The Hat sounds off on Kiel ... again

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
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Les Miles fired shots, and Gunner Kiel took the high road. Miles, meanwhile, has continued to shoot his mouth off.

In an interview with CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, the LSU head coach continued to rip the Notre Dame freshman quarterback for decommitting from the Tigers at the 11th hour, saying Kiel lacks confidence and swagger.
"I'm not bitter. I'm glad he stayed there. I really mean it. Here's the truth: If you don't have some swagger to you and you can step into this stadium and be able to know the advantage that you're playing with the Tigers and you're leading the program that has some real weight and clout, then you really need to stay home with your brothers.

"I don't mean that [negatively]. I'm for him. He gets a chance to come in here and compete and start on a team that is a great team. I really meant what I said. I was talking more about the confidence and swagger. I was not demeaning. If he shows up, it means he has all those things … I mean it honestly, if it's more about family for him, if it's more being close to home … he would have never been successful as he needed to be. I mean it very respectfully …

"The guy we got now [Zach Mettenberger], he's a confident son of a buck. He's a throwin', tough kid. If he continues to develop and learn and grow as a leader, no question."

Miles, as everyone surely remembers, publicly questioned Kiel's leadership abilities at an LSU national signing day banquet. In his first and only meeting with reporters since then, Kiel complimented the coach and said he would only use those comments as fuel.

[+] EnlargeGunner Kiel
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comWhen Gunner Kiel was criticized by Les Miles in February, the quarterback said he'd use it as fuel.
"You can't really control that," Kiel said March 24. "I did pull out at the last minute. I still have all the respect for LSU. Their fans definitely understood. LSU is a great place, but it wasn't the best fit for me. I'm a Midwest guy and I like to stay close. I'm just going to use that as fuel, but I'm not going to disrespect him in any way, shape or form. He's a great coach and they're a great team.

"But I feel great to be at Notre Dame. Love the place, love the guys, love the coaches, love the surroundings. It’s a great community, they're all welcoming, everyone is really nice. It's definitely the perfect fit for me."

LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe was at least understanding of Kiel's decision to spurn the Tigers and enroll at Notre Dame on Jan. 17.
"Gunner's a great kid. He comes from a very, very close-knit family. When it really comes down to it and time to get on the plane, he couldn't do it. We knew that was part of the recruiting process. I talked about it with him very candidly.

"When I was playing at West Texas State, my dad [Dave] was coaching at Oregon State. My son's at Idaho State. I have one in Chicago. I walked him [Kiel] through what it was going to be like. He woke up Sunday morning and was getting ready to go to the plane and said he couldn't do it. I was disappointed he didn't come because I wanted to coach him. I really liked their family. I think they're wonderful people. The best way to describe it is, I understand."

Recruits flip. Happens all the time. Notre Dame, which has been on both ends of the deal this past recruiting cycle, knows this better than anyone. Fans can get nasty during the process, and high school kids often do themselves few favors by speaking before they are ready.

But comments like Miles' do little to quell the vitriol that lunatics from every fan base often spew. Kiel, in his only interview since arriving at Notre Dame, came off as nothing but a class act, a young kid who was genuinely overwhelmed by the recruiting process and was happy to have it over, at peace with his decision to enroll at Notre Dame.

Why a 59-year-old "big boy" like Miles can't feel the same way is sad.

Matt Fortuna | email

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