Quietly, Dial Big Part Of Offense

When Alabama fans think about the players from the 2010 team who won't be back for 2011, the focus is on a handful of seniors and three or four possible junior defections; not so much on a guy who has been a two-year starter and a versatile player on offense and special teams.

For some reason, it doesn't seem as though Preston Dial should be a senior. That could be because he has had something of a quiet career, playing in a role where he was doing heavy lifting and not getting much limelight.

Dial is Alabama's H-back and tight end, and he's primarily a blocker, although in his 2010 senior season he has 21 pass receptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-3, 237-pound Mobile native will finish up his Crimson Tide career Saturday against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. EST (noon central time) with television coverage by ESPN.

Bobby Williams, Alabama's assistant coach in charge of tight ends and special teams, does a lot of coaching of Dial, and he is high on his senior.

"Preston has been a very special guy on this team," Williams said. "It's been really nice watching him grow up. I came in here and had him for three years, watched him go from a guy that really didn't play a lot to being a key factor in our offense. It's been special. He's had a fantastic year, one of the toughest players on our offense because we ask him to do so much that really goes. People don't really notice all the things that he has to do. But he's done a great job. I know he's looking forward to this game on Saturday."

Dial isn't a big booster of the theme park rides in Orlando. "I'm a four- or five-a-day ride type guy and then my head starts to hurt," he said. His favorite spot was Sea World. "I'm liking the marine life," he said.

He also doesn't buy into stereotypes of Big Ten and Southeastern Conference football as Michigan State of the Big Ten and Bama of the SEC prepare to clash.

"A lot of peoples' mentality about us right now is that we can't finish a ball game," Dial said. "I don't believe that's true. As far as Michigan State and up North ball goes...SEC has great ball, but they've got some great teams up there, too. We'll see. Only a couple of more days until all the talk is put to rest and there will be one winner and one loser."

Dial said he has been healthier as the Tide prepares for Saturday. Last season, he said, he had "one big injury that nagged me all year, but this year just nicks and bruises, a strain here, a pull there. But I've been able to recover from all of them. I'm a little banged up, as usual, but I'm excited. You can't let the pain get in the way of your last one, so I'm looking forward to it."

Word was out that Dial might not be on some special teams because of his ailments, but that's not the case.

"I'm not sure," Dial said when asked about his special teams involvement Saturday. "Coach Williams is trying to get some young guys back in there. Coach Williams is real big on getting young guys involved, and also having veterans to show them. I don't know what his plan is, but I'm ready if he wants me to.

"Coach Williams said with the reps I was getting (on offense), he wanted to get some young guys in there. Some other guys were starting to understand special teams and he wanted to get them an opportunity. One thing, Coach Williams and Coach Saban, if you work hard and do things right, you'll get an opportunity to play."

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