NOTE: This is the third installment of a 15-part series on 2013’s most pivotal QBs in college football.
Ask any coach about the importance of the quarterback position and he is quick to throw out a tired cliché about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame.
They will tell you there are 11 guys on the field at all times and each one of them must work together for the team to win.
Coaches know a lot about football. They also know about deflecting pressure from the most important pressure on the field.
How important is the quarterback position? Ask Texas A&M what Johnny Manziel meant to the team in 2012. Ask Auburn about Cam Newton’s worth in 2010. Ask Ohio State after Urban Meyer got a chance to turn around QB Braxton Miller in 2012.
A quarterback might not be everything, but a good one can mask a number of different deficiencies – be it a porous defense, a non-existent run game or erratic special teams.
Teams without a solid quarterback need virtually every other facet of the game to click in order to overcome poor play from the most important position.
This list is designed to spotlight 15 quarterbacks whose play will dictate their teams’ fates. With two exceptions, this list is made up exclusively of established QBs who have been starters for at least half a season.
The carefully chosen term “pivotal” is key here. This is to spotlight teams that could have significant swings based on the position. Players like Manziel and Miller are proven commodities at this point. Florida State has enough surrounding its yet-to-be-named starter – presumably Jameis Winston – to repeat as ACC champ even without great play from the position. Those appearing on this list are opined to have a wider swing.
Today marks the first edition of a 15-part series.
13. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
North Carolina found itself atop ESPN.com’s Spring Sleepers list, released last week.
There’s no doubt that second-year coach Larry Fedora has proven his ability to turn around programs, but the expectation seemingly heaps pressure onto the right shoulder of Renner.
It’s not as though the Tar Heels boast a dominating defense. That unit spent most of the season masquerading as a turnstile against BCS foes. Seven of nine BCS opponents scored at least 20 points. Six of nine scored 30-plus points.
Yes, the group should take a step forward in 2013, but that is hardly an assertion that North Carolina is coming for the top of the league. Plus the Heels must replace first-round pick DT Sylvester Williams.
The offense loses some prominent weapons as well – most notably first-round pick G Jonathan Cooper and sensational RB Giovani Bernard, who accounted for 3,333 yards of total offense and 31 TDs during his two seasons.
Brenner took a big step forward in 2012. He threw for more yards (3,356) and TDs (28). Furthermore, Brenner limited the negative plays, dropping his interception total from 13 to seven and getting sacked 11 times after taking 26 sacks the year before.
As a junior, Brenner also threw for five TDs in a loss at Louisville and in a win over Maryland.
Over the final four games, Brenner accumulated passing yardage totals of 358, 350, 315 and 305. Of course, the Tar Heels lost one of those games – a 68-50 defenseless debacle to Georgia Tech.
Brenner isn’t on this list because he can’t handle the added pressure thrust on him by circumstance. He appears here because he must perform at a very high level for UNC to have any chance to take a big step forward from its 8-4 campaign a year ago.
It should be noted that simply winning the division – an especially poor division a year ago – would not be a significant improvement. North Carolina tied atop the ACC Coastal division last year but was ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.
That ban disappears in 2013, as do the Tar Heels’ chances of sneaking up on opponents.
Brenner has an opportunity to announce this as a breakthrough campaign early in the season when the Tar Heels open at South Carolina on Aug. 29 – the Thursday night nationally televised ESPN game.
His success in tough divisional road games early in the season at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will go a long way toward determining whether UNC is a player or a pretender in 2013.