- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our top 25 Big Ten players countdown began on Monday and will run every weekday until we reach No. 1. As a reminder, these rankings are based both on past performance and potential for the 2012 season. Other factors like NFL stock are not being considered.
Up next on our list is a guy with all kinds of athletic ability and potential:
No. 24: MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota, Sr., 6-foot-4, 245 pounds
2011 postseason rank: Not ranked
2011 numbers: Completed 50.7 percent of his passes for 1,495 yards, with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Also ran for 966 yards (averaging 4.9 yards per carry) with six touchdowns.
Why he's here: Gray struggled at times early last season, which was anticipated as he moved back from receiver to start at quarterback for the first time. But he started to figure things out down the stretch and used his size, speed and strength to become a dual threat. Gray ran for 160 yards against Northwestern and then rumbled for 167 more in the finale against Illinois. He also threw for 295 yards late in the season against Michigan State's tough defense. We really like Gray's potential for 2012, as he has worked hard to improve the touch on his passes and the Gophers have looked for ways to utilize all of his strengths.
"He's come a long way," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said at Big Ten media days. "I think that he'll be a very, very exciting football player to watch, not only in the Big Ten but throughout the country."
If Gray can harness all his skills, there aren't many players with his physical gifts playing quarterback. He could be like a light version of -- dare we say it -- Cam Newton. Of course, that won't matter much if the Minnesota receivers and running backs don't improve and help him out. But Gray still has a chance to be a superstar his senior season.
No. 25: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Our top 25 Big Ten players countdown began on Monday and will run every weekday until we reach No. 1. As a reminder, these rankings are based both on past performance and potential for the 2012 season.