SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Prized quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel is joining Notre Dame.
Coach Brian Kelly announced Kiel's decision Tuesday, marking one of the most significant recruits he has landed in his two-plus years on the job at Notre Dame. Kiel last year said he would go to Indiana, where his brother was among the quarterbacks, and he later expressed interest in LSU.
Instead, he could be in the mix as Kelly decides on a starting quarterback. Already on campus are junior Tommy Rees, who took over after the first half of a stunning season-opening loss to South Florida and started the next 12 games; junior Andrew Hendrix, who showed promise as a change-of-pace runner and passer in Kelly's spread offense; or untested and talented Everett Golson, who did not play last year as a freshman. Dayne Crist has transferred to Kansas.
Kiel was rated by many scouting services as the top recruit in the nation. Last year at Columbus (Ind.) High School, he passed for 2,517 yards and 28 touchdowns, and rushed for 482 yards and 11 scores. He passed for 7,175 yards in his high school career. According to Maxpreps, Kiel is the nation's No. 2 recruit and top quarterback.
"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 provided by the school. "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."
CBSSports.com notes that Kiel's commitment gives Notre Dame help at a position in which it's sorely needed. It also takes away some of the sting of losing Ron Darby (uncommitted) and Taylor Decker (Ohio State) in recent days.
Notre Dame also confirmed the arrival of running back Amir Carlisle, who played for USC last season, as well as defensive lineman Sheldon Day (Indianapolis) and defensive back Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif.), who like Kiel graduated from high school last December.
Carlisle played in eight games for the Trojans last season, finishing with 19 carries for 118 yards and seven catches for 41 yards with a touchdown. He will have to sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules but will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Kelly has posted consecutive 8-5 seasons that both ended with a bowl appearance. He recently received a two-year contract extension which will keep him with the Fighting Irish through the 2016 season.
Notre Dame's 2012 schedule will be more challenging than Kelly's first two. After opening in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy, the schedule includes Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Southern California and Stanford. There are also matchups against BYU, Oklahoma, Miami, Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest.
Kelly received good news last month when two other players who might have bolted for the NFL decided to return to South Bend for another season: linebacker and leading tackler Manti Te'o and talented tight end Tyler Eifert.