MarQueis Gray Key To Minnesota Attack

It has been a difficult beginning for new coach Jerry Kill at Minnesota this year. His team struggled against a difficult schedule, and he has suffered from recurring seizures. But despite their 2-9 record, the Gophers have been improving every week and figure to give the Illini some major problems this Saturday for Senior Day on their home turf.

Jerry Kill has an experienced staff, most of whom have been with him at multiple stops. Even when he was hospitalized with seizures, the staff kept moving forward. Minnesota has won only two games, but one of those was a major upset of Iowa, 22-21. And they lost close games at USC 19-17 and 31-24 at powerful Michigan State.

The biggest problem for Illinois this weekend is quarterback MarQueis Gray (6'-4", 240). The junior is a major running threat, gaining 786 yards in 171 carries, a 4.6 per carry average. He has scored 4 times on the ground. In addition he is a capable passer, completing 101 of 199 passes for 1410 yards and 7 TDs. He has thrown just 8 interceptions on the year.

True freshman Max Shortell (6'-6", 226) is 26 for 54 and 309 yards in reserve action. He has passed for 2 touchdowns and thrown 2 interceptions. Both may play Saturday.

Senior running back Duane Bennett (5'-9", 205) has been a thorn for the Illini throughout his career. He has gained over 2000 yards in his career. This season, he has carried 144 times for 595 yards and 3 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Donnell Kirkwood has gained 205 yards in 60 carries and has scored 3 times. The starting H-Back/Fullback is junior John Rabe (6'-4", 252).

Brothers Ed Olson (6'-7", 300), a sophomore, and freshman Tommy Olson (6'-4", 289) play adjacent to each other on the left side of the Minnesota offensive line. Center Ryan Wynn (6'-5", 305) and right tackle Chris Bunders (6'-3", 292) are both seniors. Redshirt freshman Zac Epping (6'-2", 297) is the starter at right guard.

In Minnesota's configuration, the Y receiver is equivalent to tight end. Senior Collin McGarry (6'-4", 261), who has 15 receptions on the season, and freshman Drew Goodger (6'-5", 249) are the top two at the position.

The Gophers's leading receiver is senior Da'Jon McKnight (6'-3", 211). He has caught 47 passes for 714 yards and 4 scores. His best game was 9 receptions for 173 yards and 3 scores against Michigan State. He is backed by freshman Devin Crawford-Tufts (6'-2", 191), who gained 100 yards against Iowa.

Soph Malcolm Moulton (5'-11", 186) and junior Brandon Green (6'-0", 186) both play the Z position. They each have 14 grabs for 174 yards on the season and double as punt returners. Moulton is also listed at the V position, backed by senior Eric Lair (6'-3", 232). Lair has 11 receptions for 168 yards and one score.

Seniors Anthony Jacobs (6'-2", 291) and Brandon Kirksey (6'-2", 294) man the interior of the Minnesota defensive line. Jacobs has 6 tackles for loss. The ends are redshirt freshman Ben Perry (6'-5", 241) and junior D.L. Wilhite (6'-4", 245). Wilhite has 3 sacks.

Senior middle linebacker Gary Tinsley (6'-1", 232) is second on the team in tackles with 81. He has 3 sacks among his 8 tackles for loss. The outside linebackers are juniors Mike Rallis (6'-2", 231) and Keanon Cooper (6'-0", 212). Rallis and Cooper are 3rd and 4th in tackles. Rallis registered 13 tackles against Northwestern last week, and Cooper had 12 against Nebraska.

Sixth year senior safety Kim Royston (5'-11", 200) leads the team and is fourth in the Big 10 with 110 tackles. His fellow safety is soph Chase Haviland (5'-9", 185). The corners are soph Brock Vereen (6'-0", 182) and senior Kyle Henderson (5'-11", 185). Vereen has 64 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.

Senior Jordan Wettstein began kicking field goals midyear after Chris Hawthorne suffered an injury. Wettstein is 4-4 on field goals and 6-7 on PAT. He has a 48 yard field goal to his credit. The punter is soph Dan Orseske, who has a 38.4 yard average. Bennett and Moulton are the primary kick returners.

Statistically, Minnesota does not compare favorably with its first 11 opponents. But the Gophers will likely be fired up for Senior Day, knowing they defeated the Illini last year in Champaign.

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