Because of a toe injury, Quinton Dial didn’t get much of a chance to play in his rookie NFL season. Dial, a 2013 fifth-round pick from Alabama, played in just three games.
But as the 49ers head toward their first practice of training camp on July 24, the second-year defensive lineman has some admirers.
The 6-foot-6, 318-pounder saw action at nose tackle behind Glenn Dorsey last season and had just one tackle in his three appearances. But in practices, he impressed some teammates and coaches.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes the way Dial moves, especially for a man his size. He’s huge, yet quick on his feet.
“That’s what we saw when we drafted him,” Fangio told a writer for the team’s website. “We liked obviously his size and thought he moved well. … And we thought his best football was in front of him. I think he’s done a good job since he’s gotten here of improving his body. And he’s still got a long ways to go. But I think he’s a guy that will eventually get there.”
Niners defensive end Justin Smith, who’s been a role model and mentor for Dial, also liked the fact Dial showed a lot of aggressiveness in his limited game action, particularly in a lopsided win over the Jaguars in London.
“He got in there and had a little nastiness to him,” said Smith. “That’s what I like seeing. Roughing it up a little bit, trying to get in a fight out there. That’s good. He’s got that fire that you need. I thought he did a good job.”
But with 11 defensive linemen on the roster headed into training camp, the competition should be fierce to earn playing time. Smith and Ray McDonald are the starters at end with Dorsey and Ian Williams at nose tackle, so Dial figures to be in the second-tier group along with Tank Carradine, Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie. Lawrence Okoye, Mike Purcell and Kaleb Ramsey will also be fighting for spots.
In two seasons at Alabama, Dial was terrific as a run-stuffing lineman (45 tackles), but wasn’t noted as a pass rusher (just 2½ sacks). But NFL scouts loved his versatility, strength, hustle and ability to work well in the chaos of the interior line.
Recently, Dial noted that both Smith and McDonald have been terrific teachers, and credited Smith for helping him learn a certain pass-rush technique.
“He showed me how to do it and ever since I’ve been using it,” Dial told 49ers.com. “Since that day when he helped me out, I feel like I can ask him anything and he’ll help me out.”
After a year of mostly watching and learning, Dial says he’s much more comfortable and confident going into training camp. He’ll definitely get a chance to test out those techniques – and his nastiness – in exhibition games, with veterans getting plenty of rest.
“I’m getting a better feel for things now,” Dial said. “I know the playbook, I know everything. I’ve been out there doing it.”