University of Arkansas linebacker commit Tim Dial and his Jenks (Okla.) football squad are expected to have a great team this season, but everyone on the 102-man roster will be playing with a heavy heart.
That's because Dial (6-3, 210, 4.4) and his teammates lost a very good friend this summer when lineman Garrett Bennett died in a car accident in July.
"It's going to be a very different year - both on and off the field without him here," Dial said earlier this week. "It's tough, but we are dealing with the best we can."
But instead of being overcome by sorrow, the Trojans intend to play for him instead.
"Garrett's death is definitely going to give us a little more drive," Dial told the Tulsa World. "This is something difficult the entire team has had to face. It will be on our minds. But we've all been able to lean on each other. I think we'll be okay."
Dial is wearing a necklace with the number 76 on it around his neck to honor Bennett.
"We understand you have to go on and focus on football and we know that is what Garrett would want us to do," Dial said. "But it's still on my mind. I spoke to Garrett's dad after the accident and I made a promise to him that I was going to play every play for Garrett."
One would imagine that would be quite a number of plays seeing as how Dial was on his way to a great season before a injury short-circuited the campaign.
He had 11 tackles in his team's 48-44 win over rival Union in the Backyard before breaking his hand in a 44-0 loss to Arkansas power Springdale, who had four players he will be teammates next season.
Dial, who impressed former Springdale coach and current UA assistant Gus Malzahn while he was watching tape of that Union game and then was recruited by the coach, is one of nine defensive starters that will back this season for the Trojans.
"I think we are going to have a great, great defense," Dial said."We are going to be very physical and able to stuff the run and also play great against the pass. We do have a few guys who have changed positions, but we have looked great so far in practice."
Dial, the son of former American pole vault record holder and current ORU track coach Joe Dial, is one of those guys on the move as he will actually line up at free safety this season instead of linebacker.
"It's not going to be that big of a deal at all," Dial said. "I am looking forward to it and its to make the team better."
Jenks scrimmaged Mustang last Thursday and will next hold its annual preview this upcoming Friday before opening the season against Bixby.
Bixby has a star in Jared Glover (6-5, 220), a linebacker/defensive end who Arkansas is recruiting and joins Nebraska and Colorado as his three finalists.
Both Dial and Glover will be on hand in Fayetteville when the Razorbacks open the season with USC on Sept. 2.
"I am very, very solid in my commitment to Arkansas and can't wait to get over there for that game," Dial said. "I'm kind of hoping to make a practice before then if our schedule allows it. I talk to Coach Malzahn a lot and I excited about getting down there for it."
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