First impression shows Gray will be a factor at QB

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2009 - 8:52 PM

Though junior Adam Weber will -- and should -- start, the touted freshman's talent will make this a two-man job.

MarQueis Gray

Asad Abdul-Khaliq and Travis Cole split time quarterbacking the Gophers in 2000 and 2001. Over those two seasons, Abdul-Khaliq threw 281 passes and Cole threw 338.

The duty belonged to Abdul-Khaliq in the two seasons that followed. Bryan Cupito took over from 2004 through 2006, and then Adam Weber became the starter as a redshirt freshman in 2007.

Basically, Gophers quarterback has been a one-man job for the previous seven seasons. That has been particularly true since Weber became the starter.

Weber threw 859 passes over the past two seasons. Other quarterbacks threw seven. Weber had 273 rushing attempts. Other quarterbacks had three.

The situation is going to change this fall -- for Weber and in relation to recent history.

Most of the folks crowded around the University of St. Thomas' football field for the Gophers spring game Saturday had heard excellent reviews on quarterback MarQueis Gray without actually seeing him play.

It did not take much of the spring game to accept the reviews as factual -- and also to realize that the Gophers will be required to get playing time for Gray this fall.

Forget the nonsense about moving Gray around to find other uses for him. This guy is a quarterback.

Ohio State faced a somewhat similar situation last fall, with the arrival of Terrelle Pryor as the nation's top recruit. The Buckeyes had a fifth-year senior in Todd Boeckman. He had started only in 2007, and the Buckeyes had played in the national championship game.

Boeckman started the first three games -- and No. 3 was a 35-3 embarrassment at Southern Cal. Pryor took over as the starter the next week and remained there.

Things are more complex for the Gophers. Ohio State's Jim Tressel could say he made the switch to Pryor to give his offense both a passing and running threat at quarterback.

A coach here can't say the same. Weber's level of overall talent is much higher than Boeckman's. The Minnesota junior-to-be has proven his ability as both a runner and a passer in 25 consecutive starts.

There's little chance that Weber will be standing aside by next fall's fourth game. What he figures to be doing -- as early as the opener at Syracuse -- is giving up his ironman duty of the previous two seasons.

When Gray was signed in February 2008, the easy comparison to make was to Juice Williams, the mobile quarterback who had led Illinois to the Rose Bowl.

Gray didn't get into school the first time around. As he was worrying about ACT issues, Pryor was establishing himself as a Big Ten quarterback with great wheels, as well as long with his release and inaccurate as a passer.

The sample was incomplete on Saturday, but there was enough to say with certainty that there's no comparison between Gray and Pryor in throwing the ball.

Gray has a quick motion. On an early drive, he threw with touch on a couple of screens, then fired a bullet to Brandon Green near the goal line.

He showed the touch again in the second half by making a toss to Brodrick Smith on a fade for a 17-yard touchdown. And then Gray capped this coming-out display by hitting Smith on a sideline sprint for 59 yards and another touchdown.

Gray was 8-for-10 for 141 yards passing. He wasn't able to show the running side of his game. The quarterbacks were protected from contact and were down when touched by a defender.

There was a play early when Simoni Lawrence came speeding past on a rush and slapped Gray for a sack. Yet, as Lawrence arrived, Gray by instinct ducked inside and was getting ready to take off. You could envision next fall, when everyone is playing tackle football, Gray darting to the corner in the manner of Pryor and ripping off 25 yards.

Weber's the starter when the 2009 season arrives -- he's earned that -- but he will have to share.

One plan offered from behind an end zone barrier on Saturday was Weber plays the first three series of a game, Gray the next two, and the coaches go from there.

That sounds reasonable, and also complicated for an opposing defense.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. • preusse@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
  • 62°
  • 67/47
  • Intermittent Clouds

Paul Douglas blog

The Drive: Metro traffic

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close