No position group has bedeviled the Minnesota Golden Gophers over the last decade quite like the signal callers under center. This fall, the team’s fate would seems to rest in the inexperienced hands of redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan. Should he turn out to be competent, it will have been a long and strange road, riddled with the unfulfilled potential of countless Gopher quarterbacks.
Today we turn the spotlight to: MarQueis Gray.
As a Prospect
247 Sports Composite Rating: .9143
Scholarship Offers: Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, Oregon, and Purdue
Gray was a three-year starter at Ben Davis High School in Indiana. As a junior, he completed 73-of-140 passes for 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing for 603 yards and seven touchdowns on 127 carries. He missed most of his senior season with a broken bone in his non-throwing arm. In the five games in which he was able to participate, Gray connected on 26-of-41 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 302 yards on 64 carries with four touchdowns, and caught five passes for 86 yards and a score.
He was selected to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he completed 3-of-7 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Gray was considered the crown jewel of Tim Brewster’s first full recruiting class, which ranked 5th in the Big Ten and 26th nationally, according to 247 Sports.
As a Gopher
Gray was forced to sit out his freshman year at Minnesota due to his ACT score being ruled “invalid.” After retaking the test, he was able to return to the team in the spring.
In his first season with the team, Gray saw limited action at both quarterback — Adam Weber was entrenched as the starter — and wide receiver, throwing his first career touchdown pass against Ohio State and catching his first career receiving touchdown against Cal. He finished the season 6-of-15 for 62 yards with one touchdown and one interception, to go along with 265 rushing yards on 47 carries and six receptions for 58 yards with one touchdown.
He saw even less action at quarterback as a sophomore, but finished the season as the team’s second-leading receiver, with 42 receptions for 587 yards and five touchdowns. That was the final year of the Tim Brewster experiment, with co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton taking over as interim head coach at midseason once Brewster had been fired.
Gray started 10 games at quarterback as a junior, missing one game due to a toe injury and coming off the bench the following week. This was the first season with new head coach Jerry Kill at the helm. The Gophers finished with a less than stellar record of 3-9, and Gray was 108-of-213 for 1,495 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 199 carries for 966 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
As a senior, Gray started the first three games of the season at quarterback before suffering a high ankle sprain. He missed the next two games, but when he returned he was relegated to wide receiver for the rest of the year, as the coaching staff opted to first turn to Max Shortell and then Philip Nelson under center. In the final season of his career at Minnesota, Gray was 34-of-59 for 472 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, in addition to 72 carries for 390 rushing yards with five touchdowns and 12 receptions for 121 receiving yards.
- 6-for-15 (40%), 62 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- 47 attempts, 265 rushing yards
- 6 receptions, 58 receiving yards, 1 TD
- 2-for-8 (25%), 24 passing yards
- 23 attempts, 110 rushing yards, 1 TD
- 42 receptions, 587 receiving yards, 5 TD
- 108-for-213 (50.7%), 1,495 passing yards, 8 TD, 8 INT
- 199 attempts, 966 rushing yards, 6 TD
- 34-for-59 (57.6%), 472 passing yards, 5 TD, 2 INT
- 72 attempts, 390 rushing yards, 5 TD
- 12 receptions, 121 receiving yards
Where is he now?
Gray was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent. He has played tight end for a number of different NFL teams since then, including the Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings, the Buffalo Bills, and currently the Miami Dolphins.
One thing is for certain: Gray was (and is) a phenomenal athlete. It’s less certain that he had the skills to succeed as a quarterback. At best, he was inconsistent. His legs were always more reliable than his arm, and he struggled to be an accurate passer. Gray did have a promising start to his senior season, before a high ankle sprain allowed Kill and co. to turn the reins over to Shortell and Nelson and let Gray finish out his career at wide receiver.
Like his predecessor, Gray suffered through a revolving door of offensive coordinators in his two seasons under Brewster, and then found himself at ground zero of Jerry Kill’s rebuild. Neither regime seemed capable of quarterback development, so it’s possible Gray could have honed his game in better hands. He was a solid if not spectacular wide receiver, and he has parlayed that success into an NFL career at tight end. Perhaps that was where he belonged all along.
Next: Max Shortell.