Renner's fate forces Heels to revise intriguing QB depth chart
Posted November 6, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Bryn Renner deserved better. Much better.
Fairness looked the other way when the North Carolina quarterback’s college career ended last Saturday after a shoulder injury in a 27-19 win at N.C. State.
Had Renner got his just reward, he would have bowed out after the last game rather than the season’s eighth. He would have done so playing for a title contender and with a so-long performance befitting the exceptional class and resiliency he displayed without fail or frown through one of the most trying periods in Carolina football history.
But football too often is the cruelest of all masters. It demands long, exhaustive physical training - and in the case of quarterbacks, just as much devotion to mental commitment - only to reward its best and brightest with intense pain and unreasonable frustration.
That’s why my sincere hope today is that ECU’s Shane Carden is dining daily on a menu of four-leaf clover salad topped with horseshoe crab meat and rabbit feet. If ever there has been jinxed season for in-state quarterbacks, this is it. Hopefully, he can dodge the pattern.
Everyone gets hurt eventually in football but it comes as a double whammy to all players - even those still in sound health - when quarterbacks go down.
The unheralded linemen, special teamers, walk-ons and scout teamers are in it simply for the fun of enjoying as many wins as in possible. When their quarterback gets hurt, the chance for victory almost always is reduced.
NEXT MAN UP
Another aspect of football’s culture is there’s rarely time for teammates and staff to comfort victims.
By the time Renner met with the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss his merciless fate, the hopes of a 3-5, bowl-starved team had long since been thrust upon new starter Marquise Williams.
It’s likely that second-year coach Larry Fedora and his aides had been advised about the severity of Renner’s injury shortly after the bus ride back to Chapel Hill. Odds are, no one got to sleep until long after Plan-B was unofficially in motion.
That plan doesn’t (and can’t) stop and end with Williams, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore from Charlotte's Mallard Creek who has been effective in relief of Renner.
Williams has more quickness but less passing accuracy than Renner. After Saturday’s win, Renner had completed 66 percent of his 231 passes for 1,765 yards with 10 touchdowns against five interceptions.
Williams has completed 60.6 percent (40-of-66) for 537 yards with 6 TDs and three picks.
But given the punishment quarterbacks absorb, there’s a 50-50 chance new backup Kanler Coker (6-foot-4, 215, redshirt frosh) may have to ready to take over even before the end of this Saturday’s game against Virginia in Kenan Stadium.
To some degree, Williams is playing just as much for his future as to salvage what’s left of 2013.
Behind Renner and Williams, Fedora and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson have amassed a pool of hotly recruited former high school stars.
Had Renner been able to take the majority of snaps in every game this season, Carolina’s spring practice would have resembled a quarterback cavalry charge with up to five or six starting hopefuls in the chase. That may still be the case should Williams play poorly or get hurt.
Aside from Williams and Coker, the current roster also includes Mitch Trubisky (6-foot-3, 210, frosh, Mentor, Ohio) and Caleb Pressley (6-foot-1, 205, soph, Asheville) with highly regarded Caleb Henderson (6-foot-3, 225, Burke, Va. Lake Braddock) committed and at least two other prep juniors looming on the recruiting radar.
Although the time may soon arrive when many college programs go to two quarterback rotations simply to stay pro-active on injuries, the best-case scenario for the Heels would be for Williams to seize the steering wheel and establish sole possession of the offensive leadership role.
But as we’ve seen much too often this season, quarterback injuries have collectively become the mean mother of depth chart fluidity. At Carolina, Williams may have the job only as long as his strong body allows.