Iowa’s all-Big Ten defensive tackle, Jim Johnson, won’t play against Washington in Tuesday’s Rose Bowl game.
Johnson suffered a strained left knee during practice Friday, Coach Hayden Fry said. Fry said the 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior was the only Hawkeye player who would miss the game because of an injury.
“That’s a big loss to us from a defensive standpoint,” Fry said. “On the other hand, Jeff Nelson and Ron Geater will do a very fine job handling Jim Johnson’s position.”
Nelson, a 6-4, 260-pound sophomore, will start Tuesday and Geater will back him up. Nelson played in 10 games this season and made 28 tackles. Geater, a 6-6, 270-pound junior, made 23 tackles in 10 games.
If Fry ran a professional football scouting service, he would make Nick Bell, one of his two No. 1 tailbacks, a first-round pick.
“He could be a running back, fullback, tight end or linebacker, he’s that versatile,” Fry said. “Most guys can play just one position. Nick has the capabilities to play four.”
Bell, a 6-3, 225-pound former all-state wrestler from Las Vegas, shares running duties with Tony Stewart, another senior from Union, N.J.
“Having two running backs is important in the Big Ten because week after week they take so much punishment that it’s almost impossible for a single back to go through the season without getting battered one way or another,” Fry said.
“Besides, we had two guys who wanted to be No. 1. We decided it would be better to call both of them No. 1 and have them share time than to call one of them No. 2.”
Once a Marine, always a Marine. That’s Fry’s philosophy, and he runs the team the way he used to train recruits at Quantico.
“I learned in the Corps what every Marine learns, that everything starts with discipline. I instill that in my team, and I’m proud to say that they respond very well to it.
“I want the team to do everything first class, from the way they run on the field to the way they break the huddle. Having a first-class attitude can become contagious.
“When our young men meet the media for interviews, I want them to have their hair combed, the shirt tucked in and their ties knotted. If their personal life is not in order, how can you expect them to be in order on the football field?”
Merton Hanks was voted to the all-Big Ten team as a cornerback, but he says the Iowa special teams are the Hawkeyes’ secret weapon.
Hanks, a four-year letterman, is the heart of the special teams. He has blocked three punts and a field goal attempt and intercepted three passes.
“There’s nothing like blocking a punt to disrupt the other team’s poise,” Hanks said. “If we can get one against Washington, it could turn things our way.”
Washington Coach Don James celebrates his 59th birthday today. And two of his players, tailback Beno Bryant and punter Channing Wyles, will turn 20 and 23, respectively, on New Year’s Day.
The dean of Pacific 10 coaches, James has a 13-4 record against Big Ten teams. He also has a record 83 conference victories.
Times staff writer Mal Florence and the Associated Press contributed to this story.