In a flurry of jersey announcements over the past few days, the look of the team has changed quite a bit for fans. Most of the players will be the same, but their look and legacies will look a little differently for the future. The biggest announcement, Roy Roundtree being awarded with the #21 Legacy jersey, is pretty significant, but the one that is perhaps the most interesting is the change of Devin Gardner's jersey number.
Gardner, Michigan's backup quarterback since before the 2010 season, has been known to fans by his spectacular talents and by his famed #7 jersey. He wore the number in high school and continued that tradition when he arrived on campus in the Spring Game in 2010. The jersey had been worn by many famed Michigan athletes, but was probably best known as of late for being the jersey of Michigan's starting quarterback from 2004-2007, Chad Henne. Henne holds Michigan's school records for passes completed, passing yards, and passing touchdowns and was only one of three true freshman quarterbacks to start his first game on campus.
Gardner seemed to fit in well with the #7 jersey of Henne. He was an incoming 5* quarterback recruit and seemed destined for great success under center. However, with recent news that he's moving to #12, there has been a lot of debate regarding the move and Gardner's future role with the team. Is this a sign of the position change that has received much speculation? Is Gardner officially becoming a wide receiver? Along with this, wasn't Michigan's 2013 quarterback recruit Shane Morris promised the #12 jersey when he arrived on campus? He, after all, wants the jersey because of his deep admiration of Tom Brady and because like Gardner, he wore the jersey in high school.
Do I think this is a sign of something much deeper? Not really. Jersey changes happen all the time and this is no different. Although it is uncommon to change a player's number of Gardner's age and fame within the program, it's not anything shocking. Roy Roundtree's number change was obviously something that was significant from its special place in Michigan football history, but it, like Gardner's change, doesn't symbolize long-term change for Michigan.
I do think there could be a possiblity of some future move to add a Legends patch to the #7 jersey for Henne, but that's not something that's going to occur anytime soon. They have a lot more jerseys to address before they get around to guys like Henne, although his Michigan career was incredible. I point this out because there may be a desire to make sure the jersey is only worn by quarterbacks. If Gardner is splitting time next season between quarterback and wide receiver or only playing wide receiver, this may be viewed as something that could tarnish the jersey's legacy in the future. This is definitely a possibility, but I don't think it's that likely.
So, if this wasn't the reason, why would the coaching staff give Gardner the #12, when Shane Morris seemed to have been promised the jersey? Well, first, Morris isn't even on campus until fall of 2013. The team doesn't need to be bending over backwards to be pleasing a high school recruit. They need to be doing what's best for Team 133, not Teams 134 or 135. Plus, Gardner would have more seniority even if Morris was on campus. It's just not something that makes sense.
Overall, these frequent jersey changes are a bit surprising, but I really don't see them as that significant in the grand scheme of things. It will be fun to see all the changes this fall, but for all we know, it could just be a random whim of Gardner to get #12. Maybe Roundtree asked him to wear it because he was changing jerseys, or Gardner wanted to 'freshen' things up. Something like this seems a lot more believable than a massive athletic department overhaul. Either way, fans don't need to panic about a non-traditional number changing. I'd focus more on the team's chances next year than a random jersey switch.