Michigan's Will Heininger not expected to play, Thomas Gordon reclaims safety job and other notes
NEW ORLEANS — Michigan football coach Brady Hoke has down-graded starting defensive lineman Will Heininger's status for the Sugar Bowl to doubtful because of a foot sprain.
If precedent holds in how Hoke deals with injuries, that means Heininger, a fifth-year senior from Ann Arbor, will not be available when the Wolverines face Virginia Tech at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
"Heininger probably ain't gonna be ready," Hoke said during a news conference Sunday at the team hotel in New Orleans. "It's just going to be a shame, 'cause he's played his senior year like a senior should and done a great job as a leader up front."
He has started every game this year, including the final 10 at defensive tackle. He had 23 tackles and provided good leadership in a starting group that featured three seniors.
"(Now), the next guy steps in, and it's an expectation for the position," Hoke said.
Junior Will Campbell now is to start for Heininger against the Hokies. That would be the former five-star recruit's first career start.
Campbell has appeared in every game this year, recording 11 tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery. He is not accustomed to receiving sustained playing time, so his size — he's 6-foot-5, 322 pounds — and conditioning makes endurance a concern.
Little-used sophomore tackle Quinton Washington is expected to rise into a backup role for Campbell. He's played in eight games this year, recording one tackle.
Another alternative for replacing Heininger could be sliding strong-side defensive end Ryan Van Bergen inside (he started the first two games of the season there). However, that scenario is less likely because Van Bergen's backup, Nathan Brink, already has been ruled out because of an undisclosed injury.
Other job notes:
Will Hagerup to punt
Hoke said embattled sophomore punter Will Hagerup has held off freshman Matt Wile and will retain his job in the Sugar Bowl.
Hagerup began the season with a four-game suspension, and has not rediscovered to his freshman form since returning. He's averaging 36.8 yards per attempt, and Michigan finished last in the Big Ten in punting this year.
Hoke formally opened the job, but decided to stick with Hagerup.
Thomas Gordon back at safety
Hoke said sophomore Thomas Gordon has reclamed his job as the starting free safety.
Gordon started the first eight games of the season and played well. He led the Big Ten with four fumble recoveries, forced two others and had one interception.
His 59 tackles were third on the team.
However, he was supplanted as starter in three of the final four games for senior Troy Woolfolk, who was moved to safety after losing his cornerback job to freshman Blake Countess, and didn't play at all against Iowa.
Hoke said he gave Gordon his job back because he's shown improved consistency has retaken the job, but Woolfolk also is expected to see time.
Wile will attempt long field goals
Hoke's support of Brendan Gibbons as the starting field-goal kicker has never waned this year, nor is it now.
But should a long field-goal attempt be attempted against Virginia Tech, Hoke said Wile likely would get the call.
Hoke opened the season by naming Gibbons as his starter from 43 yards and in, and Wile his starter from 44 yards and out. However, Gibbons is the only kicker to attempt a field goal this year.
He was 10-of-14 with a long of 43 yards against Ohio State.
The Sugar Bowl will be played indoors at the Superdome.