Gunner Kiel says he believes in IU

Gunner Kiel woke up Wednesday morning and decided it was time.

The Columbus East quarterback had the opportunity to go to any school he wanted to. Ranked the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country by several outlets, he had scholarship offers from just about every powerhouse in college football, including Alabama, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame.

But instead, Kiel decided he wanted to stay close to home and play with his older brother Dusty, a redshirt sophomore quarterback at Indiana. He took a visit to Indiana on Wednesday and told new coach Kevin Wilson that he was verbally committing to be a Hoosier.  It was considered by several recruiting analysts to be a historic recruiting upset for the long-suffering Hoosiers, and it gives Wilson a landmark victory more than a month before his first game as head coach.

“I kind of had the decision made before,” Kiel said on Wednesday evening. “I just wanted to kind of keep it low key and let it play out. Whenever I woke up, I just thought, ‘This feels good.’ I felt extremely good about my situation. And I just thought, ‘I’m ready to commit right now.”

He said he went to Memorial Stadium to watch workouts and to meet with Wilson and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, who had taken the lead on his recruiting.

“Coach Wilson couldn’t really believe it,” Kiel said. “But he stayed composed. He told me he was really happy and ready to get things going. He told me what he expected from me, stuff that he told me before. Coach Smith gave me a big hug and told me I made his day.”

That was true for so many reasons. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has been high on the radars of recruiting services throughout his high school career. As a junior last season, he threw for 2,645 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for eight touchdowns.

“He makes great decisions,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting analyst for Scout.com “He’s really good at reading defenses. He’s going to come in ahead of where most high school kids come in at the mental side of the game. Throw in the fact that he’s 6-3, 6-4 with a cannon for an arm and that he moves well, he really has the whole package.”

And because he has the whole package, recruiting analysts were stunned that he’d want to pass up an opportunity to play for the superpowers that were recruiting him. Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Southern California — who rank 1, 2,3 and 4 respectively in national championships since 1936, the beginning the poll era —  all offered him scholarships and were recruiting him heavily, especially Alabama and Oklahoma. Indiana, meanwhile, has been to one bowl game since 1993.

But that was actually part of the draw — the opportunity to play for an underdog and help turn around the state school.

“All the players on their team have a chip on their shoulder,” Kiel said. “They hate what people say about them. As an Indiana kid, I feel their pain. I see them have a chip on their shoulder and how much they hate it and that made me want to join the team.”

He was also impressed by Wilson and his history of helping to develop quarterbacks. While Wilson was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, he worked with Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and was the No. 1 draft pick in the NFL in 2010.

“It was really a key thing for me,” Kiel said. “All the great names he produced. It made me fired up. I saw that and I thought I could be one of those quarterbacks.”

Of course, staying close to family was also important to him. For all the positives the power programs had to offer, they couldn’t offer him the chance to play 45 minutes from home and study under his brother Dusty, who is fighting for the starting quarterback job this season with Edward Wright-Baker.

“Having family there is definitely huge,” Kiel said. “We’re really close and we’re there for each other. What better opportunity than to play with my best friend especially, my brother. I think he was more excited than I was.”

Kiel was asked if it was a deterrent that he might have to compete with his brother and might eventually unseat him. He said he had thought about it, but realized he would have to face some kind of competition anywhere he went.

“It might be hard to compete against him, but at the end of the day I think it’s going to be a plus,” Kiel said. “He’s going to be able to teach me the playbook faster than anybody, and he’s going to have my back no matter what.”

Kiel admitted it was difficult to turn his back on all the bigger name schools that were courting him, but he said he was able to do it because he believes the Hoosiers would soon be winning at a similar clip.

“They’re not really known for winning football games now,” Kiel said. “But they will, and I believe in them.”

Kiel is the 14th player to verbally commit to Indiana for the Class of 2012. He can’t sign a letter of intent until Februrary, but he does plan to enroll in January so he can take part in spring practice.

18 comments

  1. Unbelievable day for the Hoosiers. I think we knew this day woud come when Coach Wilson was hired…just did not know it would come this soon.

  2. Can I be the first to say how absolutely insane this is? (…and I mean that in a good way) The collective CFB opinion braintrust is at this moment almost incapable of wrapping their head around this turn of events. Kudos to Coach Wilson & Coach Smith. Things just keep getting mor and more interesting on 17th Street.

  3. did I die and go to heaven? this kid is wise beyond his years…he sees the big picture, cares about his home state and and is willing to buck the odds to represent it. not to mention, his family relationships are obviously rock solid. Damn people…we won the lottery today.

  4. so am I doin the math right here, when Dusty is a senior Gunner will be knockin him out of his starting position???

  5. I love the “chip on the shoulder” comment, and it means so much more coming from an Indiana kid. That says a lot about his personality and the effort he’s going to give these next coming years.

  6. DJ, Dusty will be a RS Junior when Gunner comes to tryout for the starting job. So you are kinda right.

  7. Wonder what’s going through Tre Robertson’s mind? Wonder if he’s already contemplating a position shift? Or if he’s really fired up for the competition down the road?

  8. What a great get and what great quotes from the kid. I love everything he’s saying and think he’s going to be a huge addition to the Hoosiers. With the great receivers IU has had over the years and continues to bring in and develop, he’ll be able to do whatever he wants on the field if our O-line protects him. Let’s do this! I love the fact that I won’t just use IU football as a buffer before basketball season! Keep it up Coach Wilson and kudos to Gunner for making a tough decision and staying in state!

  9. If you read the article about Gunner on Peegs, it sounds like Dusty deserves all of the credit in the world for this. Big time move which shows his commitment to the program.

  10. Having seen Tre Robertson in the state finals I hope he stays at IU. I truly think he may be a better tailback than he was a quarterback. He has an awful lot of running talent that reminds me of Marcus Allen at USC. MA, too, was a hs qb that became a better tailback. I hope Coach Wilson is of the same opinion and convinces TR of the opportunity. Nonetheless, it is a nice problem for IU to have… that being the possibility of losing one good QB because IU got one great QB.

  11. Awesome pickup. I’m always a pretty even Kiel guy, though, so while this is super fantastic I want to withold getting too high because it has nothing to do with on the field this year and this year has to be our immediate focus with the season coming around in a month.

    One of the best things about his commit? We dont have to worry about him bailing on IU in December when we have 4 wins. The future is bright. This season will not be IMO.

  12. IndyHoosier….IU was close to winning several games last year and simply couldn’t get over the hump and close out the game. While talent is absolutely necessary coaching talent is a huge part of it. Quite frankly, that has been the major flaw with IU over the years, ever since Bill Mallory was forced out. While I don’t like “moral” victories any more than the next guy I will see it as a big step forward if IU is more competitive this season. IU has to start somewhere. The problem didn’t develop over night and it isn’t going to be corrected over night. If Hep had been around longer we’d be in a great spot right now. Too many poor decisions with long ranging consequences has been IUs history in the past. Patience is a virtue.

  13. MarkMe, I think that’s a good call. Quite often the high school quarterback is simply the best athlete on the team, if he also has the smarts to play QB. This is especially true in a running scheme. I would not be surprised to see Dusty converting to a different position, if his little bro’ is everything we hope. Dusty will know this better than anyone. My oldest used to change weight classes (in wrestling) or bump up an age group (in martial arts) so he would not have to compete against little brother (18 months apart), so they could both have a shot at winning. It’s what brothers often do.
    I think we will do better this year and I think the biggest difference will have little to do with schemes or talent. Coach Wilson just brings in an in-your-face toughness that has been completely lacking. We were the worst second half team in America under Coach Lynch. When it got to be crunch time we fell apart. I just think we are going to see a tougher, meaner brand of football. I’m ready to see a linebacker stand over the guy he just smashed and glare at him like he’s gonna smack him if he gets up, instead of hopping around like a 13-year-old girl because he actually made a tackle, albeit 10 yards downfield. That always made me crazy. I remember seeing one of our guys hopping around, celebrating a big hit IN THE END ZONE! When I start seeing a tough attitude on defense I think we will start seeing wins.

  14. This is a big commitment for us and I have every faith the current coaching staff will maximize its value. I agree with Chet’s analysis and would add that the primary reason we could not finish games was inadequate strength and conditioning. Our guys, who admittedly were not as talented as their B10 competition, just ran out of gas about midway Q3 in most of our games…sometimes earlier. Coach Wilson is emphasizing this facet and I think we’ll see IU fighting all the way through Q4 and we should see fewer injuries.

  15. Growing up in a neighborhood where all my friends had brothers, I believe Gunner and Dusty will have a fierce competition for the starting spot, but not until Gunner’s sophmore year. I think the brothers will embrace that and flourish as a result. But its unlikely that Gunner is going to come in and replace his older brother, or any other QB with a year of starting experience, as a freshman, even though it appears he’ll participate in Spring football after graduating HS early. Dusty will have a full year of experience in Wilson’s system and three year’s of maturity over Gunner. That’s significant, especially in what I believe will be a complex offense. Gunner obviously has all the tools to be a great QB, but going from HS to a D-1 program requires significant time to master the mental demands of the position.

    In addition, throwing Gunner into the starting job too early, especially if the O-line can’t protect him, could be ruinous to a young man’s confidence and/or physical health. I trust Wilson to manage his young star’s development properly and with great care. Besides, if memory serves me, Dusty Kiel is no slouch at QB and three years of college coaching and develoment makes a big difference.

    2013 should be very interesting!

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