T.J. Yates might have retained his job as starting quarterback for North Carolina coming out of spring practice, but the endorsement he received from coach Butch Davis wasn't exactly overwhelming.
Davis said a firm decision on who will be the No. 1 guy for the Heels in 2010 probably won't be made until 10 days before the Sept. 4 season opener against LSU in Atlanta.
A three-year starter, Yates completed 15 of 26 passes in the spring game, but they were good for only 122 yards, and he failed to get his White team into the end zone.
His challenger, redshirt freshman Bryn Renner, threw two interceptions but was 15-of-21 passing for 184 yards and led the Blue team to a 17-0 win.
"T.J. has earned the opportunity to be the guy that either earns the job or loses the job," Davis said afterward. "And I think Bryn has put himself in position to unbelievably push for that job or for significant playing time.
"T.J. still enjoys one of the things that Bryn will have a hard time overcoming for a period of time in that he's got 20-something starts under his belt."
Actually, Yates has 31 career starts, including all 13 in 2009.
He completed better than 60 percent of his passes last year, but they were good for an average of only 164 yards a game. He had 15 interceptions against 14 touchdown throws.
That subpar performance opened the way for Renner, who was a top five quarterback prospect coming out of high school in West Springfield, Va., to compete this spring for the starting role. The competition now will continue when fall camp opens.NOTES, QUOTES
--North Carolina is a truly salty bunch on defense. The nine returning starters have 233 career starts, most of any team in the ACC, and two -- FS Deunta Williams and CB Kendric Burney -- have started every game in their Carolina careers (38 each).
--All nine assistants from 2009 are back for the Tar Heels, the first time since Carl Torbush's first two years (1998-99) that the staff has remained intact for Tar Heels in consecutive seasons.
WR Greg Little -- The senior assumed a leadership role and become more of a complete receiver, according to coach Butch Davis. Little, who also has lined up at tailback as well as receiver in his career, led the Tar Heels with 62 receptions in 2009 and rushed for 162 yards.
DE Michael McAdoo -- McAdoo, a junior who had 20 tackles in 2009 with seven of them for losses (one sack), will be very much in the picture for the rotation up front defensively. Of his five tackles in the spring game, four were sacks.
CB Mywan Jackson -- A sophomore, Jackson made a distinct impression in the spring game in coming up with two interceptions. He had six tackles and also forced a fumble.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we have a chance to do some very good things. Our goal is to be the best defense each and every Saturday. We want to be the best each and every week." -- Senior DT Marvin Austin, on the potential of the defense.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: With 19 starters returning from an eight-win team, North Carolina looks to take the next step up after being a play or two away from contending in the division the last two years. Three of their five losses last year were by a combined total of six points. The key will be if the offense can become more consistent in its run production. The Tar Heels open the season in Atlanta against LSU, but their next game, at home against Georgia Tech, will tell more about their conference fate.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: With 10 starters returning, the Tar Heels could be one of the more potent offenses in the conference. But they need steadier play at quarterback and a more consistent running game. If the line stays healthy, that should take care of the latter. Competition between returning starter T.J. Yates and newcomer Brynn Renner would solve the former matter. WR Greg Little looks poised to have a big year in 2010 after catching 62 passes for 724 yards in 2009.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The unit loses only two starters from a unit that was sixth in the country in overall defense last year, and both are up front where replacements look ready to step in. DE Robert Quinn is one of the premier defenders in the country, and CB Kendric Burney and FS Deunta Williams are two of the best in the secondary. There is good depth at linebacker. The Heels could take a step back from the unit that limited foes to just 96 yards a game rushing, but it will be a small one.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior PK Casey Barth was 21-of-25 on field goals last season, including 4-of-5 from 40 to 49 yards. Junior P Grant Schallock also returns after averaging just over 40 yards a boot. Johnny White, Greg Little, and Charles Brown are veterans at running back kickoffs, and Da'Norris Searcy averaged nearly 15 yards a try on punt returns.
--Coach Butch Davis was hoping to get a good look at TB Johnny White in the spring game, but White couldn't play after spraining his ankle the day before. White had a "phenomenal" spring and the hope was to see him in a featured role, Davis said.
--Three key offensive linemen -- freshman T.J. Leifheit (ankle) and veterans Alan Pelc (shoulder) and Carl Gaskins (knee) -- were not available for the Blue-White game because of injuries.
--TB Ryan Houston sat out the spring to concentrate on academics.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010