Blue & Gold’s Lou Somogyi reported on some Notre Dame football jersey number changes for 2016 earlier on Tuesday with Notre Dame’s senior quarterback, Malik Zaire, highlighting the number changes. While Zaire is competing with Deshone Kizer for the starting quarterback position in fall camp, he’ll be doing so with a new jersey number. Here is a quick rundown of all of the jersey changes coming to the Notre Dame roster this fall.
Malik Zaire #9 – Previously #8
As Zaire prepares for a potentially make or break fall camp for his Irish career, he will be doing so wearing a more quarterback friendly number even though his intentions to change numbers had nothing to do with wanting a number with better QB history. Zaire’s decision to change jerseys came about as a tribute to Jaylon Smith after the all-time Irish great suffered setbacks in his recovery from the nasty leg injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl. At the same time, the last Irish quarterback to win a national championship, Tony Rice, wore #9 …
Brandon Wimbush #7 – Previously #12
Zaire isn’t the only quarterback changing numbers. Sophomore Brandon Wimbush is going back to his high school jersey #7 now that it is available again with Will Fuller’s early departure to the NFL. Like Zaire, Wimbush also gets a jersey with some better quarterback history with Jimmy Clausen most recently wearing #7. Before Clausen, Jarious Jackson, Joe Theismann, and Steve Beuerlein all wore #7 during successful stints as the Notre Dame quarterback.
Nick Watkins #7 – Previously #21
The junior corner also takes over Will Fuller’s vacated #7 but on the defensive side of the ball. Unlike Wimbush, Watkins did not wear #7 in high school though – he wore #6. Just as a reminder, two players can wear the same jersey number as long as they play on different sides of the ball and are not on the same field at the same time. Back in 2012, Notre Dame accidentally had two players wearing #2 on the field – Chris Brown and Bennett Jackson – as Pitt missed a crucial over-time field that kept Notre Dame’s perfect regular season alive. With Watkins a corner and Wimbush a corner that shouldn’t be a problem here.
Asmar Bilal #22 – Previously #27
Sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal goes back to his high school jersey number with Elijah Shumate out of eligibility and pursuing his NFL dream. If Bilal makes a name for himself at linebacker wearing #22, he would become the first prominent Notre Dame linebacker to wear the number. With Bilal’s athleticism, he could be a special teams weapon this year so it will be interesting to see if any incoming freshmen also get #22.
Dexter Williams #2 – Previously #34
While sophomore running back Dexter Williams didn’t wear #2 in high school, he did wear #22 so perhaps this is in some way related to his old prep number. There isn’t a strong history of Notre Dame running backs wearing #2, but it was most recently worn by wide receiver Chris Brown for the last four years and before that the aforementioned Bennett Jackson when Brown and Jackson were simultaneously on the field at the same time for the infamous Pitt missed FG. No other #2 is currently on the roster.
CJ Sanders #3 – Previously #9
The #3 jersey at Notre Dame at one time was a hallowed numbered but in recent years it’s been handed out a bit more liberally. Amir Carlisle wore #3 as Notre Dame’s slot wide receiver most recently and with Sanders slatted to take over Carlisle’s vacated spot in the lineup, it makes sense for Sanders to take his number as well. As an electric punt/kick returner, Sanders will have plenty of opportunities to live up to the legacy of the #3 jersey at Notre Dame with big plays. Sanders is recovering from off-season surgery and is currently reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab.
Equanimeous St Brown #6 – Previously #86
Another wide receiver to move to a single digit number, St Brown could move into the starting lineup this fall as the first big time Notre Dame wide receiver to wear the number since Malcolm Johnson in the late 90’s. The #6 jersey was worn last season Keivarae Russell who is now collecting a NFL paycheck from the Kansas City Chiefs. St Brown wore #6 in high school before taking over #86 as a true freshman last fall. No offensive player wore #6 in 2015.
Devin Studstill #14 – Previously #13
This move came more out of necessity with Studstill originally wearing #13 in spring practice when it Tyler Luatua had decided to transfer. Once Luatua had a change of heart and decided to return to Notre Dame he was able to keep his #13. With Luatua and Studstill both likely to be part of special teams packages, they needed different numbers though so Studstill was given #14 which was worn last year by now sophomore corner Shaun Crawford.
Shaun Crawford #20 – Previously #14
And with Studstill taking over #14 on defense, Notre Dame’s likely starting corner Shaun Crawford needed a new number. Crawford switches over to #20 which has some great history with Luther Bradley roaming the Irish defensive backfield earning All-American honors as a two-time national champion and eventual 1st round NFL Draft pick status in the 70’s. Another more recent defensive back who comes to mind at #20 is Gerome Sapp who played safety for the Irish in the early 2000’s and was a member of Notre Dame’s stout 2002 defense.