SANTA CLARA — MarQueis Gray never has been cut from a football team, but the rookie tight end is on the bubble to make the 49ers' final roster that must be pared to 53 by Saturday.
"Any way I can open eyes and help the team gives me a little bit of hope," said Gray, a converted quarterback from the University of Minnesota.
Thursday night's exhibition finale at San Diego offers one more chance for Gray and others to stick with the reigning NFC champions.
Gray has made a late surge among a tight end corps that features Vernon Davis, second-round draft pick Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek, the only undrafted rookie to make last year's final cut.
Gray (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) knows he has must vastly improve his blocking, footwork and hand placement. Because he's such a project, the 49ers might opt to send him to the practice squad.
Despite playing quarterback and wideout at Minnesota, Gray hasn't practiced at either position with the 49ers, who instead are seeing if he can fit into Delanie Walker's old role.
When Gray returned to Minnesota's campus before training camp, he visited the Gophers' tight ends coach to seek more tips on his position switch. Recalled Gray: "First thing he said is, 'How's Vernon Davis?' And I said, 'Coach, I'm doing good, too.'
"I know I can't stay complacent," Gray added. "I see veteran guys getting cut. This isn't college anymore. No scholarships." With 22 players on the chopping block, here are five intriguing battles to watch in the exhibition finale: 1. Who's the No. 3 quarterback? Every team would love this question for the finale, because it means your starter (Colin Kaepernick) emerged healthy through three exhibitions and your top backup has been determined (Colt McCoy).
Rookie B.J. Daniels should see his most extensive action as he tries to secure the No. 3 job over newcomer Seneca Wallace.
2. Which outside linebacker can help the 49ers forget Parys Haralson, who was traded to New Orleans earlier in the week?