CHAPEL HILL — 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 isnt 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 Fedoras fast-paced spread look, how quickly Renner adapts will have a lot to say about how quickly the Tar Heels adjust.
Renner wasnt 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 Fedoras 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 Carolinas before.
Renner isnt 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. States offense. Glennon makes Renner look like Usain Bolt by comparison, and Giovani Bernard is far ahead of any of N.C. States healthy, eligible running backs.
Its the threat that matters, not the weapon itself. Much of Renners 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 wont, though. With more wide receivers running patterns and fewer backs and tight ends, this offense isnt built to give Renner the same kind of time in the pocket. Hes going to have to make decisions more quickly no problem there but hes also going to have to pull the ball down and run more often. Thats where things may get a little tricky.
Fedoras starting quarterback ran for 352 yards at Southern Mississippi last year. Renner ran for -88 at North Carolina. (Thats 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 isnt. Even if he isnt the best fit for what Fedora wants to do, this offense isnt going to hold Renner back.
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