Pitt took care of the bulk of its work in the recruiting Class of 2021 on Wednesday, with 21 new players signing to play in blue and gold.
Of course, Wednesday’s signings are only the early period for the class, and more players will still sign in the traditional late signing period, including possibly offensive linemen Brandon Honorable and Marco Fugar, who were committed to Pitt but did not sign on Wednesday.
How many scholarships will Pitt have to work with for the February signing period? Well the math is more complicated than ever this year, but it doesn’t seem like very many.
The Panthers had 21 seniors on scholarship for the 2020 season and had one underclassman — safety Paris Ford — leave for the NFL. Now, some of those seniors will return to exploit the NCAA’s blanket eligibility waiver for the 2020 season.
But whether those players decide to return or not will not impact Pitt’s available scholarships for 2020. In the 2021 season, teams will be able to exceed the 85-man scholarship limit by as many returning players they have that would have otherwise been out of eligibility.
Right now, there are 14 Pitt players whose eligibility would have been expected to expire that have not announced that they are turning pro or leaving Pitt. If all 14 of them return, Pitt will be able to have 99 scholarship players next season.
If tomorrow, kicker Alex Kessman announces that he’s turning pro and entering the draft, then Pitt will have 98 scholarships for 2021. If instead, wide receiver DJ Turner changes his mind and decides to come back for another season, they’ll have 100.
Either way, the Panthers will have the same 85 scholarships that they’d normally have for players in their normal span of eligibility, and those players taking advantage of an extra season won’t count one way or the other.
With 22 players coming off the books and 21 coming on, that means that Pitt currently has just one available scholarship for the 2021 season.
Now, more scholarships are likely to open as some players will undoubtedly choose to transfer or otherwise not return to Pitt between now and the start of next season. But don’t expect a big crowd the next time Pat Narduzzi takes the podium to announce additions to the program.