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Bryn Renner has struggled early and Hokies' defense is next

Gerry Broome/Associated Press
North Carolina QB Bryn Renner hasn't produced up to expectations thus far into his senior season.

Big things were expected from senior quarterback Bryn Renner and North Carolina's offense this season. From big expectations has come small production.

The Tar Heels expected to contend for the ACC Coastal Division title. Instead, they are 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the league heading into Saturday's division showdown at Virginia Tech. A loss to the Hokies and the division hopes basically are gone.

North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson told reporters Wednesday that one issue with Renner has been sweat. Seriously.

"He sweats so bad -- he really does," Anderson said. "His hands and arms will be dripping wet, and he missed a series [in last week's 24-point home loss to East Carolina] where he didn't get a towel or something, or it got ripped off. ... We get out of the meeting room, he's sweating. So we just have to put another wrist band on, put another towel, and keep it dry as best we can and then let it rip."

UNC is averaging 25.2 points and 397.0 yards per game -- drops of 15.4 and 88.6, respectively, from last season. Last season, Renner threw for 3,356 yards (second only to Clemson's Tajh Boyd among ACC returnees), 28 touchdowns (second to Boyd) and seven interceptions (tied for the fewest with Miami's Stephen Morris), and completed 65.4 percent of his passes (second to Boyd). This season, Renner is averaging 279.2 yards, has seven TDs and three picks, and is completing 59.9 percent of his passes.

NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah had Renner as the No. 3 senior quarterback in the nation and the No. 27 overall player heading into the season, but he has dropped down draft boards because of his uneven play.

This week's opponent will have the toughest defense UNC has seen this season -- and likely will be the best the Heels see all season. Virginia Tech leads the league in total defense (241.2 yards per game) and is tied for the national lead with 11 interceptions. To make things even tougher, Renner has been wearing a protective boot on his left foot, and Anderson said Renner likely will be limited during the game.

Renner (6-feet-3, 225 pounds) put together one of the best seasons in UNC history in 2012, his second as the starter. He threw an interception in each of the first three games but only four in the last nine. Renner, who has OK mobility, doesn't have an elite arm, but it's strong enough to make the needed throws.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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