Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 11/13/12
Among the areas of concern facing first-year North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora and his staff is the fairly immediate future of quarterback within the program. Incumbent starter Bryn Renner is a fine college quarterback. He makes nice reads, throws a good deep ball and can hit the short stuff. He moves fairly well in the pocket and he is a leader in the huddle, on the rare occasion the Tar Heels even bother huddling. But is he the right player to run Fedoras spread offense? On the surface, and considering how awful Carolinas defense has been the Tar Heels have lost games in which theyve scored 27, 34, 30 and 50 points Renner has performed quite well. He has passed for 708 yards in UNCs last two contests, leading the Tar Heels to 93 total points in those games. Overall, he has completed 63.1 percent of his pass attempts, throwing for 2,736 yards and 20 touchdowns to go against seven interceptions. A year ago as a redshirt sophomore, Renner completed 68.3 percent of his attempts for 3,086 yards and 26 touchdowns vs. 13 picks. That was when running a pro-style offense, an approach that best suits his skills. It isnt so much Renners 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame thats an issue. He has pretty quick feet in the pocket; quick enough that some opposing coaches have noted it being rather deceptive. But Renner isnt a threat to run, and thats an essential element for a spread offense to run at its maximum level. Renner totaled minus-88 yards rushing last season due mainly to sacks. This fall, with designed runs, some coming at curious times twice on 3rd down in last Saturdays loss to Georgia Tech he has a total of 28 yards. By comparison, other signal callers who operate the same spread, such as Clemsons Tajh Boyd (363 yards, five scores), Oregons Marcus Mariota (516 yards, three scores), or Oklahoma States J.W. Walsh (256 yards, three scores in six games before getting hurt) have given their teams running weapons on the ground. This shows up mostly in the red zone, where running quarterbacks add a dimension to how defenses cover receivers. Clemson is third in the nation in red-zone offense, scoring on 45 of 48 possessions, including 35 touchdowns. Oregon is eighth, having scored on 57 of 62 trips into the red zone, including 52 touchdowns. Oklahoma State is seventh with 46 scores in 50 tries (31 touchdowns). The Cowboys have struggled a bit of late since Walsh went down, which brought down their touchdown total. North Carolina, however, is ranked 76th in red-zone offense behind BCS teams such as Colorado, Connecticut, Pitt, Virginia, Duke, Virginia Tech, Temple and South Florida. If a team scores 50 points on their own Homecoming and still loses by 18 points, it cant blame the offense, yet it cant rely on its defense, either. Thats what happened to North Carolina over the weekend. The Tar Heels needed more points at Wake Forest, Louisville and Duke, too. And greater balance in each of those games would have meant increased efficiency in the red zone, which could have resulted in a major difference in UNCs 6-4 record so far. Enter Marquise Williams. Hes a 6-2, 215-pound redshirt freshman that was quite heralded coming out of high school. He was a four-star prospect, according to Scout.com, and the No. 16 signal caller in the nation. Williams also attended the Elite 11 camp before his senior in high school. Williams ran for more than 1,000 yards his senior year in high school and likens himself to former Texas quarterback Vince Young, who led the Longhorns to a national championship in 2005, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. At UNC, though, hes seen limited time behind Renner. Williams has completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 123 yards and a score, but hes run the ball 22 times for 146 yards with three touchdowns. Incidentally, all three of his rushing scores have come inside the red zone. If Williams is as good as the press clippings have suggested, he may get a chance to beat out Renner in the spring or fall camp. UNC has two games remaining Thursday at Virginia and then at home against Maryland and if so, it would only make sense to give him some significant live action in those games, which essentially mean nothing. The Tar Heels are banned from postseason play, and since this season will be lost in time rather quickly, these final contests should be a bridge to 2013. North Carolina opens at South Carolina next season, and if Williams is the guy then he needs to be ready, and snaps in these next two contests would give him valuable experience and stuff to learn on film. And besides, why not take a look at what he can do? The staff already knows everything about Renner, so why not gather more data? This is nothing personal with Renner, its just business. And it makes a lot of sense.
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