Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi announced Friday he has dismissed starting defensive end Rori Blair for "conduct detrimental to the program," while also issuing suspensions to starting safety Jordan Whitehead, starting offensive lineman Alex Bookser and linebacker Quintin Wirginis.
Whitehead and Wirginis were suspended for the first three games of the season for violating team rules; Bookser was suspended for the season opener against Youngstown State after an offseason DUI arrest.
"Our program's foundation will always be built on discipline and personal responsibility," Narduzzi said in a statement. "These are highly disappointing situations but I am hopeful that each of these young men will be better, stronger and wiser after taking accountability for their actions."
The losses on defense could have a major impact. Blair was one of four returning starters on defense, and the lone returning starter on the defensive line. His personal comeback story was remarkable in itself, as he returned from a stroke in 2013 to ultimately win a starting job.
Whitehead, meanwhile, is Pitt's best returning player on defense and was expected to take a leading role in helping revamp a secondary that struggled for most of last season. Losing him for the first three games means the Panthers must take on Penn State and Oklahoma State without him. Wirginis was expected to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot with Saleem Brightwell.