Commentary

DeCock: New UNC offense won’t hold Renner back

ldecock@newsobserver.comAugust 3, 2012 

UNC02-SP-080312-RTW

UNC quarterback Bryn Renner (2) runs the offense during the Tar Heels' first day of practice for the 2012 season on Friday morning August 3, 2012 at Navy Field in Chapel Hill, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— His name was written on white tape on the front of his helmet – “RENNER” – just like everyone else on the first day of practice with a new coaching staff.

Bryn Renner isn’t just like everyone else. As North Carolina transitions from the pro-style offense used under Butch Davis and Everett Withers to new head coach Larry Fedora’s fast-paced spread look, how quickly Renner adapts will have a lot to say about how quickly the Tar Heels adjust.

Renner wasn’t recruited for this offense, which requires a high degree of mobility from the quarterback, both moving behind the line and pulling the ball down and taking off upfield. Renner was recruited to take over for T.J. Yates as a drop-back passer in the NFL model, where arm strength far outweighs foot speed as a priority.

The good news for the Tar Heels is that Renner is a good enough quarterback that even if he turns out to be the squarest of pegs in the roundest of holes, he should still be fine.

Renner already went through this in the spring, but that was a crash course with a pop quiz at the end. This is the real deal, the first day leading up to the first game.

In what can be determined from a half-hour of open practice, Renner did a lot more running on the first day of Fedora’s camp than he did on the first day of Withers’ camp last year. Some of it was built into the basic drills the quarterbacks do on their own. Some of it was built into the basic plays the offense ran, the read-options that are standard practice in most college offenses now, but were never a part of North Carolina’s before.

Renner isn’t going to be much of a threat running the ball on a read-option, but neither is Mike Glennon, and that remains a staple play of N.C. State’s offense. Glennon makes Renner look like Usain Bolt by comparison, and Giovani Bernard is far ahead of any of N.C. State’s healthy, eligible running backs.

It’s the threat that matters, not the weapon itself. Much of Renner’s running in this new offense will be about deterrence, carrying the ball just enough to keep defenses from focusing exclusively on Bernard.

Some of it won’t, though. With more wide receivers running patterns and fewer backs and tight ends, this offense isn’t built to give Renner the same kind of time in the pocket. He’s going to have to make decisions more quickly – no problem there – but he’s also going to have to pull the ball down and run more often. That’s where things may get a little tricky.

Fedora’s starting quarterback ran for 352 yards at Southern Mississippi last year. Renner ran for -88 at North Carolina. (That’s almost entirely due to sacks; Renner had 26 carries for positive yardage, for a total of 125 yards.)

Still, as the music blared and the equipment managers threw gear around trying to keep pace with practice, Renner went through the drills with experienced calm. The offense may be raw, but the quarterback isn’t. Even if he isn’t the best fit for what Fedora wants to do, this offense isn’t going to hold Renner back.

DeCock: luke.decock@newsobserver.com, (919) 829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock

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