Gunner Kiel is keeping his options open at this point. After giving Cincinnati a hard look over the weekend, Kiel told Joe Schad of ESPN that there are many other schools in the running, including some that play in the SEC.
Some of the programs from the powerhouse conference that have already contacted him are Mississippi State and Ole Miss. According to the report, he also mentioned that Tennessee is an option this early in the process.
As for non-SEC schools, he has been contacted by Kansas State, and he considers Ball State, Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) as others that have piqued his interest.
Right now, Kiel is focusing mainly on the relationship he will have with the coaching staff, as he knows he will be forced to sit out the entire 2013 season due to NCAA rules.
"The biggest factor for me now going through it all again is having a great relationship with my position coach," said Kiel.
Schad reported that Kiel plans on making his decision toward the end of spring football, which means a big announcement could be made in a matter of weeks. A transfer isn't something that the former top recruit from the 2012 class wanted to happen, but he says he is only looking for the best opportunity to play the quarterback position in 2014.
"This is something you don't want to do," Kiel said. "But at the same time I'm doing what's in my best interest and to get on the field."
So where does he end up?
If he wants to play in the most competitive conference and seriously be considered a possible NFL player, looking in the direction of the SEC isn't a bad idea.
I wrote back in December that Tennessee would be the best fit for him, and knowing that the Volunteers are on his radar should make a lot of folks in Knoxville happy. Butch Jones is an offensive guy who is still searching for a reliable signal-caller to help bring some energy back to the program.
Truthfully, Kiel couldn't go wrong with any potential SEC school he is considering.
Tennessee is still an elite program that is just looking for that breakthrough year to turn things around. Ole Miss is the trendy school as of late and is loading up with talent on both sides of the ball. Mississippi State has been hanging around over the years and could be just one great quarterback away from taking that next step.
The SEC has gone from a defensive-minded conference to a conference that has produced quality signal-callers such as Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron. One of these schools could soon add Kiel to the list, providing an offense with a great boost and giving another team a fighting chance.