Former 'U' star MarQueis Gray still looking for best fit at pro level
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MINNEAPOLIS -- MarQueis Gray is keeping his options open when it comes to his potential NFL future.
The former University of Minnesota quarterback/wide receiver, who was in Minneapolis with several other former teammates to participate in the Gophers' annual Pro Day on Monday, has yet to be completely pegged to a specific position.
At the moment, NFL teams are scoping him out as a quarterback, wide receiver or tight end. And Gray, who in his four years on campus was used as both a quarterback and receiver, views the lack of a label as a good thing.
"I look it as three ways to get in there," Gray said. "I believe it has worked to my advantage so far. I've been getting a lot of feedback at quarterback, receiver and tight end, so it's just helping me out in the long run."
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Gray worked out specifically as a quarterback in late February at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he was the first Gophers player invited to the event since 2010.
While he played as a tight end in the Feb. 2 Texas vs. the Nation all-star game, he was able to log reps at the Combine at the position he admittedly prefers. Gray, a dual-threat quarterback whose accuracy has often been criticized, surprised a few onlookers with a solid passing outing.
"The strong-armed passer displayed uncanny accuracy on all his throws," wrote NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline in article for USA Today. "Receivers were not forced to work hard to make catches; Gray placed the ball nicely in their hands. Gray had a few errant tosses but delivered much more than expected during his workout."
Gray threw for 1,495 yard and eight touchdowns as a junior, ultimately ending his career with 150 completions for 2,053 yards. He also totaled 1,731 rushing yards in his four years to go with 60 receptions for 766 yards.
Roughly 20 scouts from 13 NFL teams were in attendance at the Gophers' practice facility, including the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos. Gray focused mainly on wide receiver and tight end drills, getting a chance to haul in a few passes. But he also still took several reps at quarterback.
"At the start, I thought he put some really good touch on the long ball," Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson said. "We had him throw some deep down and in routes and I thought he hit the receiver in stride."
When answering the obligatory question of "What position is your favorite," Gray has stuck with the same response.
"I'm always going to be a quarterback," Gray said. "I love playing quarterback, but receiver is probably my second one because I don't have to get in a three-point stance."
However, regardless of what position he ends up playing, the left high-ankle sprain that has hindered him for months continues to be a red flag for scouts.
It has been nearly six months since he originally suffered the injury in September during the Gophers' third game of the season. Gray's senior season was derailed because of the injury, resulting in him being moved out of the starting quarterback spot to wide receiver.
In the Gophers' Meineke Car Care Bowl match-up with Texas Tech, Gray split time at quarterback with current starter Philip Nelson, attempting and completing just one pass for eight yards, but rushing for 59 yards.
By that point, his ankle was starting to feel back to normal, but he ended up retweaking it in the bowl game on a play in which he was flipped over by a Texas Tech defender.
There hasn't been much time since then for Gray to stay off his recovering ankle. He has spent the two months since the season ended working out on a daily basis, training with Athletes Edge Training in Boca Raton, Fla., and AMI Sports in Minneapolis.
Gray said his ankle is at "about 90 percent," but still hasn't fully regained his top-end speed off the line. After clocking a mediocre 4.73 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, Gray ran again on Monday, improving his time to 4.67.
"It's getting there. I just don't have time to rest it right now, because I'm working it every day," Gray said. "I can't explode like I want to off my left ankle. That limited me in some of the drills at the combine."
The road to the NFL Draft for Gray, who has been projected anywhere from a late-round pick to undrafted, has come with the learning curve that most prospects experience. Part of that was choosing to part ways with agent Tony Johnson.
Gray originally signed with Johnson soon after the season, but after a period of difficulties he opted to leave and sign with Minneapolis-based agent Mitch Chargo of AMI Sports.
"Things weren't working out," Gray said. "It felt like it wasn't in my best interest, a lot of lack of communication between us two and I had to do what was best for my family and I. That's what I did. We're still on good terms. It was just one of those business decisions that I had to learn that I had to make."
Getting extra time to catch his breath or rest his ankle isn't likely to come any time soon. Before the draft in late-April, Gray will work out individually for several teams, as well as continue to train in the Twin Cities.
Former Hopkins star sparks some attention
The biggest surprise to come out of Pro Day was lacking on maroon and gold roots.
Instead, it was a wide receiver who was bypassed by the Gophers four years ago that turned a few heads.
Minneapolis native and former Northern Iowa receiver Terrell Sinkfield, who was one of a handful of smaller school players to participate Monday, garnered some buzz after running a 4.19 on his first attempt in the 40-yd dash. Even after clocking at 4.27 on his second try, scouts were so caught off guard by that they made him run for a third time.
Unfortunately, he stumbled on the last attempt and ended with a 4.41, but his cumulative 4.33 time was still impressive enough to warrant newfound attention.
Sinkfield, who was primarily a running back during his time at Hopkins high school, never got to fulfill his aspirations of playing for the Gophers. Before settling on Northern Iowa as his college of choice, Sinkfield had received interest from former coach Tim Brewster and his staff but was not offered a scholarship.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound receiver has used the perceived snub as motivation.
"Coming out of Minnesota and really not getting the recruiting from Minnesota, I feel like I deserved to be playing here," Sinkfield said. "It was a kind of like a dream to play for the Gophers. I pretty much came here (today) with a chip on my shoulder. It was pretty much the plan since high school that I would come here on Pro Day."
Sinkfield led Northern Iowa in receiving last season with 499 yards and four touchdowns. He finished his career with 76 completions for 1,197 yards - a stat line he feels didn't portray the best of his abilities.
"I still don't think I played to my best potential at UNI, because my first few years we had a running quarterback and last year we had a freshman quarterback," Sinkfield said. "I don't think I really played up to my potential."
Like Gray, Sinkfield is also signed with agent Mitch Chargo. Gray and Sinkfield currently work out together with the same trainer.
• Vikings GM Rick Spielman didn't attend the workout, but the team was well-represented. College scouting director Scott Studwell and pro scout Steven Price were present, along with coordinators Bill Musgrave and Alan Williams and most of the coaching staff.
• Roughly 20 NFL scouts were present. That included representatives from the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans.
• Apart from Gray, the majority of the Gophers' most recent graduating class participated in the workouts - cornerbacks Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter, linebackers Keanon Cooper, Mike Rallis and Spencer Reeves, tight end John Rabe, wide receiver Brandon Green and kicker Jordan Wettstein.
Safety Kim Royston, wide receiver Eric Lair, Duane Bennett and Anthony Jacobs - all members of 2011 "U" senior class - were also in attendance.
• Cooper registered the fastest 40 time, unofficially, among the Gophers participants at 4.50. Stoudermire followed behind at 4.51. Carter came in a bit slower than expected, clocked at 4.69.
• Rallis took the Gophers' top vertical jump mark, tallying a 38-inch vertical.
• Former defensive end D.L. Wilhite, the Gophers' sack leader last season, did not attend Pro Day. Wilhite has opted to focus on pursuing a career with his degree in Global Studies. He is currently traveling abroad.
Tom Pelissero contributed.