|Gerry Broome / Associated Press|
|North Carolina is counting on QB Bryn Renner to lead its offense to new heights this season.|
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Call this the "Season of the Senior Quarterback" in the ACC.
There is the reigning league player of the year, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, who is listed in most "Heisman hopeful" top fives going into the season and a consensus pick as the most draftable senior quarterback in the nation.
There's Miami's Steven Morris, who wowed everybody at the recent Manning Passing Academy with his strong arm. He is coming off the fifth-best single-season performance in school history.
There's Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, who skyrocketed up draft boards with his performance as a sophomore in 2011 but plummeted down those same draft boards last season and now is looking to regain his mojo.
Finally, there is North Carolina's Bryn Renner, sort of the forgotten man among that quartet. He is coming off a season in which he threw for 3,356 yards (second only to Boyd among ACC returnees), 28 touchdowns (second to Boyd) and seven interceptions (tied for the fewest with Morris), and completed 65.4 percent of his passes (second to Boyd). NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Renner as the No. 3 senior quarterback in the nation and the No. 27 overall player.
What's especially impressive about Renner's stats last season is that it was his first go-round with coach Larry Fedora's up-tempo version of the spread. Renner had played in a pro-style system under previous coach Butch Davis, and he said he didn't think the offense truly got into gear last season until week six.
"Everybody's more confident in the offense (this season)," Renner said at the 2013 ACC Football Kickoff media event. "Our knowledge of the offense overall is better."
North Carolina averaged 74.8 offensive plays per game last season, which was fourth in the ACC, and Renner is confident that the Tar Heels can go faster this season. So is Fedora, who also has the utmost confidence in Renner.
"He really can take this thing to where this offense never has been before," Fedora said Monday, right after he took a big swig of Red Bull.
Fedora has overseen some prolific offenses at Middle Tennessee State, Florida and Oklahoma State as a coordinator and at Southern Miss as a head coach.
"He can make all the throws, make all the right decisions," Fedora said of Renner. "Now it's all about managing the offense. ... It will be a whole lot smoother for him this fall (in his second season with the scheme)."
UNC scored at least 37 points in each of its final four games and at least 43 in three of those contests. Renner averaged 332 yards per game in those games and threw 11 TD passes against two interceptions.
It could be tough following up on that hot finish, as the Tar Heels open at South Carolina on Aug. 29 -- in addition, each of their first two league games are on the road, important contests against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Going against South Carolina, of course, means facing star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. UNC OLT James Hurst, a top prospect in his own right, will be given the task of keeping Clowney away from Renner.
"My mom trusts him," Renner said of Hurst, "and I do, too."