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July 19, 2011

Indiana in running for top QB

MORE ELITE 11: Preview | Top 12
KIEL NOTES: Alabama | Indiana | Missouri | Oklahoma
Junior year highlights

MALIBU, Calif. - Gunner Kiel doesn't really feel the pressure of being the top-rated pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com, doesn't worry about the hype that rankings bring and doesn't seem bothered by much at all after the opening day of the Elite 11 at Pepperdine.

And he's not concerned that one of the schools high on his list might raise an eyebrow.

Indiana? For the No. 1 pro-style QB?

Kiel smiled and chatted with reporters Monday, careful not to divulge too much information about which program will land his commitment - which he plans to make prior to his senior year. But he did admit an unlikely contender in Indiana is hanging with the likes of Oklahoma and Alabama for his services.

And he said it wouldn't be a stunner if he chose the in-state Hoosiers and joined his brother on the team.

"Indiana has a great coaching staff," said Kiel, of Columbus (Ind.) East. "They're definitely going to come out and win games."

Kiel's comfort level with his current situation was evident Monday. Perhaps it was the setting.

On this beautiful campus with a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean, Kiel seemed to have fun, not worried about rankings or an uncertain future that could be so special if things go right.

"It takes a lot out of you as a teenager but I have a strong family that's always by my side, just great people who are always by my side to keep my head up straight and try to do the right things," said Kiel, whose uncle, Blair, was a starting QB at Notre Dame and played nine years in the NFL. "I love the recruiting process. I couldn't be in any luckier position. There are kids out there that would die to be in the position I am. I take it as a positive and take every day as a blessing.

"I'm not a really big interviewer and I don't like talking about myself that much. I'm a big team player so whenever I get interviewed I keep it simple like I am right now. I'm not going to be cocky. I'm definitely a team player and would put my team in front of me any day."

Kiel might not like talking about himself but everyone else does. Rivals.com rates him No. 1 at pro-style quarterback, tops in the Indiana state rankings and No. 19 overall after throwing for 2,645 yards and 36 touchdowns in his junior year.

He added seven rushing touchdowns, although sitting in the pocket and picking apart defenses is his specialty. On Monday, Kiel was accurate and solid although he didn't necessarily separate himself as clearly the top quarterback.

That seems fine to the modest Kiel, who said there's always pressure no matter what the ranking. He's more focused on getting better and developing his game, not necessarily proving he's the best. His game should speak for him.

"At the end of the day you have to have fun and let it sling and not care," Kiel said. "I know it's out there that I'm the No. 1 quarterback in the nation but that's just a number.

"There are quarterbacks out here right now that people think are better than me. They could be right but I don't think of it like that. I try to come out here and play my hardest and do my best."

In terms of the recruiting process, something Kiel isn't crazy talking about in detail, he said there are still a few teams he's considering but declined to name favorites. A decision by the start of his senior year is expected.

Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri and Indiana - yes, the Hoosiers - are considered some of Kiel's top teams, while Tennessee is rumored to be a contender.

The Hoosiers have more than location going for them. Kiel's brother, Dusty, is a sophomore QB at Indiana, he likes the coaching staff and has jelled with some team members.

"Coach (Kevin) Wilson is a fiery guy and my brother is going to be playing quarterback for them which is awesome so I'll be at games cheering him on," he said. "The way I talk to him they know they're going to win football games and I've talked to guys on the team and know them really well because of my brother, and they have their heads on straight to win football games and I hope they do."

Some points of interest offered by Kiel included that he's probably done with unofficial visits, he's taking summer school classes to graduate early and that he's planning to pick a school where he's the only quarterback in the recruiting class.

If one of his favorite schools opts to take someone else, Kiel seemed fine moving on - said he'd call the quarterbacks coach and head coach and say thanks - but that he'd find the place that's right for him.

"If that happens then it wasn't meant to be," Kiel said. "I probably won't go somewhere that's going to take two quarterbacks. I'll probably call the quarterback coach and the head coach and tell them thanks for the opportunity they gave me and then go on to the next school."

Cool and calm, Kiel seemingly has it all together. He's in a high-pressure position but doesn't seem at all bothered by it, at least not this weekend with a setting sun and ocean view.




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