Bryn Renner first collegiate start could not have gone much better as he completed 22 of his 23 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while also running for a score. His completion percentage set a record for the highest mark in Atlantic Coast Conference single-game history for a passer with at least 20 attempts and ranks second-best in NCAA history for a player with 20 to 29 attempts, trailing only Tennessee's Tee Martin (.958 vs. South Carolina in '98).
Renner benefitted from a multipronged rushing attack that some UNC fans are calling "Smash and Dash" — bruiser Ryan Houston (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) and lightning quick Gio Bernard (5-foot-8, 205 pounds). That duo combined for 123 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries and had plenty of room to work behind a veteran offensive line that boasts 64 career starts. Interim head coach Everett Withers has indicated that he plans to rotate nine offensive linemen, so depth up front appears to be good.
The tight end group lost three players to graduation that signed contracts with NFL teams this summer, but while inexperience is prevalent at that position, the wide receiver group returned everyone that caught a pass in '10. Senior Dwight Jones represents one of the ACC's top wideouts and has caught 59 passes for 958 yards and five touchdowns over his last nine games.
Defensively, North Carolina returned a wealth of talent in its front seven, highlighted by 2010 first-team All-ACC defensive end Quinton Coples and 2011 Preseason All-ACC defensive tackle Tydreke Powell. Defensive end Donte Paige-Moss has first-day NFL draft potential, but sophomore end Kareem Martin beat Paige-Moss out during training camp for the starting spot. Junior college transfer Sylvester Williams anchors the line at nose tackle. Linebackers Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown led UNC in tackles last season, while senior Ebele Okakpu emerged as the third starter during training camp.
Senior cornerback Charles Brown returns to the starting lineup against Rutgers after sitting out the past 14 games due to his involvement in the NCAA investigation Jabari Price entered training camp as the starter at the opposite corner spot, but hand surgery has sidelined him for the first month of the season. Safety Tre Boston has assumed that cornerback role after starting four games at corner as a true freshman last season. Fifth-year seniors Matt Merletti and Jonathan Smith hold down the safety spots after being career backups for their first four years in Chapel Hill.