As anyone paying attention to the Indiana football program in recent weeks can attest, Gunner Kiel â€˜reevaluating his commitmentâ€™ to the Hoosiers is hardly shocking news.
For a team struggling as much as Indiana, keeping the top-ranked high school quarterback in the recruiting fold is a pretty tall task. Per some local reports, Kiel is reopening his recruitment and will visit Notre Dame this weekend for their game against USC.
Needless to say, Kiel’s decommit is deflating.
As the consensus #1 quarterback prospect in the country, he was well outside the Hoosiersâ€™ traditional recruiting comfort zone and would have been the highest rated quarterback to commit to Indiana since Dave Schnell came to campus in 1986.
For a program that has been relatively successful at developing college quarterbacks in recent years (Antwaan Randle El, Kellen Lewis, Ben Chappell), Kiel looked like he could have been the crown jewel of that group, and likely would have been put in the position to lead the Hoosiers from the beginning.
There are plenty of potential reasons for Kiel reopening his recruitment, ranging from the intensity of the staff to his brother being on this yearâ€™s team, to the struggles of this yearâ€™s offensive line. Any way you want to slice it, Kiel would have struggled next year behind a mediocre offensive line and as a true freshman in the B1G.
For Kevin Wilson â€“ the man who has been charged with bringing this program back to a level of respectability that it hasnâ€™t seen for a decade â€“ this news brings an added level of complexity.
It was Wilson, after all, who Kiel mentioned as one of the bigger reasons why he committed in the first place.
Wilson served as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma for five years before taking the Indiana job, and during his tenure there, he oversaw a few very explosive offenses. Most significantly, he was the one who oversaw Sam Bradfordâ€™s development into the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
For Hoosier fans, a coach of Wilsonâ€™s pedigree and a commit of Kielâ€™s pedigree looked like an alignment of the stars that IU football is not used to seeing. Unfortunately, it is now looking like it may have been too good to be true.
Seeing where Wilson and his staff go from here on the recruiting trail and in handling the young players who make up the foundation of this team will be really interesting, particularly on offense. Indiana is already on the brink of bowl ineligibility, and seeing them give Tre Roberson a shot to start at some point before the end of the season wouldnâ€™t be surprising.
Giving Roberson some more playing time, and gauging his and Ed Wright-Bakerâ€™s development through the end of the year could give both the staff and the fan base a better idea whether the Hoosiersâ€™ quarterback of the future is on this roster.
This may sound strange to Hoosier fans, and many will probably disagree (perhaps vehemently), but I donâ€™t think this is necessarily as huge of a long term blow that some are making it out to be.
Hear me out.
Gunner Kiel was definitely a huge recruiting piece, and likely would have been the most talented offensive player on next yearâ€™s team. But without a line to block for him or a defense to stop the other team from scoring points, his impact would have likely been mitigated somewhat.
Add the fact that he would have been a true freshman in the B1G to the mix, and Iâ€™m even more skeptical that Kiel wouldâ€™ve made a huge instant impact (Yes, heâ€™s an early enrollee, but so was Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame in 2007. Clausen was ranked higher and was going to a more talented team than IU will be next year. He still disappointed as a true freshman).
If Kiel indeed decommits, the most significant impact he has on Indiana in the coming months will be on the recruiting trail. Even without Kiel, the Hoosiers are in the process of assembling a pretty strong class for their standards.
With signing day still more than three months away, IU boasts 10 three-star commits, according to Rivals.com. His presence in the 2012 recruiting class was a boon towards other recruiting efforts, but Wilson isnâ€™t likely to dwell on what Kielâ€™s loss does to his recruiting, and will continue to hit the trail hard.
He brought in 4 three-star commits last year in the short period of time after being hired (three of whom are currently seeing extensive playing time), and is likely to bring in five or six more players before signing day. Depending on what we see from Wright-Baker and Roberson over the next month or so, a quarterback may be among that group.
That brings me back to Sam Bradford. Bradford was a 3-star prospect coming out of high school, and boasted offers from only three schools other than Oklahoma: Iowa State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Despite that, Wilson developed him into the best quarterback in college football in two short years.
Kiel would have had a solid chance to excel in Wilsonâ€™s system a few seasons down the road, but right now the Hoosiers are still under construction and donâ€™t give Kiel his best chance to succeed.
Sometimes the timing just isnâ€™t right.
If Wilson is the coach that Fred Glass believes he is and the coach that he looked to be at Oklahoma, heâ€™ll get another chance at a top quarterback or develop one of his own and that quarterback will be in a position to excel. Right now, Gunner Kiel is the one that got away, but there are other fish in the sea.
Just ask Sam Bradford.