Notre Dame Football: Gunner Kiel
- Everett Golson has gained confidence with being named the starter, JJ Stankevitz writes on CSNChicago.com.
- SI.com's Brian Hamilton previews the Irish, who are the magazine's preseason No. 13 team.
- Yahoo's Pat Forde has Golson at No. 5 and Gunner Kiel at No. 14 on his list of most intriguing quarterbacks for 2014.
- Corey Robinson is toughened up by an aggressive defense, Rachel Terlep writes in the Elkhart Truth.
- Interesting stat from BlueandGold's Lou Somogyi here on Andrew Trumbetti.
- Notre Dame is No. 4 in licensing revenue, our Darren Rovell writes.
- Better offensive line depth puts the Irish in good shape, JJ Stankevitz writes on CSNChicago.com.
- AthlonSports gets some coaches to talk anonymously about Notre Dame.
- Signs say Gunner Kiel will be Cincinnati's starting quarterback, but Tommy Tuberville won't say yet, Tom Groeschen writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Sad news about former Heisman winner Johnny Lujack, who was airlifted to Mayo Clinic.
- Urban Meyer recalls his recruitment of LeBron James while at Notre Dame, Bill Livingston writes on Cleveland.com.
- CSNChicago's JJ Stankevitz takes a look at the Irish's secondary.
- Gunner Kiel remains in the driver's seat for the Cincinnati starting job.
- Rashad Kinlaw is still enrolled at Notre Dame after being dismissed from the football program, Mike Monaco writes in The Observer.
- Fumbles are a rarity for Notre Dame under Tony Alford, Andrew Owens writes on BlueandGold.com.
- Notre Dame's defense wants to be in attack mode, JJ Stankevitz writes on CSNChicago.com.
- Joe Schmidt has been a cerebral addition to the Irish's defense, Rachel Terlep writes in the Elkhart Truth.
- The Indianapolis Star's David Woods catches up with former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel. Kiel looked sharp in Cincinnati's spring game.
- A clutch Kyle Brindza is helping the Irish stay afloat late in close games, JJ Stankevitz writes on BlueandGold.com.
- James Onwualu is settling in at Notre Dame, Andrew Owens writes on BlueandGold.com.
- Irish freshmen are lending a helping hand, Tony Krausz writes in the (Fort Wayne) Journal-Gazette.
- IrishIllustrated's Douglas Farmer looks at six quick points from Saturday's Irish win over ASU. (Subscription required)
- Good story here from the Cincinnati Enquirer, who catches up with Bearcats quarterback Munchie Legaux, whose devastating knee injury may have him returning next year to compete with ... Gunner Kiel.
1. How will the backfield shape up? This has been among the most popular questions I've received in the offseason mailbag, at least among those still on the team. George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel have the most experience as they enter their junior years, with Atkinson figuring to be the guy to get the initial start. Amir Carlisle looked ready to break out in the spring before breaking his collarbone, and he could serve as a dual threat in the slot. Four-star freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston are talented enough to make immediate impacts, and William Mahone is now in the mix after redshirting during his first season in South Bend.
2. How will the O-line holes be filled? Nick Martin appeared to have the edge over Matt Hegarty at center during spring, with Conor Hanratty taking most of the No. 1 reps at right guard. Will things hold steady, or is it possible Ronnie Stanley becomes too good to ignore, perhaps forcing returning starting right tackle Christian Lombard into the right guard spot to make room for Stanley to his right?
3. Who starts in the secondary? Notre Dame has a good numbers problem among its defensive backs, as it returns three starters and a handful of other contributors who are now healthy. Bennett Jackson figures to start again, likely at the boundary, but returning starter KeiVarae Russell will likely have a big battle on his hands from Lo Wood, who is back after tearing his Achilles during last year's camp. Safety Elijah Shumate ran mostly with the first-team during the spring and should compete with Nicky Baratti and Austin Collinsworth, who is back from shoulder and back surgeries that forced him to miss all of last season. Collinsworth could play a role on the punt return unit, too.
4. What can we expect from Malik Zaire? With Everett Golson and three other scholarship quarterbacks in the fold when Zaire enrolled, it seemed unlikely that the lefty could forge a path to the field this fall. Then Gunner Kiel transferred to Cincinnati, and Golson got suspended from school for the fall shortly after. Zaire's growth was likely accelerated after a strong spring and the ensuing position losses, as there remains a chance he could gain some valuable playing time this fall with only Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix ahead of him.
- Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville talks a little Gunner Kiel on the SVP and Russillo show.
- Good news about one of ours (and yours): Digger Phelps has progress on his cancer battle, Tom Noie writes in the South Bend Tribune.
- AthlonSports says the Irish are one of the top winners in the game of realignment.
- Urban Meyer will always work for Lou Holtz, Seth Staskey writes in the (Martins Ferry) Times-Leader.
Jan. 7 must feel like it was a lot more than six measly months ago for those in South Bend, Ind., as an offseason out of left field threatened to dissipate all of the goodwill built up during Notre Dame's renaissance 2012 campaign.
To recap, since losing to Alabama by 28 in the Discover BCS National Championship Game, the Irish have:
- Spent days on their toes and watched four-star linebacker Alex Anzalone flip to Florida as coach Brian Kelly flirted with the Philadelphia Eagles in the days following the national title game.
- Suffered through the humiliation of the revelation of the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax, which tainted much of the remarkable story behind the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
- Watched three second-year players -- including quarterback Gunner Kiel -- leave for other destinations before or early in spring ball, leaving the Irish without their top four players from the class of 2012, according to ESPN. (Cornerback Tee Shepard left shortly after enrolling in the spring of 2012.)
- Withstood a long battle with five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, a saga that ended with ESPN's No. 10 prospect going to UCLA after signing with Notre Dame, costing him a year of eligibility.
- Lost quarterback Everett Golson -- who had upward of 40 starts remaining in an Irish uniform -- for at least this season because of what he called "poor academic judgment."
So yes, the 2013 season opener against Temple at Notre Dame Stadium probably cannot come soon enough for many who are tired of the negative headlines and stream of bad news.
Kelly also has experience navigating an uncertain quarterback field, though the position for the Irish is not as dire as it would be for most programs when losing a starter from a perfect regular season.
Just look at senior Tommy Rees, who saved Notre Dame in three of its first six games last season, is 14-4 as a starter, knows the offense inside and out and has the respect of the locker room.
Redshirt junior Andrew Hendrix has some experience and plenty of potential as well, and the promise of early-enrollee southpaw Malik Zaire, ESPN's No. 6 signal-caller from the class of 2013, impressed the staff this spring.
On the other side of the ball, there are eight starters back from a unit that finished second nationally in scoring defense last season, with a secondary that is much more experienced and should give coordinator Bob Diaco some flexibility with the unit as a whole.
While at Cincinnati, Kelly once used five quarterbacks in a single season, which ended at the Orange Bowl. If anyone can handle the haymakers the position has been thrown, it's him.
Rees' 20 turnovers during an 8-5 campaign in 2011 soured him on many fans, but if he can be more judicious, and if the defense can put forth a comparable performance to last season's, there is no reason this team cannot go BCS bowling for a second consecutive year.
If it doesn't? Things may get complicated, but this is the last year Notre Dame will have to worry about a fallback plan.
Whether Golson returns and is back in form moving forward remains to be seen, but the program can feel the comfort of having a place at the table for the college football playoff from 2014 on, as the Irish will play five ACC teams each year and have much, much better bowl access.
No program is perfect, however picturesque Alabama might look from the outside.
Oregon? Hello, NCAA. TCU? Where do we even begin?
Notre Dame proved in 2012 that it is once again a big-boy program. Stuff happens to big-boy programs. That doesn't make the future any less bright for the Irish -- something they can't wait to prove come Week 1.
Dan Santivasci from Richland Hills, Texas writes: I am 54 years of age and have been a ND since I was 7. My question is two fold. Does ND have a good chance to be in the top 10 at the end of the upcoming season and did that player on defense really leave because of he wanted to be close to home? Thank you. Dan
Matt Fortuna: Dan, I think the Irish definitely have a shot to finish in the top-10 again this season, but the task becomes much more difficult without Everett Golson leading the offense. The schedule is tough, as always, and the margin for error once again becomes very thin. The Irish will have to mostly rely on their defense once again and need to protect the ball. They probably can't afford more than two losses if they want to finish in the top-10. As for your other question, regarding Eddie Vanderdoes, no one knows for sure, though there have been reports that a family health issue played a factor.
Michael Fry from Irsee, Germany writes: Hi Matt,First of all - your objective responses to wild 'fan' rants are great. The 'sugar on cereal', relating to Brian Kelly's son, was the best so far.Golson is gone - I get it and am at peace with it. Instead of speculating about what will happen at QB, I wanted to ask you what you think that most exciting aspect of Notre Dame will be this year.
Matt Fortuna: A reader in Germany? Wow. Anyhow, I think the most exciting aspect is once again the defense. Eight starters return from a unit that finished second nationally in scoring D last season, and the Irish are much deeper across the board this year as well. Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III are first-round draft picks in waiting, Prince Shembo continues to grow and the secondary finally has a surplus of bodies, something that couldn't be said a year ago. I also think just seeing how this program responds to enhanced expectations after a return to the nation's elite in 2012 is worth keeping an eye on. Notre Dame always has a target on its back, but this year is different, as it is coming off a 12-1 year and is expected to contend for BCS-bowl berths year-in and year-out.
Timothy from Palos Heights, Ill., writes: First of all, why does Coach Kellly make it seem like Golson will learn from the experience and earn his way back to Notre Dame, an elite institution when you could tell he passed on Rees after his problem. Also, why did Coach Kelly yell constantly at Rees when he made mistakes as a sophomore, but seemed so calm and friendly to Goslon; I am tired of hearing that Golson made Notre undefeated(no he needed Rees to save him along with a stellar defense); There is no doubt that Gunner Kiel, a truly elite freshman QB, was the better quarterback and was ND's future(not a good relationship with Martin and probably was never given a real shot at the starting job even though he is the much better player and student/athlete; How does Kelly let Kiel leave without any concern or knowledge of Golson's academic problems.
Matt Fortuna: Timothy, I think Kelly and the staff are being optimistic with Golson and would love for him to return. Golson has, by all accounts, said and done all the right things since the news broke. That being said, the program is smart enough not to spend too much time worrying about someone who isn't there, and the staff is not going to treat 2013 as a year to bide its time while Golson gets back on track for 2014. I think the Rees situation was different, as the job was wide open then and he severely hurt his chances in the legal department (not to mention the turnovers a year earlier). Different offenses — legal vs. academic — but Rees, after all, was suspended for one game, while Golson is gone for a season (at least). I can't explain why Kelly, or anyone, coaches certain players the way that they do, but all players are different and respond differently. And while you are right that Golson needed Rees and the defense to save him on a number of occasions last season, I'm not sure how you can be so convinced that Kiel was the better quarterback. Were you at closed practices every day? If Kiel was better and the future, why would the staff go to Golson? Kiel has yet to take a snap on the college level, has had obvious commitment issues and, if he were still around, probably would still be no better than third on the depth chart at this moment, though that could easily change. And Kelly is not the type to worry about those who aren't around, or don't want to be around. He used five quarterbacks in one season at Cincinnati and made a BCS bowl. He will work with what he has, and there are few better than him at doing just that, especially at the quarterback position.
Richard Catoire from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Golson + "Poor Academic Judgment" plus earning "trust back" can only mean he cheated...why didn't this get reported as such? Also, with a coach who publicly demeans his own son (knucklehead) to try to explain why an 18-21 year old does "crazy things" says it all. A Catholic University should be embarrassed by having either of these individuals at the school.
Matt Fortuna: Richard, it did not get reported as such because we report facts, and there is no official paperwork we have access to that states that Golson actually cheated. (Nor will there likely ever be any that we can get our hands on, given that Notre Dame is a private school.) As for the dreaded "K" word (I don't want to offend anyone) … rumor has it that Brian Kelly also let his son eat cereal with sugar the next morning, then let him watch reality television later that night. A true menace to society.
Cole Hodge from Gallatin, Tenn., writes: Hello Matt, I've been an Irish fan since birth, and I was looking forward to this season, for I saw a repeat in last season. My concerns with ND is not that Tommy Rees can't win games, for he has proven he can run the offense effectively, but I'm worried about the plays he won't make with hislegs if the O line crumbles against a team like Michigan or Stanford. Also, how i Brian Kelly re-tweeking the playbook for Rees? Is there reason to fear, or is our defense going to keep us light years away from losing anyway?
Matt Fortuna: Cole, as I've said before, you can be in much worse situations when losing the starting quarterback from a squad coming off a national title game appearance. Notre Dame is lucky to have a guy in Rees who has 18 career starts and knows his role well. He clearly doesn't have the athletic tools that Golson has, and he clearly can't afford to have a repeat showing of 2011 with his lack of ball protection, but if he can cut down on the turnovers and Notre Dame's defense can pick up from last year (which was a much better unit than the one from the 2011 team, which finished 8-5 despite the offensive gaffes), I see no reason the Irish can't still aim and compete for a BCS bowl berth this season. I think Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire will both likely see some time given the different dimensions each add -- and given Kelly's philosophy with the position -- but the Irish are fortunate to have a guy they know they can count on for Week 1 in a situation like this one.
Thomas O Kelly from Pasadena, Calif., writes: The gods are rightfully upset. And I'm glad that Golson is gone. It is no surprise to me as I have said/thought all along that Golson isn't smart enough to be at ND nor smart enough to run Coach Kelly's playbook. He is a much more of an ad lib guy than a "execute the playbook guy" , e.g. he can play the piano but can't read music. Coach Kelly has mad lousy decisions at QB training/use since he came to ND in 2010. He is a good coach overall but flawed seriously with his arrogant thinking at the QB position. I doubt that there is any other major college football program that does not have a real QB Position Coach other than ND (under Kelly). He has insisted on personally training the starting QB including eating supper regularly with Golson. In his playing days Kelly was on the defensive side of the ball at a small college in Massachusetts. What shows most of all Kelly's arrogant thinking at the QB position was his role in allowing Gunner Kiel, a truly elite freshman QB, to transfer to Cincinnati last month. I knew that ND would end up regretting that and it's come sooner than later. (See Tommy Tuberville.)One of the few bright spots out of this is that the departure of Golson should allow the very underplayed and underrated Andrew Hendrix plenty of time on the field. Hendrix is a solid QB and a pre-med honor student and deserves snaps. And I had been rooting for Gunner Kiel since he came to ND last year but Kelly and the OC would not give him the coaching and deference he deserved.Let Golson go to a junior college and I hope Kiel will be able to lead Cincinnati to a BCS game in 2014. As a transfer student, Kiel has to sit out 2013 but he'll be with an outstanding coaching staff that has won BCS games at other schools.
Matt Fortuna: Thomas, just so I've got it all covered here: Everett Golson isn't smart enough to run Brian Kelly's offense (after going to the national title game in his first year as a starter), Kelly was too close with Golson (after Golson and Chuck Martin bonded extremely well this past year), Kelly was arrogant with Gunner Kiel (a player who has committed to four different colleges before ever playing a college game) and Andrew Hendrix is the answer at quarterback (after seeing hardly any action through the past three years, including a 2011 campaign that was marred by sloppy QB play).
OK, so Kelly and his staff are awful. Got it.
- IrishIllustrated's Pete Sampson says that the Irish can't count on Everett Golson. Tim Prister says the defense remains good enough for the Irish to have a successful 2013 without Golson.
- Without Golson, Notre Dame again turns to Tommy Rees, Wes Morgan writes on BlueandGold.com.
- CSNChicago's JJ Stankevitz says that Rees now has a chance to re-write his legacy. He also looks at three burning questions from the fallout of Golson's departure.
- Sports on Earth's Matt Brown looks at what's next for the Irish.
- USA Today's Dan Wolken says there are clouds beyond Notre Dame's bright horizon.
- Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde says both Golson and Notre Dame suffer big losses through this.
- CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman says that the Golson news is the latest jolt for the Irish in 2013.
- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes says that Rees can excel under Brian Kelly's guidance.
- Gunner Kiel says "I'm a Bearcat."
So it turns out the decision by three Notre Dame players to transfer near the start of spring ball serves as the least notable headline in a Fighting Irish offseason that has brought one stunner after another.
From the flirtation of coach Brian Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles in the days after the title-game humiliation, to the tabloid-worthy Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax revelation, to quarterback Gunner Kiel and two sophomore receivers finding new homes, to the uncertainty surrounding prized recruit Eddie Vanderdoes, the Irish have had little to cheer about in 2013, though last year's success provided more than enough reason for optimism heading into the fall.
Now comes the news that Everett Golson is not enrolled in school, a Memorial Day weekend shocker that changes everything for these Irish.
Golson is not the first Notre Dame player to get in trouble in what are supposed to be the quiet days after the school year is over -- he's not even the first Notre Dame quarterback to do so, as former starter Tommy Rees was arrested last May, earning himself a one-game suspension.
But for a coach and program that found a leader to take the offense where Kelly and the Irish want it, this news is a potential backbreaker, pending Golson's eventual status with the school.
Golson took advantage of Rees' being relegated to a glorified graduate assistant last August, assuming control of the offense as a redshirt freshman and leading Notre Dame to its first perfect regular season in 24 years.
By all accounts, Golson had made even bigger strides in 2013, including his respectable title-game performance against an Alabama team that turned most of his teammates into shells of themselves.
Golson added weight, communicated more effectively on the field and off, and absorbed so much of the playbook that he had to be told to slow down by the end of this spring.
All along, he was seen as the key to a spread offense that Kelly wants to be quarterback-driven. And with upward of 39 college starts remaining in Golson's career, Notre Dame appeared to finally have its long-term answer at the game's most important position.
Now that position is a huge question mark moving forward, however cold Rees' veins proved to be when rescuing the Irish time and time again in 2012. Andrew Hendrix has two years of eligibility left, and lefty blue-chipper Malik Zaire enrolled this spring.
None was groomed to carry the load this fall the way Golson had been, on an offense that features two new starting linemen, is down its top two running backs from last year, and has no sure answer to replace record-setter Tyler Eifert at tight end.
Keep in mind, too, that this unit finished just 54th in total offense and tied for 78th in scoring offense during last year's memorable run.
This was supposed to be a quiet spring at Notre Dame. And, unlike last year's, for the most part it was. The summer months before camp were supposed to be about closing the gap with Alabama, discovering the nuances that create a championship team.
Much of that was because of Notre Dame's quarterback. Without him, all of it is now in question.
Jake Golic has an industrial design degree from Notre Dame and will be eligible to play for the Bearcats right away. The West Hartford, Conn., native appeared in five games during his Irish career. His brother, Mike Jr., was the team's starting right guard this past fall.
Jake Golic will join former Irish teammate Gunner Kiel at Cincinnati, which cannot comment on the move until Golic officially enrolls.
Golic later confirmed the move himself on Twitter.
Can't thank the ND family enough for all the love and support over the last 4 years at ND. You have made it a pleasure to be Irish!— Jake Golic (@JGolic88) May 21, 2013
With that being said, I am incredibly excited about the opportunity of attending the University of Cincinnati and being a #bearcat!— Jake Golic (@JGolic88) May 21, 2013
- Manti Te'o has inked a deal with the San Diego Chargers.
- Our Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert say that Notre Dame recruiting is trending up.
- The Cincinnati Enquirer's Tom Groeschen chats with Gunner Kiel, who says he didn't have the relationship he wanted with Chuck Martin.
- SI.com's Andy Staples has the Irish at No. 5 in his post-spring top 25.
Kiel has enrolled in school and begins classes May 6. He previously told ESPN's Joe Schad he planned to play for the Bearcats. Kiel must sit out the 2013 season because of NCAA transfer rules.
"We are very excited Gunner has decided to enroll at UC," coach Tommy Tuberville said in a statement. "He’s a great talent and an even better person. He comes from a great family with some strong quarterback lineage. Our quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw has developed an outstanding relationship with Gunner. We are looking forward to getting him here and seeing what the future holds."
Kiel passed for 2,517 yards and 27 touchdowns, and ran for almost 500 yards with 11 touchdowns in leading Columbus East to a 12-2 record and a berth in the state semifinals as a senior. He was named the 2011 Indiana Mr. Football by the Indianapolis Star.