Renner Paying His Dues

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While the NCAA review may receive the most headlines off the field this training camp, the biggest story between the white lines is whether or not red-shirt freshman Bryn Renner can jump T.J. Yates and his four years of experience to claim the starting quarterback position.

The hype surrounding the West Springfield, Va. native slowly built during his true freshman season last fall as Yates struggled at times on Saturday afternoons. That excitement reached its boiling point in April when Renner led the White team to a 17-0 victory over Yates's Blue squad in UNC's spring game.

The former four-star recruit completed 15 of his 21 passes for 184 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, including a 55-yarder to Dwight Jones down the middle of the field. But he convinced a portion of the Tar Heel fan base that he deserved the reins to coordinator John Shoop's pro-style offense on the opening series, connecting on all six of his pass attempts and throwing for 60 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Greg Little on a roll-out to the left sideline.

Most observers, however, refused to put too much stock in an exhibition scrimmage and pointed to Yates's vast experience as being the primary reason the Marietta, Ga. native would remain UNC's starter heading into the season opener against LSU on Sept. 4.

But head coach Butch Davis delivered arguably his most intriguing comment about the quarterback situation at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. two weeks ago after being asked if Renner needed to see live game action before assuming the starting role.

Davis shook his head and responded, "He's going to get a chance against a pretty good defense for 29 days."

Despite all of the media attention, Renner refuses to ignite the fumes surrounding the situation. When asked if he entered training camp as a backup or as a legitimate challenger to Yates's incumbency following Friday's practice, the red-shirt freshman provided a veteran's politically correct answer.

"I'm really just going to leave that up to the coaches," Renner said. "That's not really my call. I'm just going to go out there and every rep that comes, I'm going to take that as a game rep."

Instead of worrying about what he cannot control, Renner is focusing on those things that he can.

"I need to get my reads down and get used to the speed of the game," Renner said. "The spring game was the only live action I've had so far, so I'm just working hard on my fundamentals – my drop-back and throwing to my left a little bit. I'm really working hard with Coach Shoop to just hone my craft…

"In my mind, I'm just taking it one day at a time. You see it in practice – we rotate every play. So every play you just start fresh and you try the best you can. With every rep I get, I try to make the most of it."

Renner split his time this summer between studying game film with Yates and hitting the weight room hard.

"After I left the baseball team, I took it upon myself to sit down with [strength and conditioning] coach [Jeff] Connors," said Renner, who consistently ran the 40-yard dash in the high 4.6's and low 4.7's. "I really wanted to put some weight on leading up to the season and so I worked really hard this summer. I've added a lot of weight – I'm at 217 and I came in at 185."

With one practice in the books, Renner now has 23 more opportunities to beat out his elder counterpart before the first game week arrives on Aug. 31.

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