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August 17, 2011

Emerging leader

Bryn Renner has played virtually no college football yet, but he began to trying to become a bona fide leader since moments after the Tar Heels defeated Tennessee in double-overtime in the Music City Bowl last season.

Sitting on the bus once the game ended, Renner fired off a lengthy text message to the teammates who would be returning with him, encouraging them to start right then in building on the success achieved during a season of turmoil and stress.

"It was a text that said, 'Hey, the Music City Bowl is great, but I think we can do a lot bigger and better things,'" Renner said. "I was trying to set the tempo for this team this year. I think this team is ready to play ball."

The distractions and pressure from outside forces continue to haunt this program into training camp and the season, with the firing of Coach Butch Davis and a date with the NCAA looming in October.

None of it has dampened Renner's enthusiasm or desire to win football games, however.

"Training camp and 12 games are a long haul," Renner said. "Every day in practice, I try to get everybody's energy and enthusiasm up."

New head coach Everett Withers said Renner has also responded with some of his finest performances in practice.

"Bryn Renner has really been a guy, you can see him growing every day, not just football but leadership skills," Withers said. "He's the son of a coach, and he got some of that stuff growing up. T.J. [Yates] was a great role model for him last year."

The day Withers was announced as the interim coach for Davis, Renner came to Withers' office and told him the team had his back. That may sound odd for an offensive player, given Withers has been the defensive coordinator until now. But Withers said his relationship with Renner began on the practice field long before this training camp started.

"Bryn was on the scout team as the scout team quarterback," Withers said. "I used to challenge Bryn every day when I was the defensive coordinator to go down there and light us up when he was on the scout team. I would challenge him to go down there and complete every ball against our defense.

"He used to make them mad because he was a competitor. Some of those guys used to get upset with him. He would tear us up in practice. He would make us better. From that point, I said, 'This is a special guy right here,'" Withers said. "We bonded a long time ago. I'm looking forward to him doing a lot of good things for us."

One of the things Renner learned from Yates was that there are times when the "rah, rah" stuff just isn't going to get you a whole lot.

Renner's enthusiasm and excitement will also carry more weight if he does not allow it to become his baseline personality. It's not easy, he concedes, but he said he has asked all his teammates to help him. He wants to hear from them if he begins to get over the top.

"I've always been that way," Renner said. "I could never sit still. My dad was a coach. I would be at practice, being the ballboy. I've always had the energy to play football. I love it.

"Sometimes you have to know when to be even keel," Renner said. "When things are going good, you can be the energetic guy, but when things are going badly, you have to stay even, even if you throw a 60-yard touchdown pass. You can throw a pick the next play and everybody will be booing you."

One thing his teammates do not question is his arm strength and ability. They know that part is there. It's just a matter of Renner continuing to grow and mature as a player and a person.

"We have to give him as much time as we can and make him feel comfortable," offensive left tackle James Hurst said. "Once he starts getting confident, you're going to see his big-play ability. You're going to see the ball going down the field."


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