Columbus (Ind.) East five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel woke up on Wednesday morning and potentially changed the future of Indiana football.
Kiel said getting to chance to join his brother Dusty at Indiana was his biggest reason in joining the Hoosiers.
The nation’s top-ranked passer exclusively told 247Sports on Wednesday morning that he would be committing to head coach Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers on an afternoon visit to the nearby Bloomington campus.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Kiel chose Indiana over his other finalist Alabama, and a slew of other offers from many of the nation’s top programs including Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee and USC.
“It was just the best fit for me,” Kiel told 247Sports a couple hours before making the trip to Indiana with his parents. “I woke up having that gut feeling and felt really good about it and my parents were excited about it too.
“I’m really excited I’m committing to Indiana and I’m ready to get things started, and I’m really glad that it’s over so I can enjoy my senior year and know that I’m going to go somewhere.”
As a junior, Kiel threw for roughly 2,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for another 600 yards and eight more scores. Ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 10 prospect overall, Kiel plans to graduate from high school a semester early and enroll at Indiana in January, just days after he caps his prep career as an Under Armour All-American.
Kiel will join his brother Dusty who is a red-shirt sophomore quarterback at Indiana. The older Kiel is the favorite to win the starting quarterback job for the Hoosiers this fall.
“The thing that kind of stood out to me the most about Indiana is I have family over there,” Kiel began. “Having a brother playing the same position as me, at first I thought that was a negative but then I realized it’s such a positive. Nobody is going to have my back more than him. He’s going to help me go over the playbook and I’ll probably learn it a lot quicker with him helping me. I already know half the guys on the team so that will be a big help too.”
Kiel is the most high-profile prospect to commit to Indiana since Elkhart (Ind.) Central quarterback Dave Schnell did back in 1985. Named the nation’s top recruit by Sports Illustrated, Schnell spurned offers from the likes of Miami, Penn State, Michigan and many others to play for the Hoosiers. He went on to lead the program to three-straight bowl games and the school’s only win at Ohio State in the last 50 years.
An Under Armour All-American, Kiel will graduate early and enroll in January at Indiana.
Expectations will be the same if not higher for Kiel, and he’s ready for it.
“Everyone is going to expect a lot because I’m a high-ranked player, but I’m just going to go there and try my best,” Kiel said. “It doesn’t take one guy, it takes a team and I think Indiana is going to have a great team with Coach Wilson as its head coach. I think Indiana has all the intangibles to be great.
“I want to go in and help change Indiana’s program. Whenever people think of Indiana, they think of basketball. I want people to start thinking about Indiana football and what they did. I want to go in with my brother and change things. I think he’ll do that before I get a chance to. I think they have a really good team and the right guys on the team to win this year.”
Kiel is the 13th commit for Indiana in the class of 2012, as Wilson and his staff continue to make waves on the recruiting trail in the less than one-year time they’ve been on the job. Wilson and company have done something previous Indiana coaches weren’t able to do. Get the state’s top prospects to play in Bloomington. Prior to Kiel’s pledge, Wilson locked up commits from the state’s top receiver and state’s top linebacker in Kevin Davis and Jordan Wallace of Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central.
Wilson’s track record has a lot to do with it. From Kiel’s point of view, he saw players including former Northwestern quarterback Zac Kustok who was Unitas Award Finalist, and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford as quarterbacks who flourished while working under Wilson’s tutelage.
“It’s definitely special seeing his background and seeing all the guys he’s coached, and it’s special to have a chance to be part of that,” Kiel said.
One thing’s for sure, Kiel’s commitment has definitely made it a special day for Indiana football.