MarQueis Gray's running ability is a potent weapon, Jerry Kill has said for months, but the Gophers were reluctant to overuse that skill for fear of injuring their most athletic player.
A month into the season, the Gophers coach's point is made.
Gray suffered toe and foot injuries during Saturday's loss to North Dakota State, Kill revealed Wednesday, and the Gophers starting quarterback might not be healthy enough to play at Michigan on Saturday.
"Tomorrow will be a big day for him. We'll see how he moves around," Kill said after Wednesday's practice, which Gray spent in treatment for his injury rather than on the field. "We're being very cautious on that. We can right now. We don't want to be stupid."
Gray has been throwing this week, but he's done no running, Kill said. "I'm trying to get him ready to play on Saturday because he's important to our football team," the coach said. "He can throw and move sparingly, but will he move well enough? That's the big question. It's just according to how quickly [he] heals."
If Gray was unable to play, freshman Max Shortell would make his first career start and presumably play the entire game. Shortell and Gray shared snaps roughly evenly during the second half of last week's loss, and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Shortell would receive playing time this week, too, even if Gray can play.
The Gophers could be without two more starters, too. Senior cornerback Troy Stoudermire is practicing with a cast on his forearm to protect a fractured bone, and the injury is still bothering him, Kill said.
"I don't know what we'll do with him," Kill said. "He may be a bigger question mark [than Gray] because it affected his play" last week. Stoudermire, who is also the Big Ten's career leading kickoff returner, leads the Gophers with two interceptions this year.
Also, freshman receiver Marcus Jones suffered a slight concussion, and while he's moving well this week, Kill said he will be cautious about using him again too soon. Jones is third on the team with seven receptions for 101 yards.