UNC football: QB Bryn Renner sees room for improvement

acarter@newsobserver.comAugust 25, 2013 

  • Record breaking Renner

    Bryn Renner is on pace to become UNC’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He already holds the single season record for most TDs (28 in 2012), breaking his mark of 26 set in 2011.

    Career Yards

    1. T.J. Yates: 9,377

    2. Darian Durant: 8,755

    3. Bryn Renner: 6,456

    Career TDs

    1. Darian Durant: 68

    2. T.J. Yates: 58

    3. Bryn Renner: 54

    Career completions

    1. T.J. Yates: 795

    2. Darian Durant: 701

    3. Bryn Renner: 516

— Bryn Renner is entering his third season as the starting quarterback at North Carolina, yet when he described recently how he approached the offseason, he sounded as though he might have been worried about being benched.

“I think every day I go out there, my job is on the line,” said Renner, who threw 28 touchdown passes and seven interceptions last season – the first in coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense. “And coach Fedora loves competition. And going into this year, starting in the summer, starting in the winter, I wanted to prove to them that I’m still the best quarterback for this team.”

Did Renner worry there might have been any doubts about that? He smiled at the thought.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Every day I just want to prove to my teammates that this is my team.”

It’s that urgency – that desire to prove – that has motivated Renner since the end of last season. Looking at the numbers alone, the 2012 season was a success.

He completed 65.4 percent of passes, threw for 3,356 yards and had a 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Renner threw for at least 305 yards during the Tar Heels’ final four games, a stretch in which he threw 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

His struggles at the beginning of last season, though, have stayed with him more than the late success.

“I think I struggled, as I’ve said,” Renner said. “I started off rocky. The first five to seven games, I wasn’t managing the game.”

That’s a phrase – “managing the game” – that some quarterbacks might abhor. It values the fundamental – knowing when to throw a pass away, for instance – over the sensational.

During offseason meetings, though, Fedora encouraged Renner to continue to take chances. Fedora just wanted his quarterback to be smarter about when to take those chances, and when not to.

At the end of his team’s preseason training camp, Fedora said “there’s quite a big difference” between Renner’s understanding of his role in the offense now compared to a year ago. Fedora listed off all the ways Renner had changed for the better.

“In just his decision-making process,” Fedora said, “(and) the leadership that he’s providing, the knowledge of the offense, the ability to understand when he has to make the throws and when he doesn’t – when it’s OK to punt. How you have to try to move the chains.”

“All the different things in just managing a football game. Big difference between now and last year at this time.”

Renner, who needs to throw for 2,922 yards to become UNC’s career leader, is hopeful that his increased understanding translates into improvement in all aspects, but especially in red zone efficiency. The Tar Heels last season scored touchdowns on 61.9 percent of their trips inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, and Renner described that performance as “horrible.”

“(I) really didn’t take care of the ball,” he said. “I had a couple of fumbles in the red zone.”

The mistakes gnawed at him during the offseason. And so Renner treated spring practice, and preseason camp, as though he was competing to keep his starting job.

A season ago, UNC’s experienced offensive line became the soul of the offense. The Tar Heels lost three starters there, though, and Renner saw a void in leadership that he wanted to fill.

“We have a lot of young guys,” Renner said. “And I’ve been here for five years, and I think that’s the next step I need to take as an athlete and as a player – just to get everybody on the same page.”

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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