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Saturday, December 31, 2011
Michigan D-line looks for next man in

By Adam Rittenberg

NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan's defensive line has been the engine for a 10-win season, but the group's depth will be tested Tuesday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Reserve defensive end Nathan Brink is out with an injury, and starting defensive tackle Will Heininger remains hobbled with a sprained right foot. Heininger, who sustained the injury Dec. 22, has yet to practice with the team here.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Heininger is day-to-day. Heininger, a walk-on, has started all 12 games this season on the line and has 23 tackles, including four for loss and a sack.

"I've had guys that have missed an entire bowl practice and all of a sudden they were cleared [to play]," Mattison said. "And now you have another guy that can play. You can't worry about that as a coach."

Junior Will Campbell and sophomore Quinton Washington would see increased field time if Heininger can't play. Campbell, a great talent who has battled weight issues throughout his career, has two sacks and a fumble recovery this season.

"He's in tremendous shape for a guy for being 315-plus pounds," defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. "He could be the guy who's first to the ball every time. That's what I'm saying about his raw ability that hasn't shown up. I think he'll be a tremendous, tremendous influence on guys. When your biggest guy is running to the ball the most ... everybody else will get motivated by that."

Mattison has the "utmost confidence" in Campbell.

"It truly is, at our place, with Brady [Hoke] and our staff, next guy," Mattison said. "Next guy. These are our players. This is Michigan defense. This is how you play. You're expected to know what to do."