Renner, a red-shirt freshman from West Springfield, Va., wasted little time in introducing his talents to a Tar Heel crowd of nearly 30,000. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder connected on all six of his pass attempts in the game’s opening drive, throwing for 60 yards and finding Greg Little on a roll-out for a nine-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone.
Renner 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. Yates, on the other hand, connected on 15 of his 26 passes for 122 yards and one interception, and was also sacked five times.
Anthony Elzy added a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, thanks to a Mywan Jackson interception that provided the White squad a short field at the 25-yard-line. Trase Jones capped the day’s scoring with a 23-yard field goal with 7:11 left in regulation.
INSIDE THE GAME
New faces on D
Head coach Butch Davis opened spring practice by emphasizing the need to build depth behind his veteran starters this offseason, and if Saturday was any indication, the defense’s two deep is loaded from top to bottom.
Defensive end Michael McAdoo led the charge for the White team with four sacks and an interception in the backfield, while linebacker Herman Davidson tallied a team-high six tackles for the Blue squad.
Cornerback Mywan Jackson may have stolen the show with his performance, though, taking the ball off Todd Harrelson’s hands on two different occasions – including once in the back of the end zone – while also totaling six tackles and a pass breakup.
“Mywan Jackson had a phenomenal day,” senior cornerback Kendric Burney said. “I think he had two picks, a pass breakup and some open field tackles. That’s unbelievable for a guy that hasn’t had any game experience. So for Mywan to go out there and play like that – that was the best thing I’ve seen this spring. It’s the best thing I’ve seen, as far as a performance, in a long time.”
Fifth-year senior and four-year starting safety Deunta Williams tabbed Jackson, McAdoo and middle linebacker Dion Guy as his most valuable players on the defensive side of the ball.
McAdoo indicated that the coaching staff consistently stresses the importance of minimal dropoff when the second-teamers enter the game.
“If Robert [Quinn] comes out and I step in, we shouldn’t have any slack,” McAdoo said. “Anybody can go down at any time, so now we know who we can really depend on. And we’ve got more boys that are still pushing themselves and trying to get better to get to that level where the starters are at.”
Little, Then Who?
There’s no mistaking Greg Little’s talent at wide receiver. The Durham, N.C. senior was dominant early for the White team, pulling in five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. But Yates never seemed comfortable with his other wideout options last season, instead leaning heavily on Little and tight end Zack Pianalto.
Other than Renner’s 55-yard connection with Dwight Jones in the second half, the other receivers didn’t do much too impress on Saturday. Sophomore Erik Highsmith reeled in four catches for 26 yards, Jones finished with two for 66 and sophomore Jhay Boyd added three receptions for 17 yards.
The problems went beyond the statistics, however, thanks to defensive backs ripping the balls away too easily and several crucial drops.
“We had an awful lot of dropped passes that were very frustrating,” Davis said. “When the ball hits your hands and hits your shoulder pads – those kids have got to make those plays.”
But the fourth-year head coach is not ready to give up on his young receivers, indicating that his staff has increased the difficulty of practice to get them ready for the 2010 season.
“We’ve put them on islands a lot more than we’ve ever put any group of receivers and made it difficult for them,” Davis said. “… We’ve made it as absolutely miserable as possible. We’ve told the defensive backs, ‘Hold them, jam them, there is no such thing as pass interference, pull them down.’ Where they’ve got to fight through the adversity that they saw in the fall and didn’t handle it well…
“There are still growing pains that they’re going to go through the rest of this summer, but I do like what they’re doing.”
Fans Turn Out in Droves
After blistering criticism from media and ABC fans alike following last season’s lowly spring game attendance, the Tar Heel fan base took advantage of a beautiful afternoon and numerous on-campus family activities to pack the North side of Kenan Stadium – close to 30,000 strong.
“For the first spring game since I’ve been the head coach at North Carolina, I don’t think there’s any way that it could have gone any better,” Davis said. “I was more than pleasantly surprised and pleased with the huge turnout.”
Even the players admitted to being surprised by the number of fans in the stands.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Yates responded when asked if he was shocked by the turnout. “I didn’t think there would be that many people. I thought it would be a good bit, but I was definitely surprised by how many people were there and how early they came out.”
While you’re scrutinizing and comparing the stat lines between Renner and Yates, be sure to take a close look at third-string quarterback Braden Hanson’s efforts.
While playing for the White team – behind Renner – Hanson was a perfect 1-of-1 for 10 yards. When subbing in for Yates on the Blue team, the red-shirt sophomore was 3-of-7 for eight yards and two interceptions.