Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville has suspended linebackers Tray Blackmon and Kevin Sears from playing in the Tigers' first three games this season, two sources close to the situation said Wednesday.
The players were expected to compete for starting jobs this season, but were disciplined by Tuberville after being arrested on alcohol-related charges during the past year.
Blackmon and Sears will miss at least the first three games: vs. Washington State on Sept. 2, at Mississippi State on Sept. 9 and vs. LSU on Sept. 16. Sears, who has started 15 games the last three seasons, was expected to compete with senior Karibi Dede for the starting middle linebacker job. Blackmon was battling sophomore Merrill Johnson for the starting weakside linebacker job and was ahead in the competition after spring practice.
Sears, a senior from Russellville, Ala., was found guilty in early July on charges of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and public intoxication. On Nov. 5, only hours after the Tigers won at Kentucky 49-27, Sears drove his car off the road and struck a gas main and tree. His blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.13, above Alabama's legal limit of 0.08. Tuberville suspended Sears from playing against Georgia last season and he did not accompany Auburn to play Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
Blackmon, a highly regarded redshirt freshman, was arrested May 13 in his hometown of LaGrange, Ga., on charges of underage possession of alcohol and being a pedestrian under the influence of alcohol.
Tuberville last week said that Blackmon and Sears were going to miss "several games," but declined to specify how many. Tuberville couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The Tigers were an overwhelming choice to win the SEC in voting at last week's SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. They lost two of their starting linebackers from 2005 -- Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams, who were second and third on the team in tackles, respectively. Auburn moved strong safety Will Herring, a second team All-SEC selection last season, to strongside linebacker during spring practice.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.