CHAPEL HILL — Bryn Renner had started games after a concussion and amid pain from a foot injury that required surgery. He had started at quarterback for North Carolina for two entire seasons, and for two head coaches. Until recently, Renner had started 29 consecutive games.
And then came Saturday the first time since 2010 that Renner, a fifth-year senior, started a game on the sideline, watching. After suffering a foot injury during UNCs 55-31 loss against ECU on Sept. 28, Renner sat out the Tar Heels 27-17 defeat against Virginia Tech.
It was one of the toughest experiences of my career, Renner said on Tuesday after UNCs practice. ... Not to be able to be out there with my teammates it really hit me right before the game. I broke down and just kind of brought the team in and kind of wanted to talk to them and just how much I missed being out there.
So it was very difficult for me probably one of the hardest things Ive had to go through.
If things go according to Renners plan, at least, he wont miss much time. The foot injury limited him throughout practice last week, but Renner said he practiced with the first team on Tuesday.
He said he plans to play when the Tar Heels host Miami on Oct. 17 in a nationally televised Thursday night game. That UNC has some time before that game is beneficial to the healing process, said Renner, who said he was really close to being able to play on Saturday at Virginia Tech.
Its a huge advantage for me just more of an opportunity to get in the training room and keep rehabbing it, Renner said of the extra time between now and the Miami game. And it feels a ton better today and it felt great.
Renner on Saturday watched from the sideline while Marquise Williams, the third-year sophomore quarterback, played well at times during his first collegiate start. Williams threw for 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns and interceptions, and he also led the Tar Heels in rushing with 56 yards.
Williams, Renner said, did a phenomenal job of leading the team. In some aspects Williams exceeded expectations, UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said on Tuesday.
I thought his grasp on the playbook was good (before Saturday), Anderson said. I thought he handled himself in the environment he was in maybe better than expected. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have opened things up with him a little bit earlier in the game. We kept it very conservative early to get him comfortable.
Williams success and his mobility might make it more likely that he plays a larger role in the offense, Anderson said. Renner, though, is still the teams permanent starting quarterback.
A week ago, Renner wore a boot on his left foot the same one that required surgery after the 2011 season. After practice on Tuesday, Renner moved freely without the boot, and he spoke with confidence of his return.
If Im running with the ones or twos or whatever the case may be, or even the threes, I just want to play the game, Renner said. And I think I came out here with the mindset that Im the starting quarterback of this team and nothings changed.
Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter