2021 UNC Football Positional Preview: Defensive Backs

Dec 27, 2019; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Storm Duck (29) celebrates after returning a Temple Owls quarterback Anthony Russo (not pictured) interception for a touchdown during the third quarter at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2019; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Storm Duck (29) celebrates after returning a Temple Owls quarterback Anthony Russo (not pictured) interception for a touchdown during the third quarter at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Another day another look at the UNC football program roster as Keeping It Heel positional review continues on.

A position with a nickname called the Rude Boyz matches exactly the tone that is looking to be set on game days. Led by the 90’s Rude Boy himself, Super Bowl Champion Defensive Back coach Dré Bly. When Bly returned to the UNC football program just over three years ago it was clear that he would bring a culture with him with his deep Virginia roots and the legacy he left at Carolina. Now fast forward and the Rude Boyz are set to ground any passing attack with a true no-fly zone atmosphere.


What we know is that the defensive back position is crucial to the UNC Football program hopes for this season and contending in the ACC. We know the offense is explosive, however, many are still unsure about the defensive side of things.

The defensive back position this year could even out the offensive and defensive scale far as impact goes this season. Last year the offense averaged the 9th most points per game(41.7) in college football, which NCAA ranked the UNC football program as the 5th best in total offense. Meanwhile, the defense ranked 65th for points allowed per game (29.4) and failed to crack the NCAA top 50 in the total defense category per NCAA.

This season will be much different and that is due to the experience and health status of the defensive back position. Unlike the offense which lost major key players like Javonte Williams and Dyami Brown, the defensive back position retained and re-gained players that will make a complete difference.

Last season the defensive backs only accounted for six of the nine total interceptions, which is a stat that surely should rise when you take a look at who will be back this season.


Storm Duck

Storm Duck is not only the most valuable player in the UNC football secondary but possibly in the Atlantic Coastal Conference. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound sophomore will be lacing up his cleats for his come-back year after only playing one game last season.

Duck was a three-star recruit out of Boiling Springs, South Carolina, and has a similar aggressive style that Bly displayed in the ’90s. Despite being sidelined due to a lower-body injury, fans have already seen what Duck brings to the game. In the prior year during his true freshman season, he had 37 total tackles, five pass deflections, and two interceptions, which one resulted in an electrifying pick-six.

This upcoming season the hype train surrounded Duck is huge with expectations. Many media outlets during the off-season named Duck to their annual teams like Athlon and their 2021 All-ACC preseason team. Bly also acknowledged just how good Duck could be this season while meeting with media on Monday.

“Storm is where he needs to be,” Bly said. ” I feel that last year when he got injured, there wasn’t a better cornerback in ACC in my eyes…I expect Storm to do what he did and be the same guy he was before he went away with injury. ”

2020 stats: four tackles, two pass deflections, and zero interceptions.

Tony Grimes

Tony Grimes much like Duck is anticipated to have a big season.

Grime was a high five-star recruit from Virginia Beach, VA ranking 28th nationally per 247 sports. Being a top 3 cornerback of your recruiting class comes with high expectations, which is the path Grimes has been paving.

Grimes accounted for 317 defensive snaps as a true freshman with 188 of them coming in pass coverage. Grimes’s best game of the season came in the Orange Bowl against Texas A&M where he had 3 tackles, 1 sack, and two pass deflections.

Finishing the season strong and becoming a legit starter for UNC just shows the growth in Grimes short career. Bly praised Grimes’s love for the game, and how it could result in some stellar play this upcoming season.

“Right now he’s out here working extra right now,” Bly said. “That’s the thing that I think that separates him from some of the other guys across college football, is his desire to be great”.

2020 stats: 14 tackles, one sack, three pass deflections, and 1 interception.

Kyler McMichael

Kyler McMichael is the glue that sticks the secondary together.

A four-star recruit out of Norcross, Georgia was ranked 56th nationally among his class, which landed him at Clemson. Just one season after playing for the Tigers as a reserve he ended up behind NFL’s AJ Terrell on the depth chart, which caused the 6’0 corner to take his talents to the transfer portal where he traded in his Orange and Purple for Carolina blue.

McMichael played a valuable role with Duck being sidelined due to injury and is expected to be counted on once again this season. In McMichael’s first year playing with the Rude Boyz, he earned the third-most snaps (515) for defensive backs. His best game of the season came against Notre Dame where he finished with 7 tackles, and a pass deflection.

The junior might not be the most flash, however, his recovery and ball-hawking skills are the most consistent throughout the secondary. He led the team in pass deflections (6) and has been a bright spot throughout training camp so far.

To keep it simple he does his job.

2020 stats: 26 tackles, six pass deflections, and zero interceptions


This could be the year where it all comes together for the defensive back position. The potential is high and if healthy could result in the Rude Boyz being nightmares for the opposing quarterbacks.

Training camp has been key for this position with matchups of the elite talent that exist on Carolinas’ offense. Truly following the phase of metal sharping metal in preparation for what this season holds. The UNC football program is hyped and could have their biggest season in over three decades, however, to do so the defense led by the backs will need to step up.

The biggest problem in the past has been containing the mobility of a quarterback and preventing big plays through the air. Bly understands to halt any big plays through the air he will need to make sure all the defensive backs stay ready and has made it a focal point throughout training camp.

“This is a thing every year since I’ve been here, the guys that we’ve started with, we didn’t finish with, right?” Bly said. ” So just make sure you’ve got every guy ready.”

A stacked, yet ready position could surely cause for an appearance of the turnover belt throughout the season.


STARTERS: Tony Grimes and Storm Duck

BACKUPS: Kyler McMichael and Obi Egbuna

NICKLE BACK: Don Chapman

RESERVE: DeAndre Boykins, Ladaeson Hollins, Dontavius Nash

Related Story. UNC Football 2021 position preview: Defensive line. light

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