Friday, March 23, 2007

The last time I checked... | by Pat

"I'm a big guy on tradition and on history, so instead of running from it I decided to embrace it and take on that lead role, because the last time I checked no busters wore number 3, so I'm just setting high expectations for myself."
-Demetrius Jones
I just thought this quote was great. Not just for Jones's willingness to welcome high expectations, but just for the way he phrased it. No busters wore number 3 indeed. While the Clausen storylines might be easier to write, you have to think many sportswriters secretly hope that Demetrius Jones takes over as starting QB, if only for more opportunities for quips like this one.

Of course, while we're talking jersey history, there is the little factoid that the last Notre Dame quarterback to wear the #3 jersey finished his career as a wide receiver. Buyer beware Demetrius. Then again, the list of successful QB's wearing the 3 is pretty lengthy. In addition to perhaps the most famous #3 in ND history, Joe Montana, memorable passers like Ralph Guglielmi, George Izo, Daryle Lamonica, Coley O'Brien, Rick Mirer, and Ron Powlus all wore the number. Not a bad group. And for a bit of extra luck, Harry Oliver also worked some Irish magic in the #3 jersey. Interestingly, no Heisman winners from this group, although Guglielmi did wind up in the College Football Hall of Fame.

While lacking the overall star power of a Joe Montana, Jimmy Clausen's #7 jersey actually has an equally successful ND history of quarterbacks. John Huarte, Joe Theismann, Steve Beuerlein, Jarious Jackson, and Carlyle Holiday are some of the more famous names to line up under center with the #7 jersey. And unlike #3, this number has a Heisman Trophy winning QB to its credit in Mr. John Huarte and another Hall of Famer in Theismann. Then again, the last Irish player to fight for a QB job wearing #7 is also currently a wide receiver. So maybe Jimmy should start practicing his route running too, just in case.

I'm afraid that history hasn't been too kind to Zach Frazer's #12. The last two scholarship quarterbacks (exempting Marty Mooney here) who wore that number, Ken Karcher and Gus Ornstein, both lost their QB derby battle and transfered -- Karcher to Tulane and Ornstein to Michigan State -- before winding up as backups in the NFL. I do have a bit of a question on Ornstein though. The all-time roster lists him as #12, but the photo I linked to his name has him with a #8 jersey. Can we get a ruling from the crowd? There have been a few talented running backs who wore #12 though, including Jack Chevigny, who scored the game-tying touchdown in the "Win One for the Gipper" game against Army, Ed Gulyas, who led the team in rushing in 1970, and Tony Fisher, who led the team in rushing in 1999.

Evan Sharpley's #13 jersey isn't really a traditional QB number, and given the number of players that probably strayed away for superstitious purposes, not too many famous Irish players have worn the number. The only QB's I could find on the all-time roster were backups Tom Cushing, Matt Johnson, and Greg Knafelc. We'll see if Sharpley can reverse this trend and give ND its first #13 starting QB. In the meantime, even though current NFL pro Bert Berry and Tom Carter wore #13 while at ND, the only player wearing the number that I can even find a picture of is Nicholas Setta.

Like Jay stated earlier, in the absence of true insider information -- Weis has curiously turned down our repeated requests for FedEx'd copies of practice film -- we have to turn to alternative methods to handicap the QB derby. And based on this entirely unscientific stroll down ND jersey memory lane, it looks like Jones has the slight edge on Jimmy. We'll just have to see if things change once they actually start throwing the football in practice.