This whole Gunner Kiel drama at Indiana University is like the blind date who smokes cigars and uses his sleeve instead of a dinner napkin.

You suddenly feel a headache coming on, then make a beeline for the nearest exit.

So it is with the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Kiel, Columbus East's wondrous quarterback and the nation's No. 12 recruit overall, who verbally committed to Indiana last July.

But after the Hoosiers' progress this season, or lack thereof, Kiel has told first-year coach Kevin Wilson he is rescinding his commitment and will continue shopping around for his college choice.

Kiel could still wind up in Bloomington, but IU football hasn't done anything to entice him at 1-8 overall and 0-5 in the Big Ten — having lost six consecutive games and yet to have beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.

So upset was Wilson with his team's recent performances, he started seven freshmen on defense in the 59-38 shellacking by Northwestern. Happy homecoming, it wasn't.

The Hoosiers gave up a season-high 616 total yards against a mediocre Northwestern squad, and have been torched for 204 points in the last four weeks.

To make matters worse, Wilson kicked leading receiver Damarlo Belcher off the team Monday, two days after he had been suspended.

These are red flags that can't be ignored, and don't think other BCS schools aren't using this to lure Kiel to their campuses.

Colleges can't comment on recruits until they officially sign, but around Bloomington, the loss of Kiel would be the biggest blow to its sports program since the firing of Bob Knight.

"We're playing a lot of young kids and they're doing well," said Hobart grad Mark Deal, director of football operations and assistant athletic director at Indiana.

"This is what happens when you play freshmen. We're building. We played seven freshmen (against NU) and that was just on defense. I think people are patient. They understand."

Landing Kiel would be winning the prep lottery, and that feeling is shared by Notre Dame, Alabama, Stanford, LSU, Florida, Georgia, TCU, Tennessee, USC and Wisconsin.

As a junior, the five-star quarterback passed for 2,645 yards, 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions while also rushing for seven scores.

In nine regular-season games this fall, Kiel was 90-of-160 for 1,710 yards, 20 TDs and two picks.

Where will he call home the next four years? Well, brother Dusty is a red-shirt sophomore QB at IU, where that position is woefully weak.

Gunner's uncle, Blair Kiel, was a four-year starter at Notre Dame in the late '70s and early '80s. The Irish also lack a QB to build their program around.

So, what's it going to be? BCS contender or a rebuilding project? Only Gunner Kiel knows.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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