It is not surprising that Bryn Renner would start once he was healthy. Marquise Williams was solid in his collegiate debut against Virginia Tech but Renner is still more experienced and has a longer track record for success. Renner was very close to being able to play in Blacksburg and according to offensive coordinator Blake Anderson has looked healthy in practice since then.
The surprise? That Larry Fedora told anyone this was going to be the case. For a coach so obsessed with keeping injury information hidden, Fedora has allowed Renner's status to be revealed prior to the past two games. On the Monday before the Virginia Tech game, Renner met with the media wearing a boot on his foot announcing to the whole world he might not play in the next game. Now, Fedora tips his hand at a time where there is actually some strategic advantage to keeping Miami in the dark. Renner and Williams are very different players with each needing to be handled differently by the defense. The smart move would have been to keep the Miami coaches guessing up until game time.
At any rate, the larger question is how much does Williams get used now that he has shown he can handle all aspects of the job in live action. Anderson gives a clue.
Williams’s performance at Lane Stadium has boosted the coaching staff’s confidence in his ability to deliver a unique look for UNC’s offense in addition to Renner’s more traditional style.
"He’ll play a bit," Anderson said of Williams. "Every third or fourth series, he’ll go in for a series. He’s got some sub-packages where he’s going to be used. We make no secret – we’re going to use him. He did a good enough job in the Virginia Tech game if you get rid of a couple of critical errors. He creates another dynamic that I think may help the run game a little bit."
Anderson noted that other schools are utilizing sub-personnel packages with a second quarterback and sees no reason why UNC can’t do the same thing.
"We’re going to do whatever it takes to win," Renner said. "We’ve added some different stuff to the game plan, trying to get a read on Miami’s defense. Any advantage can help."
The value of Williams' performance at Virginia Tech cannot be overstated. Prior to that game, when Williams spelled Renner, it was almost exclusively to run the ball. That made him very much a one dimensional player not to mention predictable. That is no longer the case assuming Miami coaches watched the Virginia Tech game film. When Williams is on the field now, he has to be defended as a multiple threat QB not just a rusher. Based on Anderson's comments, it sounds as though Williams won't be out there for just one or two plays but they are willing to put him in charge of a whole series. Making a change forces the defense to adjust on the fly rather than weather out a play or two. At the UNC's tempo UNC uses that might be difficult. It will also be interesting to see if there are instances where Williams and Renner are on the field at the same time for decoy purposes or even a good old fashioned trick play.
UNC is 1-4 and playing Miami in a national showcase game. If there was ever a time to starting using every available resource to win the game, it is now. The question is can they do that looking like this?