MarQueis Gray is now a receiver-turned-quarterback-turned-receiver for the Minnesota football team.
True freshman quarterback Philip Nelson has stepped in to replace Gray under center and sent Gray, a senior, back to wide receiver after a year-and-a-half stint at quarterback for the Golden Gophers.
Gray, nursing an ankle injury, has made eight catches for 89 yards in the last three games. In 2010, his last season at wide receiver, he made 42 catches for 587 yards and five touchdowns.
At Big Ten Media Days in July, the Daily sat down with a then-quarterback Gray to discuss his impression of Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, what he picked up from Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as a dual-threat quarterback and his upcoming matchup with the Michigan football team.
TMD: After the first full year under Jerry Kill what types of progress have you seen?
MG: Last year was my first year so I was getting my feet wet getting back to quarterback for the first time since my senior year of high school. As the weeks went on I got more comfortable. After we finished last season with a win over Illinois we took that off into the off-season.
TMD: You had to go through a couple position changes to try and find a way onto the field last year; was it difficult to try and learn new positions and then transition back to quarterback?
MG: I feel like once you play quarterback nothing is harder than trying to play quarterback. When I went to receiver I went, ‘Oh my god, you guys have it easy. How could you mess this up?’ I had fun at receiver but I’m looking forward to continuing at quarterback.
TMD: Having been a receiver, is it a little easier to get after those guys when you get in the huddle?
MG: Oh yeah, because I know what to expect of those guys and they should know what I want and how they sit in zone defenses or how they should play their man. But, like I said, we have a great group of receivers and they’re going to do their jobs and get open for me.
TMD: The New Mexico State game was when Kill went down on the sidelines with seizures. Give us an idea of what that day was like.
MG: “Well, no one saw any signs of Coach Kill going down or having problems or anything. The game was going on, we were all rowdy and we look over and see everyone stop. I looked down on the ground and saw Coach Kill there and our minds thought, “Oh Lord, what’s going to happen? What’s going on?”
Coaches pulled us to the side as they carted Coach Kill out and said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ve got to finish this game. Finish it for him. He’s going to be okay.” Sure enough, we went to practice the next week and he was there. We expect that from Coach Kill. He’s a trooper and will do what he’s gotta do to make sure we’re successful.
TMD: How does he go about getting the best out of his team? He seems like he’d be a great guy to play for.
MG: He is. He challenges us a lot, makes us compete. I feel like if you’re an athlete or a football player you’ve got to be able to compete — that’s what we did this off-season.
TMD: What would it take to get a game back in your home state, Indiana, and head home to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game?
MG: It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of film study and a lot of guys going out and having a lot of fun this whole season.
TMD: There’s been a shift in the Big Ten toward more of a spread-offense tendency, evidenced by the number of mobile quarterbacks out there. Is that a good thing for the Big Ten?
MG: You could say that, but I’m really not sure. All I know is it’s a lot more fun. In my eyes I like to be in the spread offense and I can tell Denard does too because you’re able to spread out the defense and do so much instead of just that power running game. I think it’s a good thing to have the spread offense.
TMD: Denard Robinson is a bit of a unique quarterback, but is there anything you’ve been able to pick up from him?
MG: I just can’t imagine running with my shoes untied. That’s the hardest thing. I have to have my shoes tied completely tight. For him to do that, run with his shoes untied, it takes a real athlete to do that.
TMD: You came to Ann Arbor last year, rough game with you being injured, but what was that experience like?
MG: It was a pretty nice stadium. I took a few visits there so I already expected it to be loud. But to be there and not be able to go to battle with my teammates was heartbreaking. Michigan’s a great football team and they just got the best of us that game.
TMD: Now Michigan will have to Minnesota this year, what are you looking for in that battle?
MG: I’m just looking forward to going head-to-head with Michigan. Hopefully we do a lot better this year and we’re able to come out victorious. Like I said, they’re a great football team and we need to come out and play four quarters.