Sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel has been offered a taste, however brief, of nearly every tier of college football over the last 18 months. He's settled on one in the middle.
Kiel's string of shaky pledges is well-documented: to home-state struggler Indiana in July 2011, to 2011 national title runner-up LSU six months later, and, 24 days following his non-binding verbal agreement to play for the Tigers, to eventual 2012 national title runner-up Notre Dame, where he ultimately practiced for two semesters and one football season.
Cincinnati is Kiel's next and likely final stop, his arrival the first splash for first-year Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville.
"Cincinnati was the best fit for me because the relationship I have with (quarterbacks) coach (Darin) Hinshaw is like nothing else," Kiel told ESPN.com Wednesday. "He is a great overall person and is someone I know I can get coached by. The group of guys I'm going to be around is second to none. I love where they are heading and the future is bright."
Preceded 13 months ago by fellow five-star prospect Tee Shepard and followed this spring by wide receivers Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson, Kiel is one of four players from Notre Dame's 17-player, 2012 class to transfer.
Quick TriggersIn June 2011, Irisheyes.com began its off-season breakdown of Notre Dame's quarterback battle between Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, and including Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson with the following statement:
"One of these four will not finish his college career in South Bend."
Dayne Crist did not.
It was reiterated last summer on these pages concerning Rees, Hendrix, Golson, and Kiel, the latter moving on due largely to Golson's stranglehold on the position.
These aren't cold-hearted predictions, they're eventualities. As noted often on this site, no Notre Dame quarterback battle over the last 30 years containing more than two combatants ends without a transfer.
Make that 31.
A small sampling of that 17-player (and counting) transfer lot enjoyed future successes outside South Bend, and just one at a time when his former school endured struggles.
1989 Kent Graham: Behind Tony Rice and in Lou Holtz option offense, the strong-armed pro style passer left for Ohio State following Notre Dame's undefeated championship season in 1988. Graham found NFL employment for 11 seasons thereafter, making his biggest impact by leading the New York Giants to a home upset of then 12-0 Denver and John Elway, a Broncos team many felt could finish the season undefeated.
1991 Jake Kelchner: Beaten out by sophomore classmate Rick Mirer in a spring 1990 duel, Kelchner headed east for West Virginia and a program Notre Dame had defeated just two seasons prior for the national title. Notre Dame played in a de facto national championship game in Kelchner's season as Mirer's backup, losing 10-9 to Colorado. Mirer later led the Irish to Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl wins over #3 Florida in 1991 and #4, undefeated Texas A&M in '92 to conclude his career.
Kelchner put the Mountaineers back on the map in his fifth season of eligibility, 1993, finishing 11-0 in the regular season. They were ultimately denied a shot at the national title, passed over by a pair of one-loss teams, No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Nebraska.
"The biggest crime ever perpetuated on a college football team" according to Kelchner's head coach at the time, Don Nehlen, ended a month later with No. 9 Florida manhandling the third-ranked Mountaineers, 41-7 in the Sugar Bowl.
Notre Dame finished 11-1 and as the *national runner-up to Florida State under senior quarterback, Kevin McDougal.
(*Denotes you should know why there's an asterisk.)
1998 Zak Kustok: The most successful collegiate triggerman of the lot, Kustok was recruited by Lou Holtz, transferred after Bob Davie's initial season (the Irish finished 7-6) and in 2.5 seasons at Northwestern, became the program's record-holder single season and career rushing touchdowns, career rushing yardage, and consecutive pass attempts without an interception.
Notre Dame finished 19-16 in Kustok's seasons with the Wildcats (1999-2001).
2002 Matt LoVecchio: After guiding Notre Dame to a BCS Bowl berth in his rookie season of 2000, Lovecchio struggled mightily as a sophomore in '01 and was replaced in the season's first month by Carlisle Holiday. Lovecchio stayed a Hoosier, moving south to Bloomington where he finished his football career with Indiana.
2007 Zach Fraser: Locked in a battle and eventually placed behind freshman Jimmy Clausen and sophomore classmates Demetrius Jones and Evan Sharpley, Fraser transferred to Connecticut and became the only Notre Dame transfer to return to South Bend and beat Notre Dame in the House that Rockne Built, winning as the starter for the Huskies on Senior Day 2009, 33-30 in overtime.
Kiel joins Kelchner ('91) and Graham ('89) as the most highly touted of Notre Dame quarterbacks to leave the program. His predecessors both found success after their departures, but so did Notre Dame finishing a combined 43-6-1 during the duo's college careers spent elsewhere.