CHAPEL HILL — 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 Fedoras 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 Im still the best quarterback for this team.
Did Renner worry there might have been any doubts about that? He smiled at the thought.
I dont know, he said. Every day I just want to prove to my teammates that this is my team.
Its 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 Ive said, Renner said. I started off rocky. The first five to seven games, I wasnt managing the game.
Thats 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 teams preseason training camp, Fedora said theres quite a big difference between Renners 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 hes providing, the knowledge of the offense, the ability to understand when he has to make the throws and when he doesnt when its 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 UNCs 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 opponents 20-yard line, and Renner described that performance as horrible.
(I) really didnt 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, UNCs 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 Ive been here for five years, and I think thats 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