CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Among the several things that stand out on Bryn Renner’s bucket list for his senior season, one is to develop into a great leader.
Renner has the other attributes to post video-game numbers: He has terrific arm strength, a nice touch on short passes, reads defenses well, calls audibles and other changes at the line of scrimmage like a veteran and he can take a pounding without getting on his offensive line.
Now it’s time to become a better leader, and that comes in a variety of packages.
For Renner, it begins with managing games better. A gunslinger in some respects as a sophomore and at times last fall, Renner knows that to best lead his team is to completely eliminate those game-altering dangerous throws.
“I want to be the game manager,” said the senior from Springfield, Va. “(Offensive coordinator) Coach (Blake) Anderson did a really good job last year the last five games really instilling that in me and getting out of throwing iffy balls, throwing the ball away and living to play another down.”
When Renner took over for graduated signal caller and current Houston Texan T.J. Yates in 2011, he was at times referred to as a young Brett Favre because he never saw a seam he didn’t think he could guide the ball through. And since he tried to show off that precision, Renner often ended up giving the ball to the opposition or dealing with an incomplete that was nearly a pick.
With a new regime in charge and a wildly different offense to run – the spread option versus the pro style – Renner adjusted quite well and by mid-season made tremendous strides in knowing when to pull back and not throw. Renner was intercepted 13 times in 2011, but just seven times last season. Being more reliable is part of leadership.
“The thing that’s been nice about Bryn is he just picked up where he was in the last five weeks of the season and has really moved forward from there,” UNC coach Larry Fedora recently said about Renner. “He’s worked hard on being a good leader and managing the game.”
Renner threw an interception in North Carolina’s spring game last weekend, and it was on a forced throw, much like the ones he made much more frequently as a sophomore. The decision to thread that needle still gnawed at him after the scrimmage, but also prompted the future NFL signal caller to acknowledge how much more he needs to grow.
“I am not even close to satisfied,” he said. “I am really just beginning to get this part of it. There’s so much more to learn.”
If Renner takes another step forward, the Tar Heels could be in for quite a season. They shared the Coastal Division title with Miami last fall with 5-3 ACC records, but neither could participate in the conference championship game because of NCAA and self-imposed sanctions, respectively, regarding infractions within the program.
UNC finished 8-4 overall and the team believes it should have won a couple more games. Now, with a schedule that begins with a Thursday-night trip to South Carolina to kick off the entire college football season, but doesn’t include Clemson or Florida State, it’s possible that UNC climbs onto the national radar.
“We have great players everywhere,” said wide receiver Sean Tapley. “We have a great coach, a system that is hard for teams to prepare for, and we have one of the best quarterbacks in America. He can get it done.”
UNC must get quality play on both sides of the line of scrimmage from units that have some unproven parts and overall are currently a bit thin. The Heels have talent all over the place, though, and they have Renner, who is more capable and confident than ever before.
“A lot more confident,” he said about this go-around. “Knowing what to do, knowing where to go with the ball, knowing what the coaches are expecting from me.”
Renner has completed 67 percent of his pass attempts for 6,456 yards and 54 scores after starting the last two seasons. Gauging on standard improvement from those numbers suggests he could be one people are talking about come November if everything falls into place.