Today was the first day of full pads at Notre Dame training camp, and freshman quarterback Gunner Kiel was “live” during practice-ending 11-on-11 drills. Even as a freshman, he knew what that meant.
They were coming for him.“Guys were really excited to hit,” Kiel said. “Whenever the quarterback’s live, the defense gets real excited.”
And when Kiel finally got in with the third team in the final period of practice, he was sacked — hard — by sophomore linebacker Connor Little.
“Probably should have checked to a different line protection,” Kiel said with a smirk. “To be honest, it feels good. I haven’t been hit for a while. You just get right back up and move on to the next play.”
It became clear during the spring game that Kiel was an extreme long shot to win the starting quarterback job this season. He played only in the second half of that game. And that perception hasn’t changed in camp, as he’s the clear-cut No. 3, behind Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix, and only ahead of Tommy Rees because Rees has been suspended for the season-opener against Navy in Ireland.
But Kiel isn’t worrying about the depth chart yet.
“Whatever the coaches want me to do,” he said. “If Andrew and Everett are going to get more reps than I am, then that’s fine. I’m going to be the best player I can be for the team and do whatever I can to make the team better.”
His first priority is grasping the Notre Dame playbook, something he’s been working on since enrolling early last spring. He called himself a “squeaky wheel,” peppering his coaches and teammates with questions at every meeting.
“You’ve just got to be smart,” Kiel said. “It’s going to take a while to learn, but if you take the time and put in the effort to get into it and ask the questions about it, you’re going to get it. That’s what I’m trying to do.”