Updated scholarship math

National Signing Day is in 16 days, on Feb. 1.

On that day, USC plans to sign 15 players, the most it's allowed to sign under NCAA-mandated limitations because of the sanctions. But will that work, considering the NCAA is also mandating the Trojans keep their total number of scholarships handed out at 75?

It's going to take some finagling. Looking at the updated scholarship math after the latest wave of transfers, USC will still have to create some more spots by the time the 2012 season comes around in one way or another.

Position by position, as of Monday, the Trojans have four quarterbacks, three running backs, two fullbacks, five receivers, four tight ends, four offensive tackles, four guards, three centers, four defensive ends, four defensive tackles, eight linebackers, six cornerbacks, five safeties and three special-teamers on scholarship.

That's 59 players, not including Amir Carlisle, Brice Butler, Kyle Prater, Armond Armstead, T.J. Bryant and Patrick Hall, who have all left the program or are very near leaving.

Then add six more players who are expected to begin attending classes at USC by the Jan. 27 spring-semester deadline: Morgan Breslin, Scott Starr, DeVante Wilson, Gerald Bowman, Chad Wheeler and Josh Shaw.

That's 65 players. With a 75-man cap and 15 players presumably coming in the summer in the class of 2012, that means five more players still have to go. Where will those five players come from?

There are a few possibilities -- let's run through some of them.

-- Three former walk-ons who earned scholarships could have them revoked: offensive lineman Abe Markowitz, linebacker Will Andrew and safety Tony Burnett.

-- Bowman may not finish his junior-college requirements in time to enroll for the spring. That would push him back to the summer and lower USC's total.

-- One or two or a few players could still transfer. Prime candidates would appear to be those locked in at their spots behind younger players.

Those are three primary ways USC could get down to the maximum. Other more-creative, less-likely options are the oft-thrown-around ideas that (1) certain players could give up their scholarships for a year or (2) players who participate in other sports could get supported on scholarships from those sports.

But neither makes much sense -- firstly, it's not just the cost of attendance that a scholarship covers, it also provides the chance to eat in the athletic cafeteria and other similar privileges. And, secondly, there aren't too many football players still playing other sports. There are a few Track & Field athletes, but scholarships are at a premium there too.

Of course, USC could also grey-shirt a signee or two who doesn't qualify and have him come in next January, by which time more current players could transfer. There are ways around it.