Posted: 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013
By Brian Barbour
Last season North Carolina enjoyed probably the best quarterback/tailback combo in recent memory. Giovanni Bernard ran for over 1200 yards in ten games and Bryn Renner became only the second quarterback in UNC history to pass for over 3000 yards in a single season. Obviously both the passing and running games excelled in Larry Fedora's offense and even though Bernard is now in the NFL the hope is the success can be replicated.
It is an understatement to say UNC is set at quarterback. Renner will be in his third straight season as a starter and if you made a list of UNC quarterbacks returning with a 3000-yard passing season under their belt Renner's name would be the only one on it. Renner has not one but two 3000-yard passing seasons in career and will be taking dead aim at some career Tar Heel passing record this season. He needs just over 2900 yards to pass T.J. Yates in career passing yardage and with 3544 yards this season can become the first Tar Heel to hit 10,000 yards passing in his career. If he does that Renner would also break Yates single season passing mark, something he would have likely done last season had there not been a postseason ban in place. With 15 touchdown passes this season, Renner will surpass Yates for the most touchdown tosses in a career at UNC. Seeing Renner has gone for 28 and 26 TDs in each of his seasons as a starter, that one alomst seems like a foregone conclusion barring injury.
In short, UNC has no worries at the quarterback position. Renner is experienced and has a great deal of motivation to impress NFL Scouts. It also became clear towards the latter half of the 2012 season, Renner not only had a solid grasp of Fedora's offense but began to play extremely well in it. If he can pick up where he left off a year ago, the offense should click nicely early on.
One caveat to how well Renner may do lies with the running game and whether it can provide the needed balance an offense needs. Make no mistake, the loss of Bernard is huge. He was a supreme talent leaving Chapel Hill as a legend for his exploits. Those are huge shoes to fill and while no one is expecting the current crop of backs to live up to what Bernard did, the cupboard isn't bear either. Romar Morris and A.J. Blue both averaged over five yards per carry in the limited action they saw last season. In the two games Bernard missed last season, Blue and Morris combined for 177 yards on 33 carries versus Wake Forest and 69 yards on 11 carries against Louisville. Not to shabby all things considered and two very good options to start with in replacing Bernard. Add to the mix a pair of talented freshman in T.J. Logan and Khris Francis, depth is not a concern and neither is talent.
The concern for Renner and his compatriots in the backfield is the offensive line. As Doc noted, there is experience on the line at three positions but not much beyond that. The depth is also a question mark. For Renner and whoever takes the hand-off from him to be successful, the offensive line is going to need to grow and gel in a hurry. The offensive backs have enough experience to overcome some deficiencies but if the offensive line is a train wreck, it could be disruptive.