Top recruit Gunner Kiel denies BCS powers, commits to Indiana
Columbus (Ind.) East five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel woke up Wednesday morning and potentially changed the future of Indiana football. The nation's top-ranked passer announced he would commit to head coach Kevin Wilson and the Indiana Hoosiers on an afternoon visit to the nearby Bloomington campus.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Kiel chose Indiana over his other finalist Alabama, and a slew of offers from many of the nation's top programs including Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee and USC.
"It was just the best fit for me," Kiel said a few hours before making his decision on a trip to Indiana with his parents. "I woke up having that gut feeling and felt really good about it and my parents were excited about it too."
As a junior, Kiel threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for another 600 yards and eight scores. Ranked by 247Sports as the nation's 10th overall prospect, he plans to graduate from high school a semester early to enroll on campus in January, just days after he caps his prep career as an Under Armour All-American.
He will join his brother Dusty, a current redshirt sophomore quarterback, at Indiana. The older Kiel is the favorite to win the Hoosiers' starting quarterback job this fall.
"The thing that kind of stood out to me the most about Indiana is I have family over there," Kiel said. "Having a brother playing the same position as me, at first I thought that was a negative but I realized it's such a positive. Nobody is going to have my back more than him. He's going to help me go over the playbook and I'll probably learn it a lot quicker with him helping me."
Kiel is the most high-profile prospect to commit to Indiana since Elkhart (Ind.) Central quarterback Dave Schnell did so back in 1985. Once labeled the nation's top recruit by Sports Illustrated, Schnell spurned offers from Miami, Penn State, Michigan, among others, to play for the Hoosiers. He went on to lead the program to three consecutive bowl berths and its only win at Ohio State in the last 50 years.
Expectations will be the same -- if not higher -- for Kiel. He's ready for it.
"Everyone is going to expect a lot because I'm a high-ranked player, but I'm just going to go there and try my best," he said. "I think Indiana has all the intangibles to be great."
He also wants to help remake the school's hoops centric reputation.
"Whenever people think of Indiana, they think of basketball," he said. "I want people to start thinking about Indiana football. I want to go in with my brother and change things."
Kiel is the 13th commit in Indiana's class of 2012, as Wilson and his staff continue to impress. In less than a full year on the job, they've accomplished something previous Indiana coaches haven't: Get the state's top prospects to play in Bloomington. Prior to Kiel's pledge, Wilson locked up commitments from Kevin Davis, the state's top linebacker, and Jordan Wallace, the state's top receiver.
His track record has a lot to do with it. Wilson mentored players including Zac Kustok, a Unitas Award finalist at Northwestern, and Sam Bradford, the former Heisman Trophy winner and current starter for the St. Louis Rams. From Kiel's perspective, it was simply another reason to believe in his tutelage.
"It's definitely special seeing his background and all the guys he's coached," said Kiel. "It's special to have a chance to be part of that."
One thing's for certain. Kiel's commitment has solidified Jul. 27 as a very special day for Indiana football.