LSU offered Gunner Kiel last February, just after Signing Day, and by the time this year's National Signing Day rolls around, Scout.com's top-ranked quarterback will already be on campus, as he will enroll early at the Baton Rouge school.
Kiel, a 6-foot-4, 200-lb senior from Columbus East High School (Columbus, Ind.), chose the Tigers on Tuesday over Notre Dame, USC and Vanderbilt, although he held offers from nearly every major program in America. Over the summer, he verbally committed to Indiana but re-opened his recruitment in October.
Coming from a family of quarterbacks, Kiel has demonstrated his polish, intelligence, consistency and all-around feel for the position, and that's largely what makes him special. This is not a kid who picked things up late or was forced to play quarterback because he was his team's best athlete. He was born to be a signal caller.
"Ever since I was a little kid, that was my position," he said. "I love playing quarterback. I love the competitiveness of it. I grew up around it a lot. My uncle was a big-time quarterback. My dad played a little, and my other uncle played quarterback. It just kind of grew on me, and Drew and Dusty helped me a lot. From working out, going through footwork, throwing motion and all that, I learned a lot from them."
Scout.com's director of scouting, Scott Kennedy, has seen Kiel several times over the past two years and says he compares favorably to the last few quarterbacks who have topped the rankings.
"When comparing Gunner to the last few number one quarterbacks, I think he is the best pure thrower we've had in several years. The last couple of seasons has seen athletic quarterbacks at the top of the heap, including Jeff Driskel and Braxton Miller in 2011. He's got a stronger arm and better frame than Jake Heaps, who was No. 1 in 2010. If I go back a little farther, I don't think he's quite in the same league as Matt Barkley ('09) or Matthew Stafford ('06)."
His skill set may be special, but even more of a rarity has been Kiel's attitude and his approach to recruiting. In a time where recruits revel in their celebrity status and Tweet and Facebook with fans, sometimes with questionable results, this is one prospect who has abstained from that.
Past No. 1 quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen have arrived to their announcements in stretch hummers. Terrelle Pryor took his decision past Signing Day and announced on national television. Kiel has done very few interviews and throughout his senior season, regularly put the focus on his team, a team he took to the state semifinals.
Columbus East head coach Bob Gaddis coached both of Kiel's brothers and Gunner has been with him on the varsity team since his freshman season, so he has seen his growth and believes the Tigers have a player with the attributes to step in early if necessary.
"He's very accurate," Gaddis said. "Being accurate throwing the ball down the field is one of his fortes. I think what he'll need to get much better at is checking the ball down and throwing that intermediate pass, which we've not done as much in high school. The fact he's got the mechanics, the arm strength, those kind of things, I think he's going to be able to come in and compete. In my opinion, I think he'll go in and be physically able to handle it."
And for reasons like that, Kennedy believes Kiel will bring new dimensions to the Tigers' offense.
"LSU hasn't always asked its quarterbacks to make plays throwing the ball. They've had excellent game managers who make throws when they have to and have good mobility from Matt Flynn to Jordan Jefferson, but they haven't had anyone who can stretch the field like Gunner can. LSU has always had play-making wide receivers, and having Gunner at the helm will not only enable them to get the ball down field more, it should also loosen up the defense and make their already terrific running game even more effective."