Still smarting from a BCS Championship blowout at the hands of Alabama, LSU fans were in the market for a little good news Wednesday, and they certainly didn't get it from the recruitniks: Rivals rated the Tigers' latest signing class 17th nationally, far below their usual perch in the top 10, in large part due to the absence of a single signature from any of the top four prospects in Louisiana. Fortunately, coach Les Miles showed up to the annual "Bayou Bash" Wednesday night armed with a little red meat at the expense of a certain out-of-stater: Gunner Kiel, the former crown jewel of the 2012 class.
Kiel, of course, is the coveted, five-star slinger from Columbus, Ind., who was briefly committed to LSU before his eleventh-hour defection to Notre Dame last month. Barely two weeks later, the kid is such a pariah in Baton Rouge that Miles basically challenged Kiel's manhood to a chorus of lusty cheers.
"We needed a quarterback," Miles told the crowd. "We lost two. We needed a quarterback in this class. There was a gentleman from Indiana that thought about coming to the Bayou State. He did not necessarily have the chest and the ability to lead a program, so you know."
That unprovoked public attack by a grown man on the character of an 18-year-old prompted the obligatory outburst from the partisans — although, to be fair, not as loud as the cheer for the quarterback the Tigers did sign, 6-foot-3, 270-pound Jeremy Liggins of Oxford, Miss., who mustered the chutzpah (or "the chest," in Miles' lingo) to gather a standing-room-only audience in a restaurant bordering Ole Miss' campus Monday night for the express purpose of picking up an LSU helmet and telling the hometown crowd "Go Tigers baby." No questions about the chest on that kid, although (unlike Kiel) no one realistically expects Liggins to compete for the starting job right away as raw passer with a relatively middling three-star grade from scouts. How do you measure a three-star chest against a five-star arm? And are we still willing to trust the man who refused to pull an obviously overmatched Jordan Jefferson from the flaming wreckage of the BCS title game really the best judge of either?
Meanwhile, back in South Bend, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly sounded like he was sizing up his most prized addition — arm, chest and all — as a potential starter this fall. From the Chicago Tribune:
"I don't think we set the bar different for Gunner Kiel than we do for any of our other freshmen as it relates to competing," Kelly said Wednesday. "If you think you're going to get a free year, you need to go somewhere else. Come to Notre Dame if you want to compete."
Kelly expects Kiel's comfort with a spread offense to help, saying Kiel is "confident that he could come in and run our offense."
Well, at least someone is: After the Irish finished 118th in turnover margin and failing to top 16 points in any of their last three games, Irish fans don't seem so certain about incumbent Tommy Rees. They'll find out soon enough whether Miles is right about Kiel, or whether he just wants to be.
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