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Watkins, Billie and Capote academically ineligible for bowl

CLEMSON, S.C. -- 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.

No. 15 Clemson (9-3) will face Auburn (No. 23 BCS, No. 22 AP) 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.