UNC's Reemer ready to go
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL — Don’t bother asking Bryn Renner if he’s worried about having only two passing attempts on his college resume. He sounds ready for his expected promotion to starting quarterback for North Carolina.
With the departure of four-year starter T.J. Yates to the NFL, interim coach Everett Withers is praising Renner for his leadership skills and improving performances in preseason training camp. Soon, however, those intangibles will no longer be the measure of the redshirt sophomore; rather, it will be whether he can consistently move the offense and put the Tar Heels on the scoreboard.
“He’s got to run things,” Withers said Thursday during the Tar Heels’ preseason media day. “And I’m backing him 100 percent because I want him to feel comfortable in that role. … If he’ll keep moving forward and improving, we’ll have a chance to be a good football team.”
Renner arrived in Chapel Hill as a talented recruit ready to push Yates — who had struggled with injury and inconsistency — for the starting job. But Yates beat Renner for the job before last season and went on to throw for a school-record 3,418 yards and 19 touchdowns. Renner appeared in just three games with a lone 14-yard completion against Virginia.
Renner studied Yates carefully, from his game week preparation to the way he patiently served as de facto team spokesman amid the NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct. It’s one of the reasons why Renner sounds ready to take the job.
“He taught me basically the whole quarterback position and how to play it here — the way he prepared, the way he played through adversity, the way he kept his poise through everything that was going on around him,” Renner said. “That’s one thing I learned last year, don’t let anything affect you.”
Renner wasted no time leading his team, either. It started in December on the team bus following the Tar Heels’ wild, double-overtime win against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. Renner sent text messages to fellow underclassmen to point out how the team had persevered through a distraction-filled season and that this year’s group could do “bigger and better things.”
In the days after the school’s surprise firing of coach Butch Davis on July 27, Renner asked to meet with Withers to tell him the team was ready to follow the one-time defensive coordinator into another year of turmoil. He worked through the offseason to improve his chemistry and timing with top receiver Dwight Jones, who described Renner as a bit more “expressive” than Yates.
Renner said handling his emotions has been a big focus.
“Whether things are going good or bad, you’ve got to be the leader and stay poised through the whole thing,” Renner said. “… When I came in here, I was a fiery guy. When things were going good, I was always excited. But if it went bad, I kind of just had a bad attitude. But I think I’ve adjusted well. I think that’s where I’ve made the most strides, of keeping that even keel.”
Renner said he has long treated his practice reps as though they were game action, so he said all those snaps have prepared him for the opener against James Madison on Sept. 3. He also sounds like he has the job broken down to its simplest parts: find Jones downfield, hand the ball off to powerful tailback Ryan Houston and trust an experienced offensive line in front of him while he does his “little role on the team.”
The trick will be doing more when the time comes.
“You can see him growing every day,” Withers said. “And not just football, but leadership skills with the offense and the defense. He’s one of those guys that everybody on the team likes. We’re going to need that from him.”