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UNC could get these major defensive players back for game against Virginia Tech

UNC’s Fedora talks about what he hopes the bye week will mean for the Tar Heels

UNC football coach Larry Fedora talks about coming off the bye week and the Tar Heels' unusual schedule.
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UNC football coach Larry Fedora talks about coming off the bye week and the Tar Heels' unusual schedule.

North Carolina starting safety Myles Dorn said he finally feels 100 percent.

After suffering a knee injury in the second half of UNC’s 24-17 loss to California on Sept. 1, Dorn missed the next three games. But he’s now well enough to likely play Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Dorn, a 6-2, 210-pound junior, said the three-game stretch he sat out was the first time in his career he’s had to miss a significant amount of time for an injury.

“Probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Dorn said. “I’ve not had any serious deaths in the family, so. It’s tough. It’s like your whole life you’ve been working towards one thing and it’s just taken away.

“So just to be back on the field is the best feeling I’ve had in a while.”

Dorn is a key piece on a Tar Heels’ defense that has struggled at times without him and other missing players this season. In 2017, Dorn had 71 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. UNC defensive coordinator John Papuchis said the defense has missed a lot without Dorn.

“And that’s not to say anything negative about the guys who have played, but Myles has a lot of experience,” Papuchis said. “Myles is kind of the leader and captain of the secondary. He makes a lot of calls. He makes a lot of checks.

“It’s no coincidence that our best game defensively was the game that he played in because he brings a lot to the table.”

In the game against Cal, UNC’s defense gave up 279 yards, and only 119 yards passing. Dorn had five tackles.

Dorn said being a good communicator is something he prides himself in.

“Being able to push everybody, being able to raise everybody’s standards and being able to make plays,” Dorn said. “It’s a good feeling to know your DC (defensive coordinator) is behind you like that, your defense is behind you like that.”

Players are also excited about the return of junior defensive tackle Aaron Crawford. But it’s unclear whether he will play at Saturday against the Hokies. Crawford, who is 6-1 and 310 pounds, suffered a knee injury in August. Fedora said coming out of camp, “we thought (Crawford) was the best player on defense.”

So when Crawford injured his knee, UNC’s defense took a hit too. Last season as a sophomore, Crawford had 29 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. He also had one fumble recovery.

Crawford was initially slated to return for the Virginia Tech game. While Fedora did not say whether he would play, Crawford was seen running in practice.

When asked what having Crawford back would mean for the team, Dorn said “they won’t be able to run up the middle on us. That’s for sure.”

“AC is a great player,” Dorn said. “Nobody can block him in the middle. We can eliminate the inside run game. So we can just really focus on other things when he’s in there.”

Stopping the run will be key for the Tar Heels. They have given up more than 220 rushing yards in three consecutive games. Two of those games — against East Carolina and Miami — ended in losses.

Virginia Tech at UNC

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill

TV: ESPNU

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Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander
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