In the crazy world of college football recruiting, it's impossible to trust what you hear, read or see, until the first Wednesday in February.
Only then, do "verbal commitments" actually carry any weight, as players sign their name on the dotted line and letters start pouring into the football office.
Such is the case for most recruits, except the small percentage who decide to enroll early.
As was announced earlier today, Notre Dame has added four players to its roster for the spring semester. For those that follow recruiting, the arrival of two of these student-athletes on campus might come as little surprise. Defensive lineman Sheldon Day and defensive back Tee Shepard expressed their plans to come to Notre Dame several months ago (click their names for their YouTube high school highlight videos).
Day, who is from Indianapolis, was a second-team selection on the SI.com High School All-America team and runner-up for 2011 Indiana Mr. Football award (more on that award later).
Shepard, a Fresno, Calif. native, had to sit out his senior season after transferring high schools, but finished with 10 interceptions in his career and was rated third-best cornerback in his class by Scout.com, as well as the number-36 player nationally by MaxPreps and Tom Lemming.
On Jan. 7, the eventful day in which the Notre Dame men's and women's basketball teams, as well as the hockey team, knocked off top-10 opponents, Irish football fans also learned some big news. Running back Amir Carlisle, a freshman at USC, announced he would be trading Los Angeles for South Bend, enrolling for the spring semester along with Shepard and Day.
But the final addition to Notre Dame's roster is where the story truly gets interesting. Quarterback Gunner Kiel, a Columbus, Ind. native, had twice previously announced his college decision. First, last summer that he would join the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, and more recently, that he would be heading south for Baton Rouge, La. and the LSU Tigers.
Over the past couple of days, rumors began swirling that Kiel was not on LSU's campus when the rest of Coach Les Miles' early enrollees arrived. In 2012's ever-changing landscape of news and journalism, it was on Twitter (obviously) where the story really took off, with several recruiting sites and college football message boards tweeting that Kiel was in fact having second thoughts about his decision to join the Tigers.
When I woke up today, I saw a report from The Observer, confirming that Kiel would be enrolling at Notre Dame this week. Not to second-guess the credibility of our student newspaper, but I was skeptical of the news. My doubt had nothing to do with the fact that I'm a former Scholastic guy (Notre Dame's student magazine), but rather the reality that the only thing more unpredictable than college football recruiting is Brett Favre's retirement status.
However, upon my arrival at work this morning, it was not long before I saw the Kiel family walking around the halls of the Gug and talking to members of the football staff. Shortly later, director of football media relations Brian Hardin issued a press release on UND.com, and the news was official. It was then that Twitter really started to take off, and only then when I could share the news with the friends and family who have been just as curious as I have over the past 36 hours.
Kiel, one of the nation's top-ranked quarterback recruits, beat out his future teammate (Day) for the 2011 Indiana Mr. Football award chosen by the Indiana Football Coaches Association. He was also named the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year and he passed for 7,175 yards in his high school career.
Each of these four players brings a different skill set and unique character to the Fighting Irish and only time will tell how Shepard, Day, Carlisle and Kiel will fare during their time at Notre Dame. For better or worse, the pure craziness of Kiel's commitment to Notre Dame will make the 6-foot-4 quarterback an instant celebrity on campus, and more importantly, it adds competition to what should already be a heated quarterback race during spring practice and training camp.
- Josh Flynt ('11)