Friday, December 14, 2012
Nelson, Gray working at QB for Gophers
By Adam Rittenberg
Minnesota freshman quarterback Philip Nelson is one of the many young Gophers players benefiting from bowl practices this month.
But he's not the only player taking reps under center.
Senior MarQueis Gray, who started the season at quarterback before ankle and knee injuries forced a move to wide receiver, is "healthier right now than he's been since the start of the season," Gophers head coach Jerry Kill told ESPN.com on Friday. Gray is practicing at quarterback alongside Nelson and could take some snaps against Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
"Both those kids are working at quarterback," Kill said. "It's a great time to polish up your skills and get fresh legs underneath you. Both of those guys have done very well in practice."
Gray had 464 pass yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions, and added 331 rush yards and four touchdowns at quarterback for the Gophers this season. He ran the zone option well, and the offense moved the ball well at times with Gray in the backfield. Gray came to Minnesota as a quarterback but played mostly wide receiver in 2010 and during the second half of this season.
Nelson stepped in midway through the season after injuries to both Gray and Max Shortell, who recently opted to transfer. Nelson showed impressive poise for a true freshman and had a huge performance in a Oct. 27 win against Purdue, although he struggled down the stretch.
Injuries piled up for Minnesota's offense, especially along the line. Although Kill doesn't expect to get everyone back, the Gophers will have center Jon Christenson for the bowl game, which allows Zac Epping to move back to guard.
"Being able to get some stability in there will certainly help the continuity and will help us be able to move the ball better offensively," Kill said. "That was our struggle at the end of the year. We were just so beat up. We just didn't have very many kids left on the offensive side of the ball."