“I would say that probably T.J. (Yates) is still slightly a little bit ahead,” Davis said. “He has the advantage that you can no way empower Bryn Renner to have, 20-something games of starting experience. But that’s why you practice. That’s why we’re giving Bryn probably a disproportionate number sometimes in scrimmage opportunities, because we can’t give him game opportunities.”
Even though there are ten starters returning to the offense, the competition there has been fierce, something that applies to the quarterback race and virtually every single spot on that side of the ball.
“We’ve got competition going at almost every spot on this team, especially on the offense,” Yates said. “It has raised the level of intensity a whole bunch. As a whole team, and especially as an offense, guys are competing every single day, several different guys taking reps with the 1’s, competing at the highest levels.”
Admittedly, I have mellowed on my anti-TJ sentiments so some extent. Yes, it makes for a good quip every so often. Last season Yates had a disposition for being more accurate with opposing DBs than his own receivers. At the same time I wonder how many of those errors were fruit of poor offensive line play, inexperienced receivers, Zach Pianalto TD celebrations and a running game that did not get a footing until mid-season. His stats, as pointed out by Patrick Stevens, are close to what you routinely see from ACC winning QBs with the exception of the INTs. ESPN.com’s Mark Shlabach notes that Yates is in quite a peculiar situation: He could become the all-time leading passer in UNC history or he might spend most of the season on the bench.
In more than a century of North Carolina football, only one other Tar Heels quarterback has more passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts and completions and a higher completion percentage than returning senior T.J. Yates.
At some point during the 2010 season, Yates might break a few of former quarterback Darian Durant’s school records.
T.J. Yates could leave UNC as a record breaker or clipboard holder.
Or, at some point this coming season (and maybe as soon as the No. 18 Tar Heels’ Sept. 4 opener against No. 16 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome), Yates might lose his starting job to a player who has never attempted a pass in a college game.
Such is life for Yates, who enters the 2010 season trying to hold on to the starting job he has held for most of the past three seasons.
This is what makes Yates such an odd bird. A player who is on the verge of breaking the school’s all-time passing mark(even at UNC) should be a lock to start and be seen as a huge plus for the team. Not the case with Yates. The senior is largely derided by the Tar Heel fan base for not being quite good enough at key moments. It has also reached a point where Yates’ performances prior to last season were more about Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate than Yates being a good QB. A fair point as are the OL issues and what not. Adding fuel to the proverbial fire is how well Bryn Renner played in the spring game and suddenly you have a fan base clamoring for whoever is next since Yates has already been written off.
At this point though Butch Davis is looking at all factors. If you read between the lines here you certainly could conclude that both QBs are even in performance and experience is giving Yates the edge. It is tough to argue against a veteran when you consider UNC’s is playing a nationally televised opener vs LSU though it is clear Davis is hedging his bets by giving Renner more snaps in camp. The question also arises. If these two QBs are “even” in practice does that mean Renner is worse than we thought or Yates has improved? I really hope for the latter and here is why.
Yates has been a stand-up guy during his four seasons at UNC. He has endured the brunt of criticism and at times accepted full responsibility for his poor play. When you talk about guys who represent the University in a way that makes you proud, Yates is that guy. That is why I find the booing of Yates during the “I am a Tar Heel” video played at basketball games to be utterly reprehensible. Yates is a good guy and on my wish list is for Yates to have an outstanding season behind center because it would be a nice ending for his career. Also, because I think that gives UNC the best chance at winning. In my opinion Renner is very good and the obvious QB of the future. But for this season it would be nice to see Yates come through in his last ride wearing a Tar Heel uniform.