kiel’s lofty stature. But if old Les Miles has proven anything, it’s that no coach is able to turn chicken sh** into chicken salad at the quarterback position quite like he does.
As for Notre Dame, things aren’t nearly as simple.
For the Irish, this situation could very well end up mirroring what happened back in 2007 when the No. 1 recruit in the country then, Jimmy Clausen committed to the school. If you’ll remember at the time, Notre Dame had two true freshmen that they believed to be the future of the program in Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones. But once Clausen showed up, both bolted town. That left a young Clausen to fend for himself under center and little depth behind him, with only a young Dayne Crist coming in the next year as a capable back-up.
Well, it’s hard not to wonder if Kiel’s arrival will allow history to repeat itself in South Bend. As you might’ve heard, the Irish had some quarterback troubles of their own in 2011, troubles that seemed to be finally sorting themselves out by the end of the season. Tommy Rees was still technically the starter, but because of his alarming (yet somewhat entertaining) turnover rate, Andrew Hendrix had wrestled away a lot of snaps late in the season. Everett Golson was backing both up, and seemed to be a more ideal fit for Coach Brian Kelly’s system than either of them. He was expected to see more snaps next fall as wel. And now you can go ahead and add a fourth man to the sloppy Notre Dame quarterback derby, Mr. Gunner Kiel. Which leads to the question: You know how they say “if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none at all.” Well what happens when you have four?
But while Kiel was making headlines on the East Coast, another big name recruit was playing commitment hot-potato out West himself. The player’s name is Ellis McCarthy, and he is one of the top defensive linemen in the entire class of 2012. On Monday he too changed gears, switching his commitment from Cal to UCLA.
Now to his credit, McCarthy’s de-commitment was at least a bit more traditional than Kiel’s. There was no parental intervention or missed meetings to signal McCarthy’s departure from Berkley, but instead it was a coaching change that did the trick. The man who recruited McCarthy- ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi- left Cal to take an assistant’s job at Washington, throwing McCarthy’s recruitment wide open. Without Lupoi, McCarthy instead elected to go to UCLA, where he will be Coach Jim (don’t call him “Jr.”) L. Mora’s first big commitment in Westwood.
Of course whether McCarthy’s commitment means anything long-term is tough to say. Of the few things Rick Neuheisel did well at UCLA, recruiting was one of them. So even with a stud like McCarthy headling the class, there are no guarantees that it will equate to wins for Mora and the Bruins.
More importantly, if we learned anything Monday, it’s that none of these recruitments are actually final until the ink dries on the paper come Signing Day.
It’s going to be a fun few weeks.
For all his opinion, insight and articles on college football and beyond, please follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.