Starting QB vs. Miami still up in the air
For offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, the decision whether to start senior quarterback Bryn Renner Thursday against Miami will come down to one simple question.
“Is he or is he not 100 percent?” Anderson said. “Can he move from the pocket, can he protect himself, can he be effective? If he’s not, he doesn’t want to be out there any more than we want him out there.”
The answer was negative last weekend, which is why Renner had his streak of 29 straight starts snapped in a 27-17 loss at Virginia Tech. With a bye this week, Renner and Anderson are more hopeful for the upcoming game against the Hurricanes.
“The days off helped. It’s what I need to get back,” Renner said earlier this week. “Still not 100 percent but with this 10-day, 11-day layoff… it’s going to be good for (me).”
Renner appeared to roll his ankle while being sacked by East Carolina two weeks ago. Though he wouldn’t disclose what happened, it’s believed to be a left ankle sprain — the ankle that was surgically repaired after his sophomore year.
Last week Renner would come to the training room at 6:30 a.m. and leave when it closed at 9 p.m., but he ran out of time to get his mobility back where it needed to be against the Hokies.
“I couldn’t make a cut on the inside of my foot quite yet,” Renner said. “I thought I could run straight ahead, but the cutting movement and just making a football play, I really wasn’t ready yet.”
After struggling through pregame drills, he was forced to watch his final game at Lane Stadium from the sidelines.
“It really hit me right before the game,” Renner said. “I broke down and brought the team in and wanted to talk to them (about) how much I miss being out there. It was very difficult for me — probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through.”
In his place, sophomore Marquise Williams completed 23 of 35 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while rushing for a team-high 56 yards on 18 attempts against a defense that had allowed the fourth-fewest yards in the country.
While Williams’ ability to extend plays with his feet was expected, Anderson said he was also pleased with the Charlotte native’s ability to stand in the pocket and go through his progressions. UNC coach Larry Fedora said he would grade Williams’s first start as a B-minus or C-plus.
“I was pleased with the way he managed the game,” Fedora said. “Probably would have liked a few things to turn out differently than they did, but overall I don’t think he was flustered. I think he handled the situation very well.”
While Williams did enough to keep UNC in the game, even he knows that it wasn’t enough to unseat a healthy Renner.
“This is Bryn’s team; it’s not my team,” Williams said. “I respect that and I love the guy and I’m behind him 100 percent. It’s not about me.”
Still, Williams’s performance was enough to show UNC’s coaches that he could be utilized more in the offense, which hasn’t been able to match last season’s production and is 12th in the ACC in scoring. Before facing Virginia Tech, Williams had only thrown one pass and rushed three times in four games.
“I feel comfortable (Renner) will be playing (against Miami),” Anderson said. “And I feel comfortable that we’ll integrate Marquise in some series and get him involved a little earlier in the game than we have in the past, and we’ll see both quarterbacks.