KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee's small group of football seniors just got smaller.
Defensive lineman Rae Sykes is not currently with the Volunteers due to academic reasons, UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton said Monday.
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound former Alcoa (Tenn.) High School standout played in nine games as a reserve after arriving at UT before spring practice in 2009 from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, where Sykes didn't play in either of his two seasons due to injury. Sykes signed with the Vols in 2007 but didn't qualify academically.
The Vols also lost defensive tackle Montori Hughes earlier this month. Hughes, who was listed as a backup on the post-spring depth chart, was suspended for a game last season due to academics and missed the first two spring practices after violating team rules.
UT now has just eight scholarship seniors, and more than 70 percent of the roster is freshmen and sophomores. Sykes, along with star defensive tackle Malik Jackson and backup quarterback Matt Simms, was one of three transfers.
The depth along the defensive line has been a troublesome problem for the Vols, and injuries to ends Jacques Smith and Ben Martin and the loss of Hughes and Sykes have thinned out a group already short on bodies.
Four new players - highly-touted junior college tackle Maurice Couch, freshmen tackles Trevarris Saulsberry and Allan Carson and end Jordan Williams - should help, though the freshmen will have to be ready to play immediately.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrownTFP.