North Carolina‘s Bryn Renner entered the 2013 season as one of the top senior quarterback prospects in the country, and with good reason.
In his sophomore season in 2011, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder posted quite an impressive stat line (3,086 yards passing, 68.3 percent completion, 26/13 TD to INT ratio) all while enduring an awkward coaching change just a week before camp opened. In 2012, his junior campaign, he was even more impressive (3,356, 65.4 percent, 28/7), even though he was learning an entirely new offensive scheme brought in by first year coach Larry Fedora.
Naturally, the expectation was for him to continue the growth curve upward and potentially prove himself worthy of a second day selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Fast forward to present day, and things haven’t quite gone as planned.
Not only is Renner uncharacteristically coming off a foot injury which prevented him from making his 30th consecutive start, but the Tar Heels are 1-4. Probably not how Renner envisioned his last stand in Chapel Hill. Needless to say, he’s taken a beating by pundits and has seen his draft stock plummet.
Now, it certainly hasn’t been all Renner’s fault. The Heels are 113th nationally in rushing yards per game and 90th in points allowed, which isn’t conducive to a winning season. But Renner really hasn’t played all that poorly. His stats, on paper, aren’t bad at all (1,117, 60 percent, 7/3), and UNC is top 25 nationally in passing yards per game. Plus, he’s still got the physical makeup that is indeed NFL-caliber.
But that’s not to say he still hasn’t hurt his draft stock, even though personnel men can overlook a lousy team record.
The biggest thing that has stuck out is a lack of arm-strength. In a rough comparison, he resembles Christian Ponder to me, physically. He’s got elite accuracy in short-to-intermediate routes, a quick release with good mechanics, a sharp mental-makeup, and above-average pocket mobility. But aside from the short passing attack, he’s limited, due mainly to the aforementioned arm-strength.
He’s had a rough time putting zip on the ball past the hashes, isn’t driving through on deep balls, and despite above-average footwork, he can’t throw outside of the pocket to save his life. In the NFL, you can get by with mediocre arm-strength if you play in the right system, i.e. West Coast. But scheme-specific traits like this don’t improve draft stock, it merely limits the amount of teams interested in you.
Luckily for Renner, there’s more than half a season left for him to perform damage control. Sure, he’s going to have a hard time immediately improving his arm-strength (that will be addressed leading up to his Pro Day), but winning a few big games between now and the end of the season will certainly take away some of the pressure.
This weekend, home against the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes, is a good place to start. He’s certainly got his hands full against the ‘Canes, who are 15th in total defense, and 2nd nationally in pass defense. Miami has some guys in their secondary that will be playing on Sundays and have been utilizing pro-friendly defensive schemes. Renner will have the opportunity to capitalize on his elite accuracy and show he’s got enough zip in his arm to make all the NFL throws, but it’s a matter of capitalizing on an opportunity.
Obviously there’s a lot riding on this game, especially for Renner.