Notre Dame Football: Don't Rule Out Gunner Kiel This Year

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IMay 20, 2012

The starting quarterback battle at Notre Dame has seemingly evolved into a two-man race, but it would be silly for anyone to believe that.

Has the fan base forgotten that Brian Kelly successfully lured in the nation's top-ranked prep quarterback, Gunner Kiel, in the 2012 class? Those five stars adorned next to his name automatically push Kiel into the conversation for starting duties this season.

If you disagree that Kiel's 5-star status is irrelevant, just remember that the last quarterback to earn 5-star distinction from was Matt Barkley, the current starting quarterback for the University of Southern California. Barkley was immediately handed the reigns, and has been one of, if not the best, quarterbacks in the country since.

Kiel may not be given the same luxury as Barkley, but to assume that the Columbus, Indiana native will redshirt his freshman season is asinine.

What plays in Kiel's favor is that Brian Kelly has made it a fact that neither Andrew Hendrix nor Everett Golson have mastered Kelly's spread offense, putting the three quarterbacks on an even playing field. If you're asking me, talent will be the determining factor in Kelly's decision.

Yes, Everett Golson has been the fan favorite since he enrolled at Notre Dame in January of 2011. Yes, yours truly has been a staunch supporter of the "Golson for starter" campaign. But something tells me Brian Kelly is on the verge of fully investing his faith in Kiel.

Why else would Kelly have played Kiel for the entire second half of the spring game? The starters in that game were not an indication of the pecking order. Each quarterback came into the game in order of seniority. One would assume that Kelly gave the most playing time in that game to the most capable of the bunch.

I may be reading too much into a glorified scrimmage, but Kelly leaving Kiel in for an entire half may just be a hint that Kiel's time in the spotlight may be coming sooner than expected.

After all, Kiel could have remained committed to LSU, a team widely expected to be the nation's top-ranked team when preseason polls are released to the masses. However, he chose to attend Notre Dame. One has to believe that immediate playing time was a pitch used by Kelly to sway Kiel.

The most intriguing storyline of Kiel's choice to attend Notre Dame is the proverbial crossroads that it has presented to Brian Kelly. Does the third-year head coach employ a two-quarterback system with Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson? Or does he allow for the Kiel era to get a head start?

Starting Kiel is a tempting choice, but it would require a significant leap of faith by Kelly. He has already been to hell and back during the Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees saga, making Kelly's selection of his next starting quarterback such a pressure cooker.

The fans shouldn't blame him if he does pick Kiel, though. Five-star quarterbacks don't just roll around every day.

And at the end of the day, Kiel came to Notre Dame to be the next Fighting Irish starting quarterback.

It'd be a shame if Brian Kelly let the 6'4", 220-pound star keep the bench warm this fall.