By Maxx Wolfson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 10, 2002
Utah head coach Ron McBride doesn't seem to want to believe the injury to his senior running back Marty Johnson is for real.
However, if the report out of Salt Lake City is true, the Utah coach will be without the nation's top rusher when his team travels to Tucson on Saturday to play UA.
The Salt Lake City Tribune reported yesterday that the nation's leading rusher suffered the worst kind of sprain possible to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and will miss 4-6 weeks.
Later that day in McBride's press conference to the Arizona media, he said Johnson will play.
"Marty will probably play, so we will be alright," McBride said. "He is a great player and has all the stuff. We have some other guys who can pick up the slack by us losing him."
If Johnson does not suit up for Saturday's game it could be good news for the UA defenders.
Before Johnson hurt his knee in the fourth quarter last week against Indiana, he ran for 229 yards against the Hoosiers ÷ the fourth-best performance in Utah history ÷ and leads the nation with his 202.5-yard average.
If Johnson can't go they will replace him with another rusher in J.R. Peroulis, who had 118 yards in the Utes 40-13 win last week.
"Peroulis had a heck of a game running last week," UA head coach John Mackovic said.
The Wildcats do have some injuries of their own, but the injury list is not as serious as it was when they played NAU on Aug. 31.
UA will have back both starting sophomore center Keoki Fraser and senior offensive tackle Makoa Freitas.
"I'm feeling really good," Fraser said. "My ankle feels back to 100 percent and I'm looking forward to getting out there and getting after it again.
"It was frustrating because I see Clarence (Farmer) out there and he did not have a really good game. He was having a hard time running the ball at times. I feel that is basically at the offense line. I really want to get out there and help him do good."
Freitas will wear a cast on his hand similar to the one that linebacker Joe Siofele wore last season when he had a similar injury.
Both senior offensive tackle Darren Safranek (knees) and senior offensive lineman John Vorsheck (head) will not play against Utah.
Junior defensive end Andre Torrey is still a couple weeks away from returning, according to Mackovic.
Senior cornerback David Hinton should be OK Saturday after straining his knee.
Mackovic said he is still not sure what players will redshirt this season and won't make any decisions until the team finishes up their next couple games.
"If we started someone in the first game against Oregon, then the player would play in eight games," he said. "That's a lot of football to play."
One player he did mention that could go either way is freshman cornerback Jason Martin.
If needed to play due to injury, Mackovic said they will use Martin; but as of now it looks like he will redshirt.
"If we had anyone injured we coach him to be ready to play if we had two injuries," Mackovic said. "He may not play at all but he is getting coached as if he would play."
Mackovic said he does not have redshirt freshman quarterback Nic Costa scheduled to play as much he did against NAU anytime this season.
Costa was told by Mackovic before the game that he was going to see some action against the Lumberjacks.
"If we get large margins he will play like he did; but I don't know if we will have that large margin," Mackovic said. "So more time than he got would be quite a bit because he played a quarter and a half. I don't know how comfortable I am with him because we haven't seen him in an emergency position."
Costa was 3 for 5 for 26 yards in his first career action.