Renner shines in Heels' spring scrimmage

Staff writerApril 9, 2011 

— After talking to North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner on Saturday, you would have thought he threw four interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

“I am hard on myself, but I am a realist, and I think I can get a lot better,” Renner said after the Tar Heels’ spring scrimmage.

Renner wasn’t giving himself enough credit. A sophomore who is the heir to four-year starter T.J. Yates’ starting position, Renner was crisp and competent in a 45-minute controlled scrimmage of about 50 snaps in front of a crowd UNC estimated at 15,500 at Kenan Stadium.

A 43-yard touchdown pass from Renner to Erik Highsmith provided the biggest highlight of the scrimmage. Renner, who’s more athletic than Yates was, appeared comfortable when he was flushed from the pocket, making good reads and strong throws.

“Bryn Renner showed a little bit today of some of the things that excite us - his ability to extend plays, move around in the pocket, get outside of the pocket, throw the ball,” said North Carolina coach Butch Davis. “I think clearly he is doing a lot of things well. He’s still got a lot of things he’s got to improve on.”

Developing a calmer demeanor in the huddle is one of them. Davis loves what he called “Bryn’s boyish eagerness” and said Renner’s can-do spirit in the huddle can be contagious with his teammates.

At the same time, Renner said he needs to do a better job controlling his emotions. On the first snap of the scrimmage, Renner was so hyped up that he forgot to send the fullback in motion.

That doomed the play, as senior running back Ryan Houston was met by a tackler in the backfield.

“I was like, ‘It’s all right, Bryn, just calm down and everything will come to you,’ ” Houston said. “Bryn is just a really overly excited guy, and I am glad he’s like that. I feel like he’s going to make a lot of deep throws and plays, and a lot of smart decisions.”

Houston is eager to make his own impact on the North Carolina offense. He was cleared to play last season after being held out of five games in the NCAA’s investigation of academic misconduct and impermissible benefits in the Tar Heels’ program. But he elected to sit out the remainder of 2010 and redshirt.

He returns as a senior with lofty goals. He wants to be North Carolina’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Jonathan Linton in 1997. A senior who graduated from Butler High, Houston carried twice for 22 yards – including a spinning, 16-yard run – before sitting out the rest of the scrimmage because of a shoulder bruise.

Houston, who weighed 270 pounds earlier in his career but is listed now at 245 pounds, said he feels quicker and stronger.

“He’s got a lot more burst and a lot more explosion at the line of scrimmage,” Davis said.

Renner and Houston both are comfortable behind an offensive line that returns three starters from last season and controlled the line of scrimmage Saturday. Davis said it has taken years of recruiting to get the offensive line to the point that it’s one of the strongest units on the team.

“The offensive line, I can’t say enough about them,” Renner said. “I’m really just a small piece of the puzzle, and they’re doing all the work.”

Despite what Renner said about his own performance, he did his share of the work Saturday, too.

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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