Tigers Have 2 Starting LBs Declared Ineligible For Bowl Game

Clemson (9-3) will face No. 22 Auburn

Dec. 18, 2007

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) - Clemson linebackers Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie won't play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn because of poor academic performances.

Watkins and Billie were declared ineligible Tuesday, as was offensive tackle Christian Capote, the school announced. All three are fifth-year seniors.

Clemson (9-3) will face No. 22 Auburn at the Georgia Dome on New Year's Eve.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said all three players had chances to stay eligible and got help on coursework from tutors. "But, they are accountable for their academic performance," he said.

Watkins led the defense in tackles the past two seasons, registering 116 in 2006 and 118 this year. Billie was third on the team with 79 tackles this season. He started for Clemson in 2004 and 2005 but missed last season with an injury.

Capote started all 12 games at right tackle.

The Tigers were sixth in the country in total defense, allowing 297 yards a game this season.

There's also a chance Clemson could be without its third starting linebacker. A school spokesman said Bowden has yet to determine the status of linebacker Cortney Vincent, arrested earlier this month on drunken driving charges.

According to Clemson's depth chart, sophomore Kavell Conner would take over for Watkins and freshman Scott Cooper for Billie. Freshman Chris Hairston is likely to play for Capote on the offensive line.

"As we look to the bowl game, it is an opportunity for some young players to step up," Bowden said.