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Saturday May 27th

'We'll continue to push': UNC's Dré Bly looking to continue success into 2020

UNC freshman defensive back Storm Duck (29) runs the ball to the sideline. The Tar Heels beat the Bears 56-7 at Kenan Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.
Buy Photos UNC freshman defensive back Storm Duck (29) runs the ball to the sideline. The Tar Heels beat the Bears 56-7 at Kenan Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

When Mack Brown returned to coach the North Carolina football team last fall, he made a notable early hire by bringing in former UNC All-American Dré Bly to coach the cornerback unit. 

After an NFL career that included a Super Bowl victory and two Pro Bowl appearances, Bly has embraced his new role as the coach and mentor of North Carolina’s defensive backs. 

“I love having the chance to tell my story and help these guys accomplish what I’ve done and what my peers have done,” Bly said in a press conference over Zoom on Monday. “I want these guys to have the chance to be better than me.”

Despite his All-American tenure at UNC and an 11-year NFL career, Bly said some questioned whether or not he could make the transition from player to coach. In his first season on UNC's staff, his unit supported a defense that made massive statistical strides from the previous campaign. 

In 2018, UNC finished 13th in the ACC for scoring defense, allowing nearly 35 points per game. In 2019, the defense allowed only 23.7 points per game, good for fourth best in the conference. 

“I’m one of those guys that gets motivated by the haters,” Bly said. “There are a lot of people that say former players can’t coach because we don’t want to put in the time, but once you get past that, the Xs-and-Os part is all the same. All I was focused on was that my corners were prepared and knew their position.”

In addition to his on-field mentorship, Bly said he focuses on giving players the belief that they can improve, emphasizing that confidence and short-term memory are two of the most important traits a cornerback can have.

“I’m coaching up confidence every day,” Bly said.

One beneficiary of this coaching philosophy was first-year Storm Duck who rose through the depth chart and gained experience as one of the team’s top cornerbacks in 2019. In the Military Bowl victory over Temple, Duck contributed to the 55-13 win with a pick-six that set the tone for a dominant second half for the Tar Heels.  

“When I first saw Storm, I knew he had the measurables to play at the college football level, but I wanted him to have some swag,” Bly said. “That’s one of the things I’m excited for him to get more consistent with this season, because he played some great ball toward the end.”

Although the Tar Heels established momentum at the end of last season, the team has not been able to carry on with its usual spring practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With film sessions taking the place of practices, Bly insisted that the mental aspect of football is just as important as physically being on the field. 

“I try to talk my guys through visualizing themselves being in certain positions and making plays,” Bly said. “Once we start up, we’ll continue to push on it and move forward.”

UNC is slated to face Central Florida and Auburn back-to-back to open next season. Both teams employ potent offensive attacks, so Bly's unit will enter next season with plenty of chances to show its improvement. With a new national spotlight on the Tar Heels, UNC and its cornerbacks will look to turn their preparation into wins. 


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