Lightning in a Bottle

PINEHURST, N.C. – Bryn Renner is not wired with an off switch. As North Carolina football fans will soon learn, the sophomore quarterback's only speed is full speed and his energy level is always off the charts.

Four-year starter T.J. Yates graduated from UNC with 37 school records on his resume following the 2010 season, effectively turning the keys to coordinator John Shoop's offense over to Renner as soon as the Music City Bowl trophy was hoisted at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

"It's going to be a huge transition going from T.J. Yates to Bryn Renner," junior left guard Jonathan Cooper told reporters at the ACC Football Kickoff media event on Sunday. "T.J. had all of that experience. He had gone through the ups and downs from being the hero to being picked on, so all of that experience helped with his composure. I feel like that's going to be one thing that Bryn is going to have to acclimate to – that you're not always going to be the glory guy, you're going to have to take some of the falls with it as well."

Cooper has a unique view of Renner's personality. As UNC's starting left guard and its most experienced offensive lineman (22 starts), Cooper essentially runs the show up front. With T.J. Yates under center as he had been for each of Cooper's first three seasons in Chapel Hill, the huddle atmosphere was controlled and pre-determined – the quarterback called the plays and the other Tar Heels provided any needed combustible fuel.

And that's why Cooper points to the huddle as being the biggest difference between Renner and his predecessor.

"[Renner's] yelling and fired up," Cooper said. "I have to go to him and remind him, ‘Relax, you're the quarterback – let me get on guys.' Because he's like, ‘Oh, we're going to go smash them,' and I'm like, ‘You're not – you're going to throw the ball and you're not going to hit anybody.'"

That excitability follows Renner everywhere. During spring ball in March and April, practice never really started until the West Springfield, Va. native let out a primal scream across Navy Fields.

Renner's teammates knew they could find their starting quarterback in the Kenan Football Center's film room this offseason, usually with his feet up and a drink and snack in hand. That devotion to studying the game has paid off by making the red-shirt sophomore comfortable in the huddle – once you get past the occasional emotional outbursts, that is.

"There are times when he'll run out there excited and he might jumble up the play a little bit, and you're like, ‘Hold on, just relax, what is it?'" Cooper said. "And then you have to decipher it a little bit. But other than that, it's just like having anybody else in there. It's just that he's going to be head-butting you and slapping you on the head."

But Renner's exuberance extends beyond the practice field. If you happen to sign in for a round of golf at a local club and find that Renner is on the course, just understand that he's been known to yell and scream on the links as well.

His competitive spirit is equivalent in nature. Cooper recently beat his new quarterback in the NCAA Football video game and Renner refused to talk to his teammate for an extended period of time while dealing with his loss.

"Bryn's just a fiery leader guy," Cooper said. "He's very competitive; hates to lose… He's just a huge competitor. Great athlete. And supposedly he has some ability to scramble – I'm looking forward to seeing that. But he's going to be a great quarterback for us."

Combining Renner's demeanor with a strong arm and a gunslinger's mentality is practically a given. He's built on that reputation during the offseason by taking risks on passes that he might not throw during the season and throwing darts. Cooper acknowledged that Renner has a tendency to throw into tight spots on occasion.

"He does at times and I feel like he has the arm to do so – he makes some huge throws," said Cooper, adding that Renner even surprises himself with some of the throws that he makes.

During Butch Davis's tenure as North Carolina's head coach, it's been the defense typically that has carried the bulk of the team's swagger. It's the defense that has been known for increasing the energy level with heavy doses of intensity, but Renner has quickly established himself in that regard and his defensive teammates have responded in a positive manner.

"He's a strong leader," senior defensive tackle Tydreke Powell said. "He always comes loud to practice and he always gets everybody going. Not just the offense, but the defense too. He talks to us and tells us to bring it, so he does get us going."

Powell didn't shy away from proclaiming that Renner will eventually become a "great quarterback" and a "big player" for North Carolina.

It's clear that Renner's enthused approach has already won over his teammates, and chances are that the Tar Heel fan base will tag along in short order.


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