The first four Huskers to earn single-digit jersey numbers were announced on Wednesday.
Quarterback Jeff Sims, receiver Billy Kemp, linebacker Luke Reimer and defensive back Isaac Gifford received enough votes from teammates to earn the special distinction the upcoming season. Kemp chose No. 1, Gifford No. 2, Reimer No. 4 and Sims No. 7. None of them wore those respective numbers last season. Gifford wore No. 23 in the secondary and Reimer wore No. 28 previously for the Huskers. Kemp wore No. 4 at Virginia and Sims wore No. 10 at Georgia Tech.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) August 10, 2023
This is a new tradition at Nebraska that Rhule implemented in the spring. It’s something he learned while working for other coaches and decided to continue when he became head coach.
“What we decided was, you know what, 1 through 9 and now 0 through 9 would go to the nine or now 10 toughest guys on the team,” Rhule said this spring. “And when I say ‘toughest,’ we define that for the guys, but really, the guys who best exemplify what it means to be a Cornhusker, to be accountable, to be dependable, to be tough, hard working, competitive every single day.”
Rhule told reporters following Tuesday’s practice that they planned to host the first round of voting that evening. Although, if time didn’t allow because they returned from the Husker soccer game too late, they’d vote Wednesday. The football team announced the four single-digit recipients last night ahead of the Huskers’ dusk practice. Rhule did not say when the team will vote on the next round of single-digit jersey recipients.
Nebraska coaches and tight end Arik Gilbert have not shared a decision regarding Gilbert’s waiver yet. Rhule felt Gilbert should be able to play in the spring and reiterated belief the talented tight end could play this fall. But as the second week of fall camp nears, there’s no decision. Representatives for the NCAA Division I panel that oversees the waiver process did not return Hail Varsity’s request for comment.
Gilbert needs a waiver to play immediately this fall because he is a two-time transfer. He transferred from LSU to his home state of Georgia after one season. Gilbert did not play in his first season in Athens and followed with just three games last season. Mental health and personal issues clouded Gilbert’s time at both LSU and Georgia, which were well documented at the time.
“We’re trying to help him be the best person he can on and off the field, and that’s decisions we make each and every week,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in November.
Two denied waivers earlier this week do not provide hope for Gilbert’s potential approval. Florida State defensive tackle Darrell Jackson Jr. and North Carolina receiver Devontez Walker both had their wavers rejected on Tuesday. The NCAA said on Wednesday it is applying new criteria to the two-time transfer rule that would make it more difficult to gain immediate eligibility. NCAA representatives pointed to a rule change made in January with unanimous approval by conference representatives for the change.
“As a result of the DI Council vote, multiple-time transfers who cannot demonstrate and adequately document a personal need for medical or safety reasons to depart the previous school are not eligible to compete immediately following their second undergraduate transfer,” an NCAA statement read.
Jackson and Walker both citied closeness to ailing family members for their second transfers. The previous waiver guideline took family circumstances into account. Both also enrolled in their current schools before the NCAA’s vote on a rule change. Walker enrolled but never played at NC Central because its fall and spring seasons were canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He transferred and played at Kent State. North Carolina officials claim Walker should be considered a one-time transfer because he didn’t have to opportunity to play at NC Central. Jackson originally enrolled at Maryland, then transferred to Miami. He transferred to Florida State in January to take care of his mother, who lives 25 miles outside of Tallahassee.
So the NCAA nears a decision on Gilbert’s waiver after reaching befuddling verdicts on those two waivers.