Renner Making Strides

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- After a frustrating and hectic spring, Larry Fedora's high-tempo spread offense is finally beginning to slow down for North Carolina junior quarterback Bryn Renner.

The West Springfield, Va. native had surgery on his left ankle to remove an anterior bone spur and a posterior accessory bone following UNC's bowl game last December. Renner's iPad proved to be a valuable tool during his recovery period as he was able to watch film cutups of Fedora's schemes at home and avoid the late night jaunts to the Kenan Football Center.

The playbook aspect of this offense, however, is only part of the equation. The mind and body are taxed at uncomfortable speeds in order for the coaching staff to properly train their players, and Renner struggled during the first half of spring ball adapting, partly due to playing at an estimated 75 percent.

Following the spring game, offensive coordinator Blake Anderson told InsideCarolina.com that midway through the allotted 15 practices Renner's adjustment to the new offense "was not going as smoothly as I had anticipated."

Fast forward four months and not only is Renner 100 percent healthy, he's also fine-tuning this offense.

"I think the game is slowing down for me," Renner said on Thursday. "It was a tough time in the spring just because I was coming off injury. I was trying to rush things and try to get the whole playbook in my mind, but now the game is kind of slowing down."

Once the initial shock of Fedora's preferred pace of play wore off, Renner was able to scan the defense and make a decision on where the ball needs to go. Contrary to popular belief, the intent of Fedora's offense is not to frantically move at a blistering rate. It is more of a controlled chaos. While speed is vital to what Fedora wants to do, it cannot sacrifice the offense's ability to execute.

With a solid foundation established in the spring, the focus of training camp has been adding more of the playbook to the offensive repertoire.

"We've installed a lot," Renner said. "Almost everyday it's little nuances here and there, so we're just trying to build on the plays we already had in during the spring, but definitely we're going to need to use those along the line this whole season, because it's going to be a marathon. We're trying to put everything in so we can come back to it later in the season."

Renner is also having more defensive strategy thrown his way in an effort to mimic live game situations.

"He's picking things up," Fedora said. "We're putting him in a lot of situations right now, so there's a lot of thought process going on. Not only does he have to be able to know what to do, but then he's also got to manage the game, so he's got about four times the workload that everybody else does at that position.

"I think he's doing a nice job. Is he making mistakes? Sure, he's making mistakes because we're trying to put him in as many situations as possible to make mistakes so that we can learn them now."

His responsibilities have changed in the new spread compared to what he was asked to do in former offensive coordinator John Shoop's pro-style offense.

"Manage the game," Renner explained. "If it's third and short, get enough for the first down. Don't try to hit the homerun. I think in the spring I was trying to go for the deep ball, just trying to impress the coaches and now I'm just kind of like, ‘Hey, be the game manager, get us in good situations and don't do anything detrimental to have the offense come off the field as the quarterback.'"

Making more progress as training camp winds down would be a lot easier if the offense was not dealing with a plethora of injuries. Wide receivers T.J. Thorpe, Reggie Wilkins, Quinshad Davis and Erik Highsmith are all either currently sidelined or have missed time at some point this fall. Starting center Russell Bodine is currently nursing a knee injury as well.

"It's been rough sometimes not having a guy here or there, but I really can't say enough about how much the guys have stepped in and really done their jobs," Renner said. "It's just like anything. Through the course of a season you don't know who is going to be missing. You don't know when your number is going to be called and really everybody has taken that to heart."

Fedora has set nearly 80 offensive school records during his time as offensive coordinator or head coach over the last 13 years. Provided Renner continues to tighten his grasp on this offense over the next two weeks, he may be able to add a few more records to that list.


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