This is not a repeat. You are not experiencing déjà vu. It's just the next chapter in the ongoing saga that is the Courtship of Gunner Kiel: For the second time in three weeks, the most sought-after quarterback in the 2012 recruiting class has apparently juked his way out of one verbal commitment and into another.
This time, Kiel is ditching LSU for a last-second defection to Notre Dame, according to the Notre Dame Observer, which confirmed an afternoon of rampant speculation with a university staffer on Monday night. Kiel is expected to enroll in South Bend by the end of the week — possibly as soon as Tuesday, the first day of classes for the spring semester — putting him on pace to join a crowded depth chart in spring practice.
The recruiting rumor mill went into red-siren mode Monday when Kiel was nowhere to be found among LSU's crop of early enrollees, but at this rate, the plot remains subject to change at a moment's notice. In August, Kiel initially pledged his loyalty to Indiana, where his brother, Dusty, was a backup quarterback who wound up starting the Hoosiers' first two Big Ten games before being relegated to the bench by an ankle injury over the second half of the season. Gunner Kiel subsequently backed out of his commitment to IU in October, just after big bro left the lineup for good (as of last weekend, Dusty Kiel is no longer a Hoosier, either), and eventually settled on LSU instead on Dec. 27. If it's over — and there is every indication that it is — his stint as a Tiger lasted just 20 days.
At any rate, his fate won't remain secret for long: Kiel is down to just a few days to get into classes at Notre Dame, which will allow him to join sophomore Andrew Hendrix in the race to unseat incumbent starter Tommy Rees in spring practice. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Kiel already has the look of a first-round draft pick, and has already drawn explicit comparisons from scouts to the local NFL hero, Peyton Manning. With that kind of hype following him to whatever campus he finally strides onto, for his sake, I hope he's more decisive in the pocket than he is on his choice of schools.
UPDATE, 12:47 p.m. ET. Kiel officially enrolled as an early entrant at Notre Dame this morning, citing the university's proximity to his home in Columbus, Ind., as the main reason for his last-minute switch.
"This recruitment process was a roller-coaster ride at times, but I know I have made the right decision for my family and me," Kiel said in a statement released by Notre Dame. "There were three critical elements I was looking for in my future school: The quality of education I would receive, the distance from home and the comfort level I would have with the players and coaches in the football program. Notre Dame was the perfect fit for me because it hit all three areas."
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