UNC to face Elon on Saturday (12:30 p.m. on FOX8)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Bryn Renner sounds ready to lead North Carolina’s no-huddle spread offense under new coach Larry Fedora.
The junior regrouped from a bumpy set of spring practices by constantly studying film, arranging extra workouts with his receivers and getting in better shape leading up to training camp. Now, with the Tar Heels opening the season Saturday against Elon, Renner seems confident that he understands what Fedora wants to do.
“I thought I had a really good camp,” Renner said Monday. “I thought I grew a lot, but I could say that for the whole offense. I think the more we run plays and do the tempo we want to, the more comfortable and confident we feel.”
Renner threw for 3,086 yards and a single-season school record 26 touchdowns last year in his first season as the starting quarterback despite playing with painful bone spurs in his left ankle. He had surgery on that ankle right after the season and says he’s excited by the prospect of playing without pain, not to mention the possibilities of leading UNC’s new scheme.
Fedora said he wants Renner to protect the football and manage the offense as his top priorities, meaning Renner will have to cut down on his 13 interceptions from last season.
“I’ve made smart decisions with the ball” in preseason, Renner said. “I’ve had a reputation in the past of being a gunslinger and just slinging the ball into tight spaces. But I’ve tried to mature and grow up and out of that mold to be a game manager. Coach Fedora has come in and challenged me in that area.”
Like many of his teammates, Renner struggled a bit in the spring while adjusting to the frantic pace Fedora brought with him from Southern Mississippi.
Part of that was because Renner was still recovering from the ankle surgery, including shedding the weight he put on while inactive after the procedure. But it was also partly because he put a lot of pressure on himself to “impress the boss and make sure he knows you’re the right guy for the job.”
As a result, Renner said, he practiced “like crap” through the spring, though Fedora said Renner has come a long way from those frustrating days.
“It was very obvious how much he worked this summer and how hard he worked on improving as a quarterback in this offense over the summer,” Fedora said. “Now he’s even gotten better throughout camp. Bryn will probably be the first to tell you he’s not where he wants to be yet, and I’ll sure as heck tell you that. But he has come a long, long way.”
Tailback Gio Bernard, Renner’s roommate, said he’s noticed how much work the quarterback has put in to get ready for the new offense.
“He was the first one to get the (film) cut-ups and he was in there watching, just looking at it and looking at it, day by day,” Bernard said. “This was when Coach Fedora first got here. I don’t even think we had an offensive coordinator named by then.”
Renner’s constant film review typically consisted of reviewing his own performances during spring practices, then comparing that footage to clips of Austin Davis – who threw for nearly 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns running Fedora’s attack while leading Southern Miss to last year’s Conference USA championship.
Fedora said Renner understands the offense as well as any of his previous quarterbacks entering their first year in the scheme, though he said Renner might be the most talented of that group.
“The offense is only going to go as far as he takes us, or as far as he’s willing to take us,” Fedora said. “…The guy’s got a lot of fire in him. He’s got a lot of want-to so he’ll be fine.”
Credit: The Associated Press