Dial In Battle At Tight End

Preston Dial looks like a football player. And following one practice last week, he looked like a football player who had come out on the short end of the scrimmage. Looks can be deceiving, though. The bloody nose was just a bad scrape, the result of Dial failing to buckle up his chin strap correctly.

"I learned my lesson," he said.

Hey, that's what spring training is supposed to be about, right? Learning.

Preston Dial, 6-3, 233, is an upcoming senior tight end. He's used primarily as the H-back type tight end, rather than the conventional on-the-line of scrimmage tackle-type. Thus far in his career he has played in 38 games and has a total of five pass receptions for 54 yards.

His job is blocking.

Dial is battling primarily with Brad Smelley for the H-back type tight end, with fullback Mike Marrow probably also in that mix. But Dial can also play that traditional spot, where Michael Williams is leading Chris Underwood.

As might be expected, Dial would be fine with being more a pass-catcher "if that's the way our offense pans out. I want to make sure that I'm reliable and that Greg (quarterback Greg McElroy) knows that he can count on me. But I'll be honest, if I catch three or four balls and we win every game, I'll be perfectly happy. I know my role. I do enjoy being able to catch the ball and get upfield, that part of play-making, but I also enjoy going through the holes and banging on guys."

Last year Dial played in every game and started seven of them. He had three pass receptions for 25 yards for the Crimson Tide, which went 14-0 and won the national championship. Dial also played on special teams and expects to be on those units again in 2010.

Alabama is in the final week of spring football practice. Bama will practice Tuesday and Thursday, then wind up spring training with the A-Day Game at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. There is no admission charge. The event will be nationally televised by ESPN.

Dial said that things have gone well for the veteran offense. "We're blocking very well," he said. "We're starting to make plays, starting to come together. You can see us starting to turn into more of a unit instead of a bunch of individuals fighting for jobs. So that's always good."

Dial thinks that Alabama's offense has several advantages.

"It amazes me how talented Coach McElwain and Coach Pendry are," Dials said of Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain and Offensive Line Coach Joe Pendry. "They can take that offense in any direction they think our strengths or weaknesses are. We're doing some of the same stuff we did last year, just trying to improve. We left a lot of plays on the field last year – a scary amount. So we're trying to capitalize on the plays and have more big plays from scrimmage and eliminate penalties. When you've got guys like Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, and Julio Jones outside, there's no reason we can't pass the ball whenever."

That doesn't mean Alabama is going to abandon the running game. After all, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram returns at tailback, along with sophomore Trent Richardson.

Dial said that in order to have a successful year, Alabama's offense must be prepared for games in which the Tide has to pass more or run more. "The big thing is avoiding mistakes," he said. "We have to have good communications between the quarterback and the receivers and the quarterback and the offensive line. And we have to play more as a unit."

Dial also sees an advantage in playing for Alabama.

"Coach Saban's defense will always be a force to be reckoned with and we get the honor of going against it every day, which will definitely help us," Dial said. "It did last year and I hope it will this season."

Dial, a native of Mobile where he played at UMS-Wright, has enjoyed watching a fellow Mobile native improve this spring. A.J. McCarron, who will be a redshirt freshman this season, has been doing well, Dial said.

"The thing that has really impressed me about A.J. is his timing and how much quicker his release is this year than last fall," Dial said. "It's exciting. I told my dad the other day that it's exciting to see these young kids start to click. I wish I could have seen that happen with me. I had to suffer through that. A.J. has done a real good job. You can see he sees the field a whole lot better this year. We're excited for him."

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