It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the East: Once you have more than four, or sometimes even more than three, scholarship quarterbacks on the Notre Dame roster, a transfer, if not a position change, is inevitable.
Dayne Crist graduated from Notre Dame but opted to use his fifth season of eligibility at Kansas in 2012.
In a 25-year recruiting period from 1984 (four quarterbacks signed that year) to 2008 (Dayne Crist signed that year), Notre Dame inked 33 quarterback prospects. Twenty-three of them, or 69 percent, ended up either transferring, moving to another position (or sport) or seeing their football career end bcause of an injury (Tom Krug, who arrived in 1993 with Ron Powlus).
It’s a volatile position that is the most prone to attrition. Thus, news of freshman Gunner Kiel’s plans to transfer is hardly an, “Oh my gosh, where did that come from?” situation.
Here’s a chronological list of those who left the program since 1977, with the year they were recruited in parentheses:
Rick Buehner (1977) — Louisville native returned to his home state (Kentucky) after making switch from QB to cornerback. Six QBs were recruited in this class, including No. 1 prospect Tim Koegel, Mike Courey and Greg Knafelc. One of them, Pete Holohan, became a stellar flanker at Notre Dame and a productive NFL tight end.
Randy Wright and Eddie Hornback (1979) — Wright transferred to Wisconsin after his freshman year and became a star for the Badgers. He also was the starter for the Green Bay Packers from 1986-88.
Hornback, a Mississippi native, was shifted to safety as a sophomore and eventually departed to Mississipi State after incurring a knee injury on the trip to Japan for the 1979 Mirage Bowl in the regular season finale.
Scott Grooms (1980) — The nation’s No. 1 ranked QB in Parade magazine, he transferred to Miami (Ohio) after his freshman year when the publication’s No. 3 quarterback that same year, Blair Kiel, won the starting job as a freshman, and then split it early with 5th-year senior Koegel in 1981.
Grooms returned to Notre Dame in 1982, though. His lone start was a 21-7 loss to Air Force in 1984, when starter Steve Beuerlein was injured.
Ken Karcher (1981) — The Pennsylvania native was trumpeted by recruiting maven Joe Terranova as possibly “the next Joe Willie Namath.” Late in his sophomore year, he started in place of an injured Kiel versus Penn State and Air Force (both losses), and was replaced by walk-on Jim O’Hara. Karcher then transferred to Tulane and later became an NFL backup for John Elway at Denver in 1987-88.
Joe Felitsky (1983) — Enrolled the same year as Beuerlein, who replaced the senior Kiel as the starter during his freshman year. That prompted Felitsky to transfer to Pitt, near his western Pennsylvania roots. He played some with the Panthers, but was never really a full-time figure.
Duke St. Pierre (1984) — Four of Gerry Faust’s 17 recruits in this class were QBs: Terry Andrysiak, Tom Byrne, Pat Pesavento and St. Pierre.
Andrysiak was the bridge between Beuerlein and Tony Rice, Byrne moved to tight end and Pesavento became a standout infielder for the Irish baseball team. St. Pierre transferred to nearby Boston College within his first couple of weeks on campus, but never played QB there.
When head coach Lou Holtz arrived in 1986, he had more quarterbacks on scholarship (6) than defensive linemen (4). When asked that spring if one of his quarterbacks could play another position, Holtz deadpanned, “Yeah, I think one can play shortstop.”
Kent Graham (1987) — Ranked the No. 1 high school quarterback in many circles, Graham rotated with Rice in 1987 after Andrysiak was injured in the fourth game, and even started against Boston College. The Irish trailed 25-12 when Rice came in and rallied Notre Dame to a 32-25 victory.
Graham backed up Rice during the 1988 national title run, but in 1989 he transferred to Ohio State, where he backed up Greg Frey in 1990 and stated ahead of Kirk Herbstreit in 1991, passing for 1,018 yards. He was a journeyman in the NFL from 1992-2002, getting traded seven times while making 38 career starts.
Jake Kelchner (1989) — Enrolled the same year as the nation’s No. 1 QB prospect, Rick Mirer. From the same high school as future four-year Irish starter Ron Powlus, Kelchner experienced academic problems and transferred to West Virginia. In 1993, he led the nation in passing efficiency while guiding the Mountaineers to an 11-0 regular season and the Sugar Bowl. Like Kevin McDougal that same year at Notre Dame, however, he wasn’t deemed an NFL prospect.
B.J. Hawkins (1990) — Arrived with more fanfare than classmate McDougal, but he left for the home-state Virginia Cavaliers when McDougal won the No. 2 slot behind Mirer. His career never really took off with the Cavaliers.
Wade Smith (1992) — Relatively unheralded Texan was shifted to free safety during his freshman year and eventually transferred.
Gus Ornstein (1994) — A late addition to the class, he left after one season when he realized that Powlus would be a four-year starter from 1994-97. He transferred to Michigan State, and Mel Kiper Jr. projected him as a future first-round draft pick, prompting colleague Joe Theismann to say, “Mel’s out to lunch on that one.” Ornstein saw some action at MSU but never became a full-fledged starter.
Eric Chappell (1996) — He received his chance to start at USC in 1998 when Jarious Jackson was out with an injury, but the junior struggled. Two of his three passes were intercepted before freshman Arnaz Battle took his place in the 10-0 loss to USC. He transferred to Alabama A&M, where he lined up at safety.
Zak Kustok (1997) — Entered his sophomore year in 1998 as the No. 3 QB behind Jackson and Chappell — but left during training camp when freshman Battle leapfrogged him and dropped him to No. 4. He enjoyed a sensational career at Northwestern, passing for nearly 6,000 yards and leading the Wildcats to a share of the Big Ten title in 2000.
Matt LoVecchio (2000) — Had the greatest freshman year ever by a Notre Dame quarterback, winning his first seven starts, completing 58.4 percent of his passes, throwing 11 TDs to just one interception and rushing for 300 yards. But when classmate Carlyle Holiday moved ahead of him in 2001 and first-year coach Tyrone Willingham left the job open after the 2002 spring, LoVecchio headed to Indiana University, where he had a so-so career for a hapless program.
Christian Olsen (2002) — The offensive MVP in the 2003 Blue-Gold Game packed his bags two weeks into the 2003 fall camp, along with freshman brother and tight end Greg. Holiday was No. 1 while freshman Brady Quinn was making a serious bid for No. 2. Olsen transferred to Virginia, where he started the first few games as a fifth-year senior in 2006 before getting replaced.
David Wolke (2004) — With no chance to unseat Quinn and the recruiting getting upgraded at quarterback, Wolke was approached by head coach Charlie Weis about moving to running back in 2006. He opted instead to transfer to Western Kentucky.
Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones (2006) — From the moment both signed in February of 2006, the silent countdown began. Chances are, one of them would inevitably not finish his career at Notre Dame — especially after uber-recruit Jimmy Clausen committed a couple of months later for the 2007 campaign.
Frazer transferred to Connectitut in the summer of 2007 after he was listed the No. 4 QB at the end of spring, and he would start in the Huskies’ double-overtime win at Notre Dame in 2009.
Jones started the 2007 opener against Georgia Tech but was yanked by Weis before halftime. Two weeks later just before a trip to Michigan, he bolted the team and word was he going to transfer to Northern Illinois. He enrolled at Cincinnati instead and was a linebacker for head coach Brian Kelly for two years (36 tackles and an interception), but then transferred to Division II Central State in Ohio, where he played receiver and tight end (41 catches, 410 yards). He has been playing in the Continental Indoor Football League for the Kane County Dawgs.
Dayne Crist (2008) — It’s probably not fair or totally accurate to classify him as a transfer because he graduated from Notre Dame. Nevertheless, when it came down to an option of returning for a fifth season or playing somewhere else, the more prudent choice was to reunite with his former Irish coach, Weis, at Kansas.
Last year he was named captain and played in 10 games, with seven starts, for the 1-11 Jayhawks. He completed 47.7 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards, four TDs and nine interceptions, ranking him last among 116 quarterback who threw enough passes to be rated in the NCAA passing efficiency chart. He was named MVP in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
One other quarterback who might be included is Paul Failla, who signed in 1991. He played his first three seasons from 1991-93 and had two starts before opting for baseball his senior year (1994) when he was miffed with the way Powlus was basically considered an untouchable for the starting job.
Failla was a third-round pick in the Major League Draft but then used his final year of NCAA eligibility at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1998.
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