While Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas may be preparing for the possible addition of some new formation looks, and Virginia’s Michael Rocco could be looking to keep his starting job with the threat of an immediately eligible Phillip Sims added to the mix, the most profound change for a quarterback in the ACC in August will take place a little South of the Commonwealth.
Bryn Renner is about to find out what it’s like when North Carolina’s offense gets a turbo boost. Clemson will no longer have the only offense in town in the ACC that operates at breakneck speed – not with new coach Larry Fedora and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson in Chapel Hill after spending the previous four seasons at Southern Mississippi.
Renner, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior, will lead an offense that will be making the shift from former coach Butch Davis’ pro style approach to Fedora’s lightning-quick, no-huddle, spread attack. To the say the least, there’s a significant difference, but Renner isn’t afraid of change.
“I think it’s benefited me,” said Renner on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. at the ACC preseason football media gathering. “I can learn more nuances of the spread offense, so to speak. I’ve really just learned a lot from coach Anderson since he’s been (in Chapel Hill).”
After the kind of success Renner had in the pro style, one might assume there’s at least a little apprehension from the West Springfield native heading into this season. Last season, in his first season as a starter, he completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,769 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Those are strong numbers in any offense, but Renner hasn’t shied away from picking up the pace. While rehabilitating from December ankle surgery to remove a bone spur and an accessory bone, he went about the business of mental preparing himself for the offensive shift.
He ran down Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, a Phoebus High graduate, to talk about what it takes to run an offense predicated on such a frenetic pace. Renner also got all of Southern Miss’ games from last season on film and watched every offensive play.
“I took my own notes, and then compared them with (Anderson’s) notes,” Renner said.
“I was really kind of looking forward to (the offensive change), to be honest. As a quarterback, you have to adapt to different defenses, and it was another (adaptation) I had to make…Learning this new offense has broadened my horizons as a football player. I’m really looking forward to adding that to my arsenal.”
The fact that the offense Fedora and Anderson – both of whom Renner describes as “high energy guys” like himself – used in Hattiesburg, Miss. produced some pretty impressive statistical results doesn’t hurt Renner’s confidence.
Southern Miss was 20th in the nation in total offense (434 yards per game) in 2008, 31st in ’09 (416.4 yards per game), 18th in ’10 (453.4 yards per game) and 17th last season (461 yards per game). In scoring offense, Southern Miss was 31st in the nation in ’08 (30.6 points per game), 18th in ’09 (32.9 points per game), 15th in ’10 (36.9 points per game) and 14th last season (36.9 points per game).
Prior to coming to Southern Miss, Anderson spent one season in '07 as the offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette under former coach Rickey Bustle, who was the former offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech (1993, '95-2001; also an assistant coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers at Tech from 1987-92).
Louisiana-Lafayette went 3-9 in '07 and was only 115th in the nation in passing offense (156 yards per game), but it was also seventh in rushing offense (251.6 yards per game) and a respectable 49th in total offense (407.1 yards per game).
Despite facing a bowl ban for the coming season as a result of the NCAA investigation due to indiscretions under Davis’ watch, UNC has a chance to have one of the two or three most exciting offenses in the ACC with its seven starters back, including the conference’s leading returning rusher in Giovani Bernard (1,253 yards).
Renner’s adjustment to the no-huddle offense will be a huge determining factor in how UNC transitions through this temporary dark era and into what could be a bright future under Fedora.
“We haven’t said one thing about it,” said Renner regarding the bowl ban. “I’ll be honest, to be frank, we really don’t care. We have 12 games on our slate and we’re really looking forward to playing those 12 games.”
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