The buzz this weekend in Michigan was the breaking story that former Michigan State commitment and current Oklahoma Sooner Keith Nichol was transferring. At the same time that news was breaking, SpartanMag.com was watching Kyle Nichol perform very well at the Ohio State NIKE Camp. We spoke with their father, Gary Nichol, this weekend and got some insight into the situation.
The easiest way to understand this whole situation is to break it down into categories.
Leaving Oklahoma? We talked with Gary Nichol about this and he had the following to say.
"Keith met with Coach Bob Stoops after his final and that is when Keith told him about his decision. They met for about an hour and the meeting went very well. When they left, it was with a hug and a handshake and Coach Stoops wished Keith all the best. Coach Stoops later called Keith again and told him that when he got home if he decided that he still wanted to attend Oklahoma that he still had a scholarship there. That really meant a lot to Keith and our family. Coach Stops has been nothing but a man of his word."
On why he is transferring and his time spent at Oklahoma.
"Keith loves Oklahoma. He has learned a lot, plus he has improved. He is more confident in his abilities than he ever was before. He is around 6-foot-3, 205-pounds now and just wants an opportunity to play football. He loves the coaches and his teammates, but Keith is also a competitor. He wants a chance to play college football at the highest level. That is why Keith worked so hard for so many years."
On all the speculation about Michigan State, Michigan, Cincinnati and other colleges?
"We have not really talked about it. Keith doesn't have to make his decision right away. We are looking forward to getting back together as a family. Then we will sit down and figure out our options. "
The feelings toward the Michigan State football program.
"Keith has nothing but positive feelings toward Coach (Mark) Dantonio. We are happy that Coach Dantonio is at Michigan State and think he is the right man for the job. When Keith de-committed from Michigan State he called Coach Dantonio in order to tell him. Coach Dantonio told Keith that he hoped everything went well for him at Oklahoma and that if he happened to change his mind that he should give him a call. We knew Coach Dantonio from when he was at Cincinnati as well. Coach Dantonio was very sincere and that meant a lot to us."
Things got kind of ugly around Michigan when Keith de-committed ... talk about that a bit.
"Yes it was a tough situation. I know fans are passionate. Some of the comments did hurt, but I think having to go through that situation only served to make Keith a stronger person. I couldn't be more proud about how he has handled himself throughout everything that he has gone through. Keith has really matured the last two years."
Gary Nichol and I talked for close to an hour. He was very candid about things and a few things that struck a chord with me that we talked about.
1) The feeling toward coach Stoops and the Oklahoma football program are every sincere and he was not just saying the right thing. The Nichols are very appreciative of every opportunity afforded to Keith by the University of Oklahoma and wish Coach Stoops and the Sooner program nothing but future success.
2) How well Gary understood the reaction of people when Keith decided to de-commit from Michigan State and commit to Oklahoma.
The Nichols understand the passion of college football probably better than anyone in Michigan. The feelings that came from many Spartan fans was no different than the venom spewed by UM fans when Justin Boren left, the outrage when Rich Rodriguez left West Virginia, the anger when Nick Saban left MSU and LSU or the negative comments made when Demetrius Jones left Notre Dame.
This is big time college football and fans are passionate, but sometimes fans forget that the players are also sons, brothers, boyfriends, etc The passion is what makes college football such a great sport, but it can also unfairly put expectations on young people they may not always deserve.
3) On whether Nichol would look at Michigan State?
Obviously Michigan State would seem to be a school that would be high on the list. Gary Nichol and Keith did not want to name particular schools and I think that is totally understandable. At this point it is not smart to start throwing out names. It is unfair to the schools, the staff and even Keith.
I think what they will look for is a situation that offers Keith two things:
A realistic shot at the starting spot in 2009. (Schools with senior QB's in 2008 or limited returning depth)
A stable coaching environment.
An offense that would allow him to utilize his skills.
Michigan State would seem to meet those criteria, but that is by no means a guarantee that anything will transpire between the two.
4) On whether Michigan State would want Nichol?
SpartanMag.com does not speak for the Michigan State staff and has no inside information on this situation. With that said, you can easily look at the facts.
Michigan State has two quarterbacks in Nichiols's class that are developing nicely. Does that mean that MSU would not consider Nichol? Not at all. Michigan State is very happy with the develpoment of wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell, does that mean they would not consider Ronald Johnson if he decided he wanted to leave USC?
The fact is, there is a lot more that would go into this decision than just simply football. Coach Dantonio has stated on numerous times his job is about relationships and certainly that would play a part in this situation if mutual interest arose.
It has often been speculated on SpartanMag.com that one of Nick Foles or Kirk Cousins will transfer at some point. The reality of college football is only 1 QB can play at a time and kids transfer or leave programs all the time. Between Michigan State and Michigan you have names like Bradlee Van Pelt, Ryan Mallett, Dan Larlham, Matt Gutierrez, Jason Forcier, Domenic Natale and Clayton Richard, and that is all in the last decade. Keep in mind another Oklahoma QB transfer, Troy Aikman. Things worked out pretty well for him if memory serves me correct.
5) Our take on Nichol:
When we think of Keith Nichol, unlike some fans, we do not think about a recruit who spurned Michigan State for Oklahoma. We think of the young man who to this day is still the best quarterback prospect that we ever saw come through the Spartan camp. That includes players like Drew Stanton, Brian Hoyer, Curtis Painter, Mike Teel, Robbie Schoenhoft, etc. As a staff we at SpartanMag.com were always in consensus on the ability of Nichol.
The other thing that comes to mind when we think about Keith Nichol is how he was put in an awful situation back in 2006. Here is a recruit who made an early commitment to the in-state school only to see the program tear apart at the seams. Here is young man that was unfairly expected to carry the weight of an entire fan base so desperate for positive news.
Hindsight is 20/20 and it is easy to say that Nichol should have stuck with Michigan State and not gone to Oklahoma, but what would have happened if Nichol won the starting spot and the Spartans went out and went 5-7 last year? It is easy to cast dispersions when you have time on your side or the anonymity of a message board.
Anyone who is a fan of college football should hope that wherever Nichol ends up he is successful. He is too talented of a player to not be on the football field making plays and creating excitement.
Anyone who has spent time around Nichol is probably already a big fan of his, as we are not talking about a prima-dona or a egomaniac. He has always been a hard-working, well grounded person despite the attention, accolades and criticisms.
Gary Nichol probably summed it up best when he said, "I think wherever Keith ends up he will be a better quarterback due to what he has gone through."