Quinton Dial refers to himself as “just a country boy,” yet the second-year defensive lineman looked at home under the bright lights of the big city and the NFL Thursday night.
Dial made a strong case that he deserves to be the 49ers’ nose tackle in the season opener vs. Dallas on Sept. 7 by playing a dominating game in the 23-3 exhibition loss to the Ravens in Baltimore.
The 6-foot-5, 318-pounder from Alabama had a game-high 10 tackles and two forced fumbles, standing out on a defense that mostly had a rough night.
With last season’s main starter, Glenn Dorsey, lost for the season and Ian Williams still not ready for contact, the nose tackle job is up for grabs. But since Day 1 of training camp, Dial has been in beast mode, exhibiting his enormous strength and playing havoc with blockers. Though Mike Purcell started Thursday night’s game at the nose, Dial made the biggest impression, carrying through his practice performances into the game.
Bill Williamson, who covers the 49ers for ESPN.com, noted that Dial’s play was one of the highlights from the opener.
“His big night has to be particularly exciting to 49ers coaches since Dial has been outstanding all of training camp,” he wrote. Though Purcell also had a good night, in on nine tackles, and Tony Jerod-Eddie could also be in the mix at the position, Williamson called Dial “a big-time riser.”
Dial was a fifth-round draft pick in 2013 who played in just three games as a rookie with San Francisco, getting just 19 snaps. At Alabama, Dial was known for his strength and ability to stop the run.
But a season to study and learn has taken him a long way, says defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The main thing Fangio says Dial needs to do is stay low.
“He’s got to get his pad level down,” Fangio told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I think he has the potential to do fine in there. We just have to get him worked in there and he has to recognize the schemes.”
Dial, as he showed Thursday night, says he’s up for the challenge. At nose tackle, he’ll be targeted by the offense on every play. If he can’t hold his own, the defense will be in trouble.
“That suits me,” Dial told Branch. “I’m a physical guy. That’s what I pride myself in and I bring it to the table for this team. We’re known as a physical team. So I jut pride myself on coming to work every day and bringing that lunch pail.”