Football runs in cycles, Jerry Kill believes. Wait long enough, the Gophers coach says, and someone probably will start running the single-wing again.

But the latest trend in the Big Ten is one he doesn't approve of -- even though Kill's own team is one of its leading proponents.

The top three leading rushers in the conference, and five of the top 13, are quarterbacks. One of them, Michigan triggerman Denard Robinson, led the Big Ten a year ago and finished fourth nationally.

Robinson's current 117.3-yard average ranks below Taylor Martinez of Nebraska, the league's top rusher at the moment at 128.0. The Gophers' MarQueis Gray is third, averaging 109.3 yards per game after setting a school record for a quarterback with 171 yards last week. Northwestern's Kain Colter -- filling in for Dan Persa, another double-threat QB -- is eighth at 79.0, and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase is 13th at 61.3.

"We're seeing it week in and week out now," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "It seems to be the direction college football is going right now."

For Gray, it's a matter of doing what he does best, at least while he is learning his new position. The junior ranks just 89th in passing yardage nationally in his first year since moving over from receiver, but 22nd in rushing.

All of which makes Kill cringe.

"I imagine every coach will tell you we'd rather not have to run the quarterback as much as we've had to do it," Kill said of Gray's 58 official rushing attempts this season. "You'd rather have your tailback do that."

But Gray is an extraordinary athlete, and his tuck-and-runs have been the Gophers' most consistent weapon. Minnesota probably wouldn't have beaten Miami if Gray had not broken Sandy Stephens' 50-year-old rushing record.

There are other benefits, too. "Anytime a quarterback is a threat to run, it alters your preparation," Ferentz said. "It's one more area that puts pressure on your defense."

Kill, however, frets about Gray's durability. He may be 245 pounds, but every hit he takes puts the Gophers' most important player at risk.

"It just happened that we needed his legs last Saturday, and I'm sure [North Dakota State] will try to take his legs away from us this week," Kill said. "I think we all worry, when you have him running, [about] what his health is going to be like when you get to games 9, 10, 11 and 12."

Still, the Gophers aren't planning to limit Gray's mobility, especially since not all of his runs are planned. Last week, for instance, Gray had several keepers in the red zone, but some of the plays were supposed to be passes.

"There was one near the goal line where he didn't like what he saw, so he took off," said offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. "Everyone looks at it and goes, 'Why'd they run a draw?' But rather than risk something, he tucked it and went."

You can't blame the Gophers, especially after two losses to start the season, for riding what was working best. And Gray has expressed no reservations about his workload.

"I gain more confidence each week. I'm starting to just have more fun and do less thinking," he said. "I was getting tired, but I was feeling the love from the stadium and my teammates."

Kill loves the player. He's just not so sure about the play.