The End Is Near For Tide's Dial

Alabama tight end and H-Back Preston Dial can remember back all the way to 2006 or 2007 "when the light at the end of the tunnel seemed so far away. Now it seems like it's shining right in my face."

The Alabama football career of Preston Dial has probably four games remaining, three regular season games in Bryant-Denny Stadium and a bowl game who knows where. But as long as he's here, the fifth year senior from UMS-Wright in Mobile intends to keep sending a message to his younger teammates. It's the gospel according to Nick Saban, and Dial believes.

"I think the older you get, the tougher it gets to remember what it's like," he said of learning what it takes to win. "I remember being there. I do remember being in those shoes. I remember when the light at the end of the tunnel seemed so far away. Now, it seems like it's shining right in my face. It's something that we have to continue. Repetition is key. Every day, saying it and influencing, just like Coach Saban with his ideas and beliefs. Pounding it in the head every day, you usually have good results."

Dial has a way with leadership that goes to respect. "I really do level with those guys really well," Dial said. He's talking about Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy, and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones. But he's also talking about freshmen offensive linemen.

"I think maybe it's the way I was raised," Dial said. "I hope so. I give everybody the amount of respect that I expect in return. It's worked out. Julio demands a lot of respect and gives a lot of respect in return. Same with Mark and Greg and the offensive line.

"If you see somebody lagging a little big, somebody has to pick up the slack. Julio and I keep each other accountable. I know if I start to drag, Number 8 will definitely jerk me in line."

Dial has heard that not all Alabama fans are pleased with the results of this season.

"It's tough," he siad. "It's frustrating. When I was younger and I saw some of the guys come through here and not have very successful senior years, I said it was not going to be like that my senior year. I don't consider this year a failure at all. I've seen some guys really grow up. We still have a ways to go, some of these guys. And some of these guys that once I'm long gone, are going to be unbelievable players and will probably play on Sundays for a long time. I have a lot of pride and I wouldn't want to go to war with anybody else in this country as far as in the NCAA. I love my players and I love the respect we have between each other. We all go to work together.. Little things here and there, little slipups are going to happen no matter what, but I wouldn't replace one of our players with anybody else."

Dial has also heard that Mississippi State senses an opportunity against an Alabama team that lost for the second time this year last Saturday against LSU in Baton Rouge. Both Alabama and Mississippi State are 7-2, but it has been something of a down year for Alabama, which was a 14-0 national champion last season, and Mississippi State, which has won six straight games. The Bulldogs are coming off an open week.

Kickoff Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 6:15 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN2.

Dial said, "Since I've been here, I'm about .500 with Mississippi State. They're a blue-collar team. They play hard. They have the same kind of get up and go to work every day-type mentality that Alabama has. We're looking forward to the challenge, especially coming off a loss. I felt like it was a couple of little things here and there that caused the loss. It wasn't a complete malfunction where we didn't show up to play. It was little things here and there. We're looking forward to getting those things corrected and showing that on Saturday."

One of the players Dial will be going against is the Bulldogs' fine linebacker Chris White.

Dial said, "I've had the opportunity to play against him the last couple of years. No. 50, I believe. He's a good player, plays hard, has really good instincts. He plays the game the way it should be played. He had a pretty good game against us last year. It's not something we focus on, the number or the name. He's just an X out there for us. Getting that X covered up with some bodies is the most important thing for us."

Although Dial has important blocking assignments, he has also been more involved as a pass receiver this year. "I do enjoy the receiving side of offense," he said. "I have a lot of fun. As far as what's important to me, blocking and protecting Greg and protecting Mark and Trent (Richardson) and the rest of the running backs is obviously my number one. That's most important to me. Getting out there and making some plays this year has been a lot of fun. Just knowing that Coach Mac (Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain) has faith in me and Greg has faith in me, I can do my job on the receiving end, too, if that's what they ask me to do."

This year Dial has 17 receptions for 176 yards and three touchdowns. In his three previous years he had a total of five receptions for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

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