North Carolina lands sleeper quarterback prospect

Butch Davis has assembled a nice corps of young quarterbacks. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

After seeing West Springfield (Va.) quarterback Bryn Renner's junior film in February, we expected recruiting to heat up for the ESPN 150 Watch List prospect as more coaches watched his impressive tape. North Carolina is now hoping it put out the ensuing fire on the recruiting trail with a commitment from the crafty gunslinger with all physical tools in our eyes needed to succeed at the next level.

Behind current Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich on the West Springfield depth chart his freshman and sophomore year, his head coach and father Bill Renner moved him to wide receiver, where he caught more than 100 balls.

"After Peter graduated and Bryn knew the job was his, he worked extremely hard at becoming a good quarterback," said Bill Renner.

The future Tar Heel put a lot of emphasis on his mechanics in a busy off-season and decided to take full advantage of his first opportunity as a starter. He worked with a quarterback coach on technique and fundamentals and quarterbacked his team in more than 35 games last summer in a passing league.

"Bryn is a quick learner; you explain it once and he usually gets it and will religiously practice it with drills until he perfects it," explained Renner.

The results paid off as Renner looked more like a seasoned veteran under center last fall than a first-year high school quarterback. Aside from his good size, he displayed a strong arm, quick release and touch needed to excel at a college level. However, the mental intangibles we witnessed were even more appealing as a college prospect than the 2,749 yards and 32 touchdowns. The Virginia native consistently drove his team downfield with a certain moxie and competitiveness about himself present in the great ones you just can't coach. It's no shock then that Renner is a three-sport star, averaging 26 points per game on the hardwood and gaining attention of Major League Baseball scouts as an athletic 6-foot-3 shortstop.

So how did UNC coming off a disappointing season grab the most underrated quarterback in this 2009 class?

"North Carolina had the same early reaction you guys (ESPN) did after reviewing Bryn's film. They thought he was really good and quickly came after him hard," explained Renner.

With his son's crazy spring baseball schedule, the coach and mentoring father made an often arduous recruiting process rather simple. Considering the fact they had visited all of Bryn's top schools of interest, including Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Maryland, he simply asked his star pupil what school was his No. 1 choice. After hearing it was UNC and knowing Bryn would be close to campus for a passing camp, the elder Renner set up an unofficial visit for his son to see Chapel Hill, meet with the UNC coaches and get a better feel for the program.

"Bryn loved everything about the school and really liked Coach (Butch) Davis and Coach (John) Shoop when he met with them. He sat in on meetings, just felt at home and thought it was the right school for him. He decided to commit to coach Davis on Wednesday night."

When you factor in Renner's athleticism and dual-threat capabilities, there is no question Butch Davis has landed a much needed talent and leader behind center to help in the rebuilding process at North Carolina. The big question may be whether he can keep him until next February. Only going into his second season as a starter, we project Renner will blossom into one of the better quarterback prospects in the country next fall and his recruitment will continue to skyrocket.

Renner adds to an already solid stable of young quarterbacks, including Class of 2007 signee Mike Paulus and incoming freshman Braden Hanson (Charlotte, N.C./Latin).

LSU plucks Garrett from Mississippi State

North Carolina is hoping it does not suffer the same fate as Mississippi State when it comes to 2009 quarterback sleepers. Chris Garrett (Tupelo, Miss.), another ESPN 150 Watch List quarterback with similar college upside and physical tools as Renner, verbally committed to the defending BCS National Champion LSU Tigers this week following a de-commitment from the in-state Bulldogs.

Garrett's stock has soared since originally committing to Mississippi State back in October and should continue to rise like Renner's once he hits the summer camp circuit and finishes with a strong senior campaign. A mechanically sound and accurate passer, the 6-foot-4 Garrett has completed 188 of 362 pass attempts for 3,278 yards and 27 touchdowns during his career at Tupelo High School.

Paterno lands ESPN 150 Watch List center

Last weekend during his campus tour, tenacious center Ty Howle (Bunn, N.C.) informed defensive line coach Larry Johnson he planned on committing to Joe Paterno during his one-on-one interview concluding his unofficial visit to Happy Valley. While the veteran defensive line coach was very ecstatic with the news, he was also very adamant about the 290-pound lineman not notifying the legendary coach until after their conversation.

"During our meeting, I did what Coach Johnson said and let Coach Paterno talk to me about Penn State, its great tradition, why he wanted me to become part of their family and everything else. After he was done, I informed him that I had already made up my mind earlier and was heading to Penn State. Well, he almost fell over," laughed Howle.

"Coach Paterno just started laughing and asked me why the heck I made him go through his whole half hour recruiting spiel if I knew I was coming. I just looked at Coach Johnson and smiled."

At the rate Texas is going, it will have its whole class filled out by the end of spring ball. High-motored defensive end Alex Okafor (Pflugerville, Texas) became the Longhorns' 16th commitment. Fifteen are on the ESPN 150 Watch List and all hail from Texas.

We raised some eyebrows last summer when undersized outside linebacker Sean Spence (Miami/Northwestern) landed high on our initial ESPN 150 release. The latest report out of Miami's spring practice is that the instinctive linebacker, who enrolled early, is continuing to impress at the collegiate level and could start for the Canes at weakside linebacker.

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.