Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer announced Wednesday that sophomore linebacker Dorian Davis and sophomore safety Antonio Wardlow have been dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Wardlow played in 13 games last season as a reserve safety and on special teams. Davis played in 12 games last season and recorded 15 tackles, nine of which came on special teams.
Davis was one of several players expected to compete for a starting job at either middle or outside linebacker when spring practice begins March 11.
Wardlow did not figure to be a starter in an already deep secondary, however his brief career provided its share of highlights.
In 2006, the North Carolina native appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated after blocking a punt and recovering it in the end zone in a victory at Georgia.
On Jan. 1, he sealed a 21-17 victory over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl with an interception near UT’s goal line late in the fourth quarter, the only interception of his career.
Fulmer could not be reached for comment Wednesday, however following his press conference last week on National Signing Day, he indicated that his patience was wearing thin after a spate of off-field incidents in the last month.
“Character and the perception of it sometimes is different than what it really is,” Fulmer said last week. “That’s why I sit in the seat that I sit in and make the decisions that I make off of what I know about the young people.
“If they’re not good people, they’re not going to be in this program.”
It appears the dismissal of Wardlow and Davis was not related to a run-in with police, and the Knoxville Police Department was not immediately aware of any recent incidents involving either Wardlow or Davis as of Wednesday night.
Both players were already on a shorter leash after previous arrests.
During the 2006 season, Wardlow was one of three players arrested when police responded to an altercation at a Knoxville nightclub following the Vols’ loss to LSU that November. He was charged with underage consumption and public intoxication and was suspended for UT’s next game at Arkansas.
Wardlow was given judicial diversion and the public intoxication charge was later dropped.
In September, police in his hometown of Iowa City, Iowa, charged Davis with disorderly conduct after he allegedly pushed and struck a mutual acquaintance during UT’s lone open date of the 2007 season.
Citing Davis’s maturation, Fulmer disciplined Davis internally for the arrest, saying at the time that the incident “really wasn’t of his instigation at all.”
Davis was also suspended for last year’s Orange and White Game for a violation of team rules.
Wednesday’s dismissals are the latest in an escalating series of punishments handed out by Fulmer in recent weeks.
Fulmer has publicly disciplined six players since two freshmen were arrested Jan. 11, the first of four consecutive weeks a Tennessee player was arrested.
Over that stretch, Knoxville and UT police have charged five players for offenses ranging from disorderly conduct to misdemeanor marijuana possession, public intoxication, underage consumption and DUI.
Only one player — walk-on defensive back Vince Faison — has been docked playing time. The 27-year-old former professional baseball player received a two-game suspension after police charged him with DUI on Feb. 2.
Other players involved in those off-field incidents have received punishments that include police ride-alongs, community service at a drug and alcohol treatment center, stricter curfews and more frequent drug tests.
Fulmer also made the entire team run at 6 a.m. the morning after the second incident involving a UT player.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.