Dyer 'Probable' for Virginia Tech

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- After watching the Florida State loss in full pads while standing on the Kenan Stadium sidelines last week, senior center Lowell Dyer may be able to take the field against Virginia Tech on Thursday night in Blacksburg.

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Butch Davis Pre-Practice

* Amidst the hubbub surrounding the first-ever Thursday night game in Chapel Hill last week, few observers noticed Lowell Dyer dressed out and working through pregame warm-ups on the North Carolina sideline.

Six weeks ago, it looked as though the senior center may not return after straining a muscle in his right shoulder prior to the win over Connecticut. Now it's looking as though Dyer will play sooner than later.

"We suited him up last week just because he had taken part in some of the individual drills that week, just to get him back into it emotionally and psychologically," Davis said. "Last week, he was probably – in the status that you would have in the NFL – a third-string quarterback. He's dressed and he's suited up and you hope that you don't have to use him, but he's there in the case that maybe something really unforeseen would have happened to either of the other two centers.

"Each week he makes some progress. Each week he gets a little stronger, a little healthier. Time will tell when he's available to return."

Dyer is listed as "probable" in this week's injury report for Virginia Tech.

* Starting tight end Zack Pianalto returned to action against Florida State after dislocating his foot during the Connecticut game on Sept. 12, only to suffer a concussion early in the contest last week. The junior is expected to play on Thursday night.

"[The doctors] have deemed him healthy and ready to go for this week," Davis said.

When asked if Pianalto would be 100 percent for the game, the third-year UNC head coach responded, "We wouldn't play him if he wasn't."

* The phrase "Beamer Ball" has become synonymous with the Virginia Tech football program over the past two decades, highlighted by a stunning 123 blocked kicks and 33 special teams touchdowns. As opposed to the wild array of offensive schemes nationally, there are only so many ways that a team can approach special teams, which makes head coach Frank Beamer's success that much more impressive.

"They were probably one of the first collegiate teams that tried to put a lot of really good athletes on their special teams," Davis said. "There are probably maybe still some schools that try to relegate that to backup players – a lot of times even young freshmen or red-shirt freshmen. Subsequently, they're trying to learn how to play the collegiate game and get their exposure on special teams and they may not be as electrifying…

"I think if you cultivate that kind of mentality the way in which Virginia Tech has, it certainly compliments your entire football team."

The former Miami (Fla.) head coach pointed to the ever-present threat of Santana Moss returning a kick for a touchdown or Ed Reed blocking a kick as similar weapons for the old-school Hurricanes. Current Tar Heel Bruce Carter and his five blocked kicks in '08 serve as another example.

"[Carter's] clearly a starter and an outstanding player for us, but because of his unique ability to put pressure and block kicks, that's what you try to do," Davis said.

While North Carolina always places weekly significance on special teams operations, Virginia Tech's reputation catches everybody's attention. Fundamentals take center stage, as well as proper communication and execution.

"You've got to make sure that everyone is on the right person because they are going to test all of your principles and they're going to test all of your rules to make sure that you know exactly what you're doing," Davis said.

* While mere mention of the Florida State collapse still sends shivers down Tar Heel fans' spines, one benefit from that experience can be found in the players' time management as UNC prepares for a second-straight Thursday night game.

"Traditionally, college kids are used to getting up and playing at 12 p.m., 1 p.m. or maybe even 3:30 p.m., and now all of a sudden, you've got those extra 4-5-6 hours during the course of the day," Davis said. "Staying off your feet, resting as much as possible, taking an opportunity to get maybe an extra hour or so to watch a little more film. Maybe you look at your notes and your game plan. You try to utilize that [time] as something that will help you that night in the ball game."

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