BATON ROUGE, La. -- A couple of months ago Les Miles said quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel didn't have the “chest” to be an LSU quarterback. Remember it as one of the messiest stories to come out of the recruiting season.
You've seen the video. Miles and LSU thought it had the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit until Kiel decided at the last minute in December to sign with Notre Dame. Kiel had previously committed to Indiana, but for the second time changed his mind.
“I don't mean to demean, he [Kiel] ain't Joe Namath,” one LSU source said. “Joe Namath is ready to go to Alabama and take on the world.”
Recruits, though, are allowed to change their minds. Miles chose to take the extra step of criticizing Kiel at a fan gathering. Now read further as the LSU coach expands on the subject in a recent interview.
Miles: “I'm not bitter. I'm glad he stayed there. I really mean it. Here's the truth: If you don't have some swagger to you and you can step into this stadium and be able to know the advantage that you're playing with the Tigers and you're leading the program that has some real weight and clout, then you really need to stay home with your brothers.
“I don't mean that [negatively]. I'm for him. He gets a chance to come in here and compete and start on a team that is a great team. I really meant what I said. I was talking more about the confidence and swagger. I was not demeaning. If he shows up, it means he has all those things …
“I mean it honestly, if it's more about family for him, if it's more being close to home … he would have never been successful as he needed to be. I mean it very respectfully …
“The guy we got now [Zach Mettenberger], he's a confident son of a buck. He's a throwin', tough kid. If he continues to develop and learn and grow as a leader, no question.”
Quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, who helped recruit Kiel, also weighed in:
“Gunner's a great kid. He comes from a very, very close-knit family. When it really comes down to it and time to get on the plane, he couldn't do it. We knew that was part of the recruiting process. I talked about it with him very candidly.
“When I was playing at West Texas State, my dad [Dave] was coaching at Oregon State. My son's at Idaho State. I have one in Chicago. I walked him [Kiel] through what it was going to be like. He woke up Sunday morning and was getting ready to go to the plane and said he couldn't do it. I was disappointed he didn't come because I wanted to coach him. I really liked their family. I think they're wonderful people.
“The best way to describe it is, I understand.”