The Vols definitely will be without junior defensive backs Art Evans and Stephaun Raines. Evans started six of the first seven 2010 regular-season games before missing the last four due to an indefinite suspension - reportedly for missing some car payments.
"We will re-evaluate Art's status at the end of the bowl game," Vol head coach Derek Dooley said. "He's not going to be cleared before the bowl."
Raines, a career reserve who saw only a few snaps of mop-up duty this season, has been dismissed from the squad for a "team-rules violation," according to the head man.
Two more Vols are in danger of being sidelined due to the rule requiring athletes to pass at least six hours of classes in a semester to be bowl-eligible.
"If there is something, we'll know in the next day or two," Dooley said. "There's one or two that we're worried about but it's not official yet."
Yet another defensive back, sophomore safety Janzen Jackson, is back in Lake Charles, La., attending to a family matter. He is expected to be available when the Vols assemble in Nashville on Dec. 26 to put the finishing touches on their bowl preparations, however.
Dooley noted that Jackson is "dealing with some very, very personal family issues.... I don't know exactly when he'll be back but we do expect him to play. We do expect him to be back at some point to prepare for the game."
Jackson left Knoxville late last week, shortly after completing his final exams. He was not sent home, Dooley emphasized, adding that Jackson's departure "was his decision" and that the player's return will be "on his schedule."
Although the staff expects Jackson to suit up for the bowl game, Dooley admitted that "We're going to prepare without him (in the game plan) and with him."
On a positive note: Sophomore defensive tackle Montori Hughes, who missed the regular-season finale vs. Kentucky due to a suspension, has been reinstated and will be available to play vs. North Carolina, the head coach said.
Like Tennessee, North Carolina has seen its paper-thin depth further depleted this week. Two senior starters will miss the Music City Bowl due to recent surgeries.
Guard Alan Pelc, who started 34 games for the Tar Heels during his career, underwent shoulder surgery on Monday and will not be available to face the Vols. Linebacker Bruce Carter, who started 43 games for UNC, underwent ACL surgery on Tuesday that will prevent him from suiting up on Dec. 30, as well.