When Notre Dame landed 5-star quarterback Gunner Kiel, the Irish fan base let out a collective sigh of relief. At at a towering 6'4" and 220 pounds, Kiel was going to be the white knight of Brian Kelly's offense, leading the Irish out of an unprecedented stretch of mediocrity.
Kiel's journey to South Bend was arduous. He initially committed to Indiana University, then LSU, where, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times, he failed to show up for early enrollment that January and switched one final time to the Irish.
This did not sit well with Tigers head coach Les Miles. According to Steve Megargee of Rivals.com, the miffed coach told a booster group that he "did not necessarily have the chest and the ability to lead a program," without mentioning Kiel by name.
Even Kiel acknowledged his indecisiveness, admitting to Lazerus that he had been "dumb" during recruiting and couldn't make up his mind about which team to commit to.
All of that was supposed to be behind the Columbus, Indiana native when he enrolled at Notre Dame, the heir apparent to the quarterback position, which at that time was occupied by a struggling Tommy Rees.
But a little talked about 3-star recruit named Everett Golson, just a year ahead of Kiel, was to change the course of history when he helmed the Irish through their most memorable season in a generation. Winning all 12 of their regular season games, the Fighting Irish went on to the BCS National Championship and Golson cemented his reputation as dynamic quarterback.
With all of his success last season, there is little debate that Golson will continue in the starting position this fall.
So what exactly happened to Kiel?
The simple answer is Golson. Like Jeremy Irons famous quote about success in the film Margin Call, "Be first, be smarter, or cheat"—and Golson came first. The second option for Kiel is to be smarter —and Golson does have some room for improvement— but dethroning the incumbent quarterback will be an uphill battle for Kiel that will also require a regression on Golson's part.
Should Golson continue to improve, Kiel will be in his final year of eligibility before he would inherit the starting position.
"I think about it a little bit," he said to Lazerus about the situation. "But at the same time, I'm happy where I'm at, and I'm more than happy to be with this team and to be in the national championship. Just to get the privilege to be here, it's second to none."
This has lead many to speculate that Kiel will transfer, although when asked if he had any intentions to do so by Lazerus he said "not at the moment." Others feel Kiel will stick around next season, resulting in a potential quarterback controversy. Golson, for his part, expressed ambivalence about the situation.
"I think Gunner has the same spirit that I do, of being a competitor," he said to Lazerus. "I think the guy that I am, I'm not going to have animosity toward Gunner just because he's competing for the spot. I want to help out the next man just as much as I could."
"Gonna need Cat Fish for this one #Nev #HelpUs"
The tweet was quickly deleted from his account, but no doubt drew the ire of a few of his teammates.
Whatever his plans are for the future, Kiel will need to to remain in top form this fall if he hopes to attract the attention of Brian Kelly or other head coaches. With Golson ahead of him and 4-star QB recruit Malik Zaire just a year behind him, Kiel will have to channel a level of skill that has thus far eluded him as he begins his first year of eligibility this fall.
*All statistics and star rankings, unless otherwise noted, are referenced from Rivals.com