Notre Dame's Numbers Game
At least eight scholarship Notre Dame players look like they will change their jersey number from last season and this spring, with four of them sophomores who are going back to their high school roots. We list them chronologically by their new numbers:
RB Dexter Williams
New Number: 2 (previous was 34)
We have no recollection of a running back wearing this number at Notre Dame. It has been quarterback-centric, most famously with Tom Clements (1972-74), but also had a future NFL linebacker in Kinnon Tatum (1993-96) and folk hero/kicker Reggie Ho (1988).
Slot CJ Sanders
New Number: 3 (previous was 9)
Sanders, who is recovering very well from his hip surgery this spring — about "three weeks ahead of schedule," per head coach Brian Kelly — is back to his high school number that is the most famous QB numeral at Notre Dame. It chronologically includes Ralph Guglielmi, George Izo, Daryle Lamonica, Coley O’Brien, Joe Montana, Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus. In the past decade it also featured running back Darius Walker (2004-06) and receiver Michael Floyd (2008-11).
WR Equanimeous St. Brown
New Number: 6 (previous was 86)
This also was St. Brown’s high school number. The most famous to don it at Notre Dame was Jerome “The Bus” Bettis (1990-92), and the best receiver to do so was Malcolm Johnson, who grabbed 110 career passes from 1996-99.
CB Nick Watkins
New Number: 7 (previous was 21)
With Will Fuller off to the NFL, Watkins (who wore No. 6 in high school) takes the vacated number on defense while sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush does the same on offense. Watkins is recovering from a broken humerus incurred this spring. Players are allowed to wear the same number as long as one plays on offense and the other on defense. The rules do not allow two players with the same jersey number to be on the field at the same time.
Has Notre Dame ever had a top corner wear No. 7? Tim Rudnick, a former walk-on, started for the 1973 national champs. Four years later, converted QB Joe Restic started at free safety (and punter) for the 1977 national champs.
QB Brandon Wimbush
New Number: 7 (previous was 12)
Another sophomore going back to his high school number that rivals No. 3 for the best among Notre Dame QBs, notably Heisman winner John Huarte, Heisman runner-up Joe Theismann, Steve Beuerlein, Jarious Jackson, Carlyle Holiday (later a receiver) and Jimmy Clausen.
QB Malik Zaire
New Number: 9 (previous was 8)
It’s rare to see a senior quarterback who has started make such a switch, but whereas No. 8 is relatively undistinguished at Notre Dame (apologies to 1948 starting QB Frank Tripucka), No. 9 has included national champion QBa George Ratterman (who split quarters with John Lujack in all but the Army game in 1946), Hall-of-Fame inductee Bob Williams (1949), who died this May, and Tony Rice (1988).
FS Devin Studstill
New Number: 14 (previous was 13)
The early enrollee donned 13 in spring and is seriously challenging for a starting role. At the time, junior tight end Tyler Luatua — who also wore No. 13 — was not with the team and had been planning on transferring to BYU. Luatua ended up changing his mind and is still slated to wear No. 13. However, in order to avoid the possible situation where Luatua and Studstill could be on the same special teams unit, Studstill is now the same number as quarterback DeShone Kizer (less likely to be on special teams). That means …
Nickel/CB Shaun Crawford
New Number: 20 (previous was 14)
With Studstill “bumped up” to 14, Crawford, sidelined last year with an ACL tear but now the starting nickel (if not at corner), will move up from the teens. First-round/All-American safety/corner Luther Bradley (1973, 1975-77), a two-time national champion, wore this jersey better than anyone in the defensive backfield.
LB Asmar Bilal
New Number: 22 (previous was 27)
The fourth sophomore — joining Sanders, St. Brown and Wimbush — to return to his high school number. He could become the most famous Notre Dame linebacker to wear this, mainly because it’s unique to the position. The most notable to wear it at Notre Dame goes back to the 1920s with Hall-of-Fame end Eddie Anderson.