Preseason Roundtable, Part I

Preseason Roundtable, Part I

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders chats with former Tar Heels Scott Lenahan and Mark Paschal about the key questions heading into training camp.

Which of these is the bigger question mark going into fall camp, Bryn Renner, UNC's running game, or the secondary?

Scott Lenahan: No doubt about it, the biggest question mark going into camp will be the secondary. Although we do have good leadership there with Matt Merletti and a very productive player in Charlie Brown, they're still a considerably young unit and have a lot to prove.

As for Renner, I believe everyone has had a chance to see him play and knows what he's capable of. I'm sure going into camp he'll do just fine but the real test of time will be how he handles the pressure of his first two games. Yet, as I've said before, he'll have a great offensive line to fall back onto, which I also believe will open a hole for whoever is running the ball. Our offensive line is good enough and we have enough talent on the team to find a running back that will produce.

Mark Paschal: Bryn Renner is undoubtedly the biggest question mark going into the season. A first-year starter with virtually no game experience is a tough task for any college football player, add in that he will be starting at the most important position on the field and it will make any coach or fan nervous. This is not a knock on Bryn, I think he can be a heck of a player, but no one, including Bryn and the coaching staff, knows what they have at QB until "live bullets" are flying September 3rd.

Buck Sanders: It figures that the offensive line guy, Scott, thinks the secondary is the biggest question mark, while Mark, the defensive guy, believes that Renner is the biggest question mark, and both say, "undoubtedly." To decide the issue, I ask myself which unit has the most proven performer(s)? The answer to that question, it is the secondary. There are guys in the defensive backfield that have been there, done that, and aren't going to be surprised by what they see. I also think there's enough talent in the defensive backfield to get the job done, particularly with the front seven they have in front of them.

Renner, however, is going to have to prove he can get the job done even though he's had almost zero game snaps going into this season. Until he gets it done, on the field against determined opponents he's got to be the biggest question mark heading into the season.

It seems like every year UNC's offensive line has a chance to get over the hump and become a productive unit. Then injuries come, kids are forced on the field too early, and the OL struggles.

Scott: I'd have to agree that was the case for the last few years, but no longer. And that certainly wasn't the case this past season. Last year we saw an offensive line with multiple starters and contributors, but that was in no part due to injuries. It was because we were so deep at the position. This is a testament to Coach Pittman and what he's done since he came in. Within just a few years he's brought in some unbelievable talent and coached the heck out of them. In previous years he didn't have the stable of talent that he currently has which is what you need with an offensive line. People tend to get hurt in the trenches more than other positions, which is why you need 7-8 guys that are game ready. I believe he's accomplished that and our O-line is poised for a great season.

Buck: I tend to agree with Scott. Barring any casualties in fall camp, the starting five and their back-ups are as solid an offensive line crew as we've seen since the Dooley days. Granted, they need to demonstrate that talent and experience with productivity.

As much as I liked T.J. Yates, Jon Cooper was quoted at the ACC Kickoff as saying about Renner, and I am paraphrasing, that Renner is supposedly a mobile quarterback and that he is looking forward to seeing that. Whether that was in reference to Yates' lack of mobility or not, the potential for a double dividend is there – an offensive line better at pass pro, and a quarterback better able to extend plays when protection breaks down.

Not only could the offensive line be better this year, they might look a lot better because Renner possesses greater escapability – time will tell.

Mark: Carolina desperately needs this group to step up and be productive this year. With a new QB at the helm and a running game that has been lackluster the past twelve years it is time for this group to take ownership of their work. There is no question that the past two recruiting classes have brought in a higher "caliber" of offensive lineman but it is time for that potential to meet production.

Don't get me wrong, I think James Hurst can be a superstar in the league, but it is time that this group as a unit will continually take the fight to the defense, open holes and protect the passer.

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