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QB Transfers Part Of Life At ND

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.

  • This will hurt. IMO we have nada in the legitimate talent department behind Golson. If he had to sit out for some reason......... Its not an attack but I do not consider Rees a good backup, he is too one dimensional.

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  • aceinthehole,

    That's fine. We all have opinions.

    But what makes you believe Kiel would have given them something in the backup department? If you think Rees is not a good backup yet Kiel can't move ahead of him, what does that make Kiel?

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  • Several thoughts on a transfer of Kiel at this point.

    1. Les Miles may not have been far off.

    If a young qb transfer after being red shirted freshman year and before the start of the next season transfers, it could show:

    a. no confidence in his own ability and/or he can't really handle the competition.

    Either way that would mean that he is not a guy that can be championship player at ND.

    b. He realizes that he is not a good fit for the offense.

    c. This young man changed commitments several times that raises up red flags in his decision making process, which is not good in qb.

    Hopefully whether it is at ND or somewhere else Gunner will find a place that allows him the opportunities he is looking for.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by 2daniel6 13 months ago

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  • I dont know that Kiel could not move ahead of Rees. Spring Practice has yet to occur. On the flip side, I am not shocked. The way he has bounced, from Indiana, LSU, ND and ..... etc. I just hope that we dont have to find out what happens if Golson were out a game.

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  • I really don't think it's any of that. I think Kiel likes ND but he's a realistic and he knows it's highly unlikely that he's beating out Golson. One year isn't much for Kiel to prove himself to NFL Coaches. He'd be better served transfering to IU, Purdue, Tennessee, or Kansas.

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  • This is a great post and captures what I was thinking.
    Why would he wilt under the pressure of competition before Spring ball competition even started?
    Seems strange.
    But he must not see much of a future for himself.
    In HS he had more running yards than Golson, I recall.
    But the level of competition he faced in HS was not that high (I think 2 star HS, and highest in Indiana is 5 star).
    Who knows.
    Wish him the best, but history is against him for success elsewhere.

    "Having the right to do something doesn't mean it's right to do it." -- Chief Justice Warren Burger

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  • Zaire is the threat, not Golson.

  • Thanks for the sanity check, Lou. From that list, I would think only Kustok represents a scenario where we sure wish the player hadn't transferred. I wish Gunner the best of luck, but I'll be surprised if he goes on to lead his next team to a NC as history isn't so kind to the transfers.

    As always, I'll celebrate the guys we have and look forward to Hendrix, Rees, and Zaire all pushing Golson. Also, it makes a QB in this class pretty much a no-brainer!

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    ND '05 CMC Title: "Piper and Keeper of the Shoulders and Director of anti-CTNDfan activities" POTW for 12/4/06 & 10/18/10

  • Great recap, Lou, and I would echo Illest's observation that only Kustok turned out to someone who ND, in hindsight, would have preferred not to see go.

    Someone in another thread opined that Kiel spoke with the staff, advised that, if he didn't get at least the backup job after spring practice, he was gone, and was told he probably would not be the backup and that, if he was considering leaving, he might want to do it now.

    Found this an intriguing and highly plausible scenario. Any idea what the actual trigger was?

    As for the future -- and I am assuming no year and/or career ending injuries for any of these guys -- my thoughts and questions are as follows:

    Unless, Hendrix steps it up big-time, Golson starts and Rees is the backup for this year.

    What becomes intriguing is where we go from there. Golson would still have two years of eligibility (14 and 15). Does he hang around for both years? I don't see an early exit to the NFL, but what about an early exit for the CFL. Does that kind of thing happen?

    Because if Golson plays his three remaining years, barring injury, he's likely to start each of those years. Bottom line, do you think we are looking at a 4-year starter in Golson?

    But regardless of what Golson does, what, then, does Hendrix do? He's eligible to play in 14, is he not? Does he stick around for a fifth year, despite his pre-med status and the fact that he could conceivably go somewhere else and start in 14?

    And if he is interested in playing a fifth year somewhere else, might he not consider also transferring now with the chance of becoming a two-year starter somewhere? Robert Smith the former OSU and Vikings TB was also a pre-med. Last time I looked, he was commentating for ESPN. Things can change.

    Right now, if I'm Brian Kelly, I'm looking to make sure that Hendrix is also not heading out the door as he could be just as important a transitional link in 14 as Rees is in 13, while Zaire and whoever follows him is brought along.

    The absolute worst case, as I see it -- and this scenario does include injuries -- is that Hendrix transfers, Golson gets hurt, Rees also gets hurt or is ineffective, and all that's left is Zaire or maybe Luke Massa.

    The paradox in all of this is that, despite not being able, as a practical matter, to carry more than 4 QB's, you also can't have -- as is the case with pitchers in baseball -- enough of them as 4 can become 2 or even 1 rather quickly.

    I'd be interested in your take as to how you think this might all play out.

  • Risk, good to hear from you. It's been a while.

    I've kicked this around on other threads. It's a sticky wicket. Yes, it would be great to have more than four QB's at any one given time, or to time the arrival and development of each so that you've staggered their depth chart progress to keep all hands on deck. The reality is that it rarely works out that way. As Lou says, that works at positions where you shuttle them in and out, but QB demands stability, so, barring injury, playing time is generally reserved for the starter. Quite honestly, ND is (will be) lucky to keep Hendrix, a highly recruited QB, who is looking at another year of sitting third on the depth chart. I'd hoped that they might have a Tebow-esque package for him to keep him invested, but I suspect that's a challenge when priority #1 is continuing Golson's development. It's a tightrope act, and the staff probably approaches it each year as a fluid situation with a variety of "what if" contingencies. They also know a little more than we do about the capabilities of whom they have, and what their intentions are. Sometimes, it comes down to a roll of the dice.

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  • Thanks, Ham, it's good to be back. I've been enjoying a mini-offseason, given the emotional strain of the BCS game, the Kelly coaching alarm, the Teo fiasco. and signing day. Frankly, I needed a break from all of it.

    But, with the clocks pushed forward and spring practice now on tap, hope and stamina have returned.

    I take your points, namely that this QB stuff is a pretty tough predictive course to navigate.

    But, as long as Hendrix doesn't transfer, I think this year should, depth-wise, be fine, as there are two guys who have started plenty of significant games and a third (Hendrix) who has had enough game snaps and done well enough in spots to know what it's all about.

    Next year is my concern, particularly if Hendrix leaves or does not get more playing time this year.

    What I would like to see happen is for Hendrix to beat out Rees for the backup spot -- and do it by simply outplaying him in a significant way. While Hendrix has failed at this in the past, there is nothing to say he can't do it. Maybe, he goes out there a better and more mature player this spring, and, with Kiel now gone, with a lot better chance of moving up.

    If Hendrix were to do this and contribute significantly in 13 -- as guys, such as Coely O'Brien, Cliff Brown and Paul Failla did when given the chance in past eras -- he might then stay for a fifth year in 14, which would eliminate the worry there.

    At the same time, even were he to be the 3rd string guy this year, Rees would still be around for insurance and could still do a creditable enough job if called upon.

    My sense is that Hendrix can play the game. He can run and he can pass. Can he see LB's drifting across the middle? Maybe not. But, again, maybe he can move beyond that limitation.
    I have no idea, but I don't want to lose the guy. If he goes, next year could become problematic.

    However, if Hendrix does go, Zaire must get some playing time this year. You can't go into 14 with only one experienced QB -- assuming you are going to compete the way we are all expecting Kelly and ND to compete going forward. The bar has been raised.

  • Risk, I'm with you on Hendrix, though it's partly wishful thinking. He has the tangibles, but something is missing. He will need to grow. It's a shame you can't morph Rees and him.

    As for the concern about Zaire's inexperience as a possible #2 in '14, maybe yes, maybe no. If 2012 taught us anything, it's that redshirt Freshmen (Golson, Football, Mariotta, Hundley) can step in and play. It's hardly a given, but neither is it a barrier. Experience, while clearly preferred, is not always a prerequisite if a year in development purgatory has done the job.

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  • Risksorter,

    There have been many, many cases over the years of holding your breath that the starting QB doesn't get hurt. That's just football. The days of seven scholarship QBs (freshman Joe Montana was No. 7 in 1974) are long done.

    The last time I can recall more than 4 scholarship QBs on a roster was Holtz's first year in 1986 (Beuerlein, Andrysiak, Belles and Pete Graham — with freshman Tony Rice ineligible that year). Shoot, in 1990 alone, after Jake Kelchner departed for West Va., and Kent Graham to OSU, you had inexperienced Rick Mirer as the starter and two true freshmen in Kevin McDougal and B.J. Hawkins (who would transfer to Va.)That team was replete with first-round talent ... but just one injury at QB could make it crumble. That's how it often is.

    I do think Golson would stay as a fourth-year starter because I just don't know that with his stature how much the NFL would look at him. Russell Wilson is helping provide a case, but those are exceptions, not rules.

    I wasn't in on the conversation between the staff and Kiel, but what you laid out sounds quite plausible. I suspect something like that occurred. Deep down, as Golson developed last year, Kiel must have been thinking, "Hmmm, am I ever going to get a chance to start here in the next few years." I think more and more you're going to see a "Joe Flacco effect." Flacco was the backup for Tyler Palko at Pitt in 2004, and Palko had eligibility through 2006. Thus, he transferred to Delaware, became a first-round pick and now is a Super Bowl champion. I'm sure there are dozens of QBs out there, Kiel included, who use that as inspiration.

    From the outside looking in, it's hard to envision Hendrix back for a 5th season in 2014. He struck me as somewhat disappointed with the way his football career has progressed. Stranger things have happened.

    I would think this would be a good time to get Luke Massa back as a contingency option at QB and for a potential fifth year in 2014. I'm also wondering whether Nicky Baratti could be an option. Safety is becoming awfully congested with people such as Farley, Collinsworth, Shumate, Prosise and Redfield, among others.

    This does tend to work itself out, because remember the No. 1 recruiting world: The greatest QB in Notre Dame history is always ... the next one.

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  • Thanks, Lou. Good points.

    For me, the next crossroads could be following spring practice. If it solidifies Rees as number 2, which the odds favor, does Hendrix leave the program at that point as well? He could be following the same line of thinking Kiel used.

    I will be watching and listening regarding that one.

  • Ham,

    I agree that Hendrix has it on paper and in certain game situations, but lacks something at the same time. My sense is he needed grooming and the chance to play regularly over a 4 or 5 game stretch. As a med student, we know he's bright and can learn, but, at the same time, I think he's one of those athletes who must learn.

    He has innate ability, but not to the same degree Golson does. He also lacks Rees's poise. But, if he played more, I think he would play better. The repetition and confidence gain that would come with that would propel him to another level. If he had gone to a school where winning was not so paramount, I think he would have developed into a good QB by now.

    I always liked him, am sorry his career to date has been so truncated, and hope he can still do something. Naturally, I will be rooting for him to be, if nothing else, at least the 2a QB. The interesting thing is that, were Golson to get hurt, I think Hendrix could beat the same teams as Rees, which is to say not the better ones. If a Rees led team were to go 8-4, I think Hendrix could achieve that as well.

  • BK and staff have seen much of Kiel's abilities in scout workouts - so he's leaving says, to me, that BK can live with that. TJ is a good backup and has performed very well when the game has been on the line - his resume would be even better with that MU 2011 game which he managed to put ND up with 30 secs left UGGG! AH, I believe stays he's a pre-med student he's not going to leave ND at this stage of his studies - will he stay after 4 depends if he wants to & BK concurs too. I do believe that EG's closing season performance made Kiel re-check his future at ND - I'm not going to rag on him b/c he wants to play sooner than later so he leaves - good luck to him. Move on! GO IRISH!

  • Risksorter,

    It wouldn't make much sense to me for Hendrix to invest three years into an ND degree and then transfer before the fourth, regardless what happens this spring. If he wants to play a fifth year someplace else while continuing his studies, that's a different matter.

    I think he can be sold on being 2A or 2B with Rees, depending on certain situations, in 2013. Zaire would be on course for a redshirt like Golson two years ago and Kiel last season. Let's see how the spring plays out, though.

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