Some Jersey Numbers Carry More Weight Than Just the Material They're Stitched On
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There are a few red-letter events during every college football offseason that make the dull days pass by a little quicker. There's National Letter of Intent Day, the Spring Game, the Summer Scandal, and the official release of the Ohio State football roster.
Since we've covered the Summer Scandal quite a bit already, I thought it would be nice to spend some time giving attention to the release of the official football roster, specifically the jersey numbers worn by the newcomers. After all, sometimes a jersey number is more than just a number.
Numbering the Noobs
Here are the jersey numbers for each of the incoming freshmen, as well as junior college transfer Corey Smith. (Note: Indianapolis offensive lineman Tim Gardner is not listed as he has been removed from the team for the 2013 season.)
1 - Dontre Wilson RB
6 - Vonn Bell S
13 - Eli Apple CB
15 - Ezekiel Elliott RB
16 - J.T. Barrett QB
16 - Cam Burrows DB
17 - Jalin Marshall WR
19 - Gareon Conley CB
29 - Jayme Thompson S
35 - Chris Worley LB
36 - Trey Johnson LB
43 - Darron Lee ATH
44 - Mike Mitchell LB
52 - Donovan Munger DL
54 - Billy Price DL
59 - Tyquan Lewis DE
75 - Evan Lisle OL
77 - Michael Hill DT
82 - James Clark WR
84 - Corey Smith WR
85 - Marcus Baugh TE
93 - Tracy Sprinkle DL
97 - Joey Bosa DL
Number One With a Bullet
In today's college game, when you give a freshman the #1 jersey, as Urban Meyer has done with Dontre Wilson, then you must be expecting something special. And if you've seen Wilson's highlights, then you've obviously seen the same potential that Meyer has.
Generally, however, this is a number that has to be earned before it is given out. Just ask guys like Bradley Roby, Devon Torrence or Marcus Freeman, each of whom had to toil with another jersey number before being given the #1 jersey.
Heck, Michigan even has a scholarship program for the number, but they just can't find anybody suitable enough to wear it.
Hopefully for the Buckeyes, giving a true freshman the #1 jersey works out better than when they gave the number to Dareus Hiley back in 2003. Perhaps not coincidentally, that also happened to be the last time a freshman was awarded the number.
An Underrated Legacy
Receiver Jalin Marshall and his #17 jersey might not strike you as all that interesting, but he shares the jersey number with two of the more successful OSU receivers of the past two decades.
Santonio Holmes and Chris "Tippy Toes" Sanders both wore the #17 jersey, even though Holmes only wore it during his true freshman year when he was redshirting.
Holmes' 2,295 career yards receiving are fifth in school history, and Sanders' 1,120 yards receiving was good for 11th in school history at the time of his graduation.
The #17 jersey was also assigned to an unused halfback by the name of Earle Bruce way back in 1951.
So, based solely on the information above, Jalin Marshall is either going to turn into a very good receiver, or one heck of a cantankerous ol' ballcoach. Or possibly both.
A Legacy All Its Own
When it comes to jersey numbers at Ohio State, there is probably only one number more iconic than the #36 jersey, and that's because that particular number belongs to the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in college football history.
However, second-most iconic is still pretty iconic, and that's what the #36 jersey is at Ohio State. As you know, it's a linebacker number that carries a lot of history with it, and no doubt for freshman linebacker Trey Johnson to be given the number, he had to learn some of that history.
The number itself is a who's who of linebacker greats, featuring names like Tom Cousineau, Marcus Marek and Chris Spielman, each of whom were All-Americans. There is also Brian Rolle, who was a First-Team All-Big Ten linebacker in 2010.
Expectations come with particular jersey numbers, and the #36 is certainly one of those, especially on a linebacker. Trey Johnson could see some very early minutes this year, and running around with the #36 on, he shouldn't be hard to spot.
A Pair of New Legacies?
There's no overstating the importance of the leadership of both Zach Boren and John Simon last year, which has me wondering if their jersey numbers will now take on more meaning.
The #44 jersey has had an okay history over the years, but with how Boren represented the University through his four years, could the number itself take on more meaning than just the play on the field?
Now that the #44 belongs to freshman linebacker Mike Mitchell, who knows, we could be witnessing the early days of a new fabled number in OSU history.
Mitchell certainly brings the potential with him as a 6-foot-4, 225-pound linebacker who runs a 4.4 and has the nickname "The Abusement Park", but Boren's #44 also represented the intangible. We know Mitchell possesses plenty of tangibles, but does he possess what made Boren so special?
And along the same lines of the #44 jersey is the #54 jersey worn by John Simon last year. Similarly, with the #54 jersey, there has been a solid recent history, with guys like Tim Anderson and Tank Whaley, but Simon took things to the next level with his Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award last season.
Now, defensive tackle Billy Price dons the #54 jersey, and like Simon, he is also from Youngstown. Price is well aware of what Simon has meant to Ohio State, and he likely understands what it means to wear the same number.
But don't expect Urban Meyer to be offering to name any of his future children after Billy Price just yet.
- It's been more than a few decades since a running back wore the #15 jersey (unless you count A.J. Trapasso, which I sort of do), so it will be interesting to see if this is just a transitional number for Ezekiel Elliott, or if he wants to make the number his own.
- Since Orlando Pace made the #75 famous, it has been in an almost constant rotation, being given to several top recruits along the way. Following Pace's departure to the NFL, the number was given to true freshman Henry Fleming, who chose the Buckeyes over Michigan and Miami, FL. After Fleming, the #75 jumped over to defense with Simon Fraser for four years, before coming back to left tackle and Alex Boone. Following Boone, the number then went to Mike Adams, and now the number has finally been passed to freshman Evan Lisle. Much like middle linebacker and the #36, a left tackle with the #75 at Ohio State just looks right.
- There has been a very positive recent history on the defensive line with the #97, and now Joey Bosa has the challenge of living up to it. Over the last 15 years, the number has belonged to Kenny Peterson, David Patterson and Cameron Heyward, all three of whom were versatile enough to play anywhere on the defensive line. And at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Bosa certainly has the size to play multiple positions like those before him.
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