You're Gunner Kiel, the number one quarterback in the nation a year ago, and you're spending your freshman season sitting on the bench, watching Everett Golson slowly come into his own as the Notre Dame starting quarterback. You're also seeing Brian Kelly wrangle one of the more interesting quarterback prospects in the 2013 class, Malik Zaire, away from Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
So, now what do you do if you're Kiel?
For now, the answer has got to be stand pat. Sure, Zaire is supposed to be a dynamic ball player. Sure, Everett Golson is growing a true hold on the position as we saw him put the Irish in position to win Saturday. But, what you also know is your head coach, Brian Kelly.
Kelly is a guy that likes to have more than one quarterback ready to go. Kelly is also a guy that is going to open up the competition once spring rolls around again. If you're Gunner Kiel, that competition is your opportunity to shine.
Last year, Kiel was overmatched. He was battling three guys who had been exposed to the offense. Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix had seen game minutes and had a solid working knowledge of the scheme. Golson had a working knowledge of the scheme and he was turning that into functional knowledge, which he did in fall by winning the job.
This spring? Kiel will be in the exact same position that Golson was in: understanding the offense in theory but needing the reps to make things go. And, if Kiel uses this season and the pre-spring period to focus his skills, then Notre Dame could be looking at a two-horse race at the quarterback spot. In other words, Kiel with a solid understanding, given his physical tools, could push past Rees and Hendrix to be Golson's big challenger for the job.
The potential to be sitting in the back up spot in 2013 should be enough to make staying the clear, easy decision. Back up means more reps in practice, more time to get into the game and ultimately more building towards that starting spot that Kiel is pursuing.
Leaving shouldn't be on the table just yet. Fight it out a couple springs, see what happens. It's football and those who fight and are good enough ultimately rise to the top. Plus, given the way Golson's missed time for mistakes and injuries, if Kiel's the bac up he'd be seeing field time. Don't expect to see the freshman cut bait just yet. This spring in South Bend should see an interesting quarterback battle.