Two Vols ruled academically ineligible for Outback Bowl

Tennessee's football team will be without two of its defensive starters for the Outback Bowl.

Junior tackle Demonte Bolden and sophomore outside linebacker Rico McCoy failed to meet the necessary academic requirements and will be ineligible to play against Wisconsin on Jan. 1, multiple sources within the Tennessee athletic department told ESPN.com.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is expected to announce the suspensions on Friday. The Vols wrapped up their pre-bowl practices on Thursday. Bolden missed practice earlier this week, and Fulmer said at the time that he was tending to academic business.

Bolden started in 12 of the Vols' 13 games this season. He had five tackles for losses and two sacks and was a big part of Tennessee's improvement up front defensively. The Vols, after struggling early, played some of their best defense during their five-game winning streak en route to their SEC championship game appearance. They then turned in perhaps their best defensive performance of the season in a 21-14 loss to LSU in the SEC title game.

McCoy started all 13 games at weak-side linebacker. He was Tennessee's second leading tackler with 106 total hits, including 4.5 for losses. McCoy and junior middle linebacker Jerod Mayo (127 tackles) teamed up to form one of the most productive duos defensive coordinator John Chavis said he's coached at Tennessee.

Senior J.T. Mapu is expected to replace Bolden in the starting lineup against the Badgers, while sophomore Dorian Davis and junior Ellix Wilson are the front-runners to step in for McCoy.

Fulmer also has at least two openings to fill on his staff and possibly more depending on who goes with offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, who's leaving for the Duke head coaching job after the Outback Bowl.

One of the leading candidates to replace Cutcliffe is Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence, who will be in Knoxville on Friday to interview with Fulmer about the job.

Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Chris at espnclow@aol.com.