After sitting out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, the time for Gunner Kiel to rise as the star of the Cincinnati Bearcats is finally here.
A highly touted recruit in his high school days, when he was ranked as the top quarterback in the nation by Rivals, Kiel originally committed to and attended Notre Dame. But after being buried on the depth chart, he transferred to the Bearcats.
Now, Kiel is poised to be a leader for a Cincinnati team that is trying to be relevant on a national stage after going 9-4 in Tommy Tuberville's first season at the helm.
In 2009 and 2010, the Bearcats were among the elite teams in the nation, earning back-to-back BCS bowl bids. In 2009, they lost the Orange Bowl to Virginia Tech 20-7. A year later, Florida beat Cincy 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl.
Since then though, the Bearcats have appeared in the Belk Bowl twice, as well as the Liberty Bowl. Those certainly aren't near the level of BCS bowls.
But Kiel could very well be the man to get Cincinnati back to an elite status.
Although Cincinnati finished 18th in the nation in passing yards, Kiel is almost surely an upgrade from quarterback Brendon Kay, who was the team's main signal-caller this past year. While Kay passed for over 3,300 yards, he also threw 12 interceptions and failed to show up in big games.
In Kay's final two games against Louisville and North Carolina, he threw no touchdowns and three interceptions. Against the Tar Heels, arguably Kay's worst game of the year, he completed fewer than 45 percent of his passes and recorded just 181 yards through the air.
The Bearcats desperately need a playmaker at that position, and Kiel can be the answer there.
Kiel, who played in the Army All-American Game and was an Elite 11 QB along with the likes of Jameis Winston, has a tremendous arm with deadly accuracy. He also can throw on the run very well, which will play into Tuberville's spread offense.
The former top recruit-turned-transfer has the potential to be a playmaker. He brings star power to a team that is trying to get back to elite status. And Tuberville is a genius with molding quarterbacks (see Seth Doege at Texas Tech, Jason Campbell at Auburn).
While Kiel is generally thought to be the front-runner for the starting job in Cincy next season, there is still a competition. Kiel will need to beat out rising sophomore Bennie Coney and junior college transfer Jarred Evans for the job.
Nevertheless, should Kiel come away with the job, expect Tuberville to find the perfect fit for him, and expect Kiel to flourish in a system that fits his style of play.
That should bring huge things to Cincinnati next season on the gridiron.
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