Gray feeling comfortable as face of football program

The QB waited two years to be the starter and says he’s ready to lead.

Gray feeling comfortable as face of football program

Josh Katzenstein

MarQueis Gray didnâÄôt take many hits during spring football practice, but when the 2011 season comes around, he said he wonâÄôt avoid contact. âÄúIf itâÄôs me and that guy on the goal line, IâÄôm going to run through him,âÄù the GophersâÄô projected starting quarterback said. âÄúIâÄôm not going to try to shake him or anything. IâÄôm just going to try to get the first down or touchdown.âÄù Confident words from the player Minnesota can least afford to lose to an injury next season. Barring an incredible fall camp from incoming freshman Max Shortell, Gray will be the starting quarterback next season and become the face of head coach Jerry KillâÄôs program. âÄúIâÄôm pleasantly surprised,âÄù Kill said of GrayâÄôs progress. âÄúHe still has a long way to go to learn but heâÄôs done a really nice job and thatâÄôs going to be important to us.âÄù Kill wouldnâÄôt fully endorse Gray as the 2011 starter, though. âÄúHeâÄôs certainly the guy going into fall camp,âÄù he said. âÄúI donâÄôt make any brash statements until we get out to two-a-day camp.âÄù Gray had his ups and downs Saturday. He had a beautiful 20-yard run on the second play of the scrimmage as well as some nice scrambles that were blown dead as soon as a defensive player touched him. His throwing, though, left more to be desired. He had just one completion of 10-plus yards and finished 11-for-18 for 67 yards. GrayâÄôs timing will improve once he has more time to work with receivers âÄî DaâÄôJon McKnight, Victor Keise, A.J. Barker, Brandon Green and tight end Eric Lair all missed SaturdayâÄôs game. For now, heâÄôs thrilled about the possibility of finally starting under center. âÄúItâÄôs a long time coming,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm just happy that itâÄôs finally here, and I look forward to taking over the starting quarterback job and leading this team this year.âÄù Unlike Kill, Gray didnâÄôt shy away from expectations. He thinks the team will be better than last season even if it there werenâÄôt many signs of that notion Saturday. âÄúI know we should be better than 3-9,âÄù Gray said. âÄúWeâÄôve got guys who bought into this program, who believe in coach Kill, who believe heâÄôs going to turn this program around for us.âÄù Turning the program around has to start with Gray. The pressure always mounts on Big Ten quarterbacks, but heâÄôs sure starting at wide receiver last season helped prepare him for the many demands of a high-profile college football player. And after playing with the first-team offense for all of spring practice, he thinks he will be ready to lead the team come September. âÄúIâÄôm a lot more confident in myself and my ability to lead this offense,âÄù Gray said.