Playing QB is goal for Gophers' Gray

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 25, 2013 - 7:19 AM
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Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray stiff-arms Texas Tech's Sam Eguavoen in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Photo: Kevin M. Cox, Mct

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INDIANAPOLIS - Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray will go through athletic testing and drill work Sunday at the NFL combine. Gray is expecting to have a decent showing as a 6-foot-3, 240-pounder with eye-catching athleticism and versatility.

Still, whether he can find his niche at the next level remains a major question. Gray will work out Sunday with the quarterbacks and still is expressing confidence that the increasing popularity of dual-threat signal-callers capable of running the read option will enhance his stock.

"The league is changing constantly," Gray said Saturday. "You see it with RG3 [Robert Griffin III], Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick. It's shown to be pretty effective. All those guys are taking that scheme to the next level."

Two weeks ago, however, Gray was asked to play tight end at the Texas vs. the Nation collegiate all-star game in Allen, Texas. He also revealed plans to participate in both receiving and quarterbacking drills at Minnesota's March 4 pro day.

Gray realizes that his chance of making it as an NFL quarterback requires him to show dramatic improvement with his throwing accuracy.

"All the scouts say I have a real strong arm," he said. "So there's not much I can change except for getting more accurate. Whether that's just settling down in the pocket or getting my feet under me, there's a lot I can work on."

Up the middle

The Vikings' needs at linebacker will be largely determined by what they do in free agency. Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell might all become unrestricted free agents March 12. So depending on how things unfold, the Vikings could aim to select a linebacker early in the draft.

Most notably, they need to find a three-down middle linebacker who can show dependable coverage skills in the nickel defense.

Linebacker options at pick No. 23 could include Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter and North Carolina's Kevin Reddick. Minter could provide the best value there, as an instinctive and aggressive playmaker who would be a great fit in the Vikings' system.

Te'o, meanwhile, offered his sales pitch Saturday. "What I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy, and I'm somebody who works hard. Somebody who hates to lose," said the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Embracing change

Ohio State's Reid Fragel is one of the more intriguing offensive-tackle prospects, a big and quick lineman who played tight end for three seasons with the Buckeyes before moving to right tackle.

Urban Meyer's arrival as coach and installation of the spread offense convinced Fragel that his chances of contributing significantly were greater at tackle than tight end.

Initially, the learning curve was steep, particularly when it came to refining his footwork in pass protection.

"The run game was always natural to me," Fragel said. "I was a blocking tight end and a lineman at heart. But the pass [protection] took a little more time."

In the past year, Fragel has quickly developed and is believed to have tremendous upside, especially for any team patient enough to groom him for a year before needing him to start.

Fragel's tight-end history gave him an edge on the other tackles during this weekend's athletic testing. His 30-inch vertical leap, 113-inch broad jump and 33 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press were all among the top efforts delivered by linemen Saturday. Fragel also ran the 40-yard dash in 5.14 seconds and had a 4.68-second time in the 20-yard shuttle drill.

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