Spring football returned to the University of Alabama on Friday, March 19.
Fans of the Crimson Tide are excited for this edition of athletes taking the field, as Nick Saban and the program look to repeat as national champions. With 15 practice sessions – including the A-Day Game – the staff writers for Touchdown Alabama Magazine will provide in-depth previews on marquee players.
We are on the defensive side of the ball. Our third profile piece is on DJ Dale.
–Position: Defensive Lineman
-Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
-Weight: 307 pounds
-Strengths: Power, athleticism, experience, run stopper
-Weaknesses: Injuries, speed must improve, needs to be consistent with leverage
–Summary: DJ Dale was a marquee in-state recruit and one of the best defensive tackle prospects in the 2019 recruiting cycle.
A native of Birmingham, Ala., he chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, and Tennessee. After a strong career at Clay-Chalkville High School, Dale quickly served notice as a true freshman that he had the potential to be special.
He dominated spring practice and earned the starting job at nose tackle.
Dale played in 10 of 13 games, totaling 17 tackles (three for loss), one sack, one quarterback pressure, and one fumble recovery.
The 6-foot-3, 307-pounder was so disruptive he earned SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week honors (Alabama’s coaching staff) for his performance in the season opener against Duke. Dale made the Freshman All-America Watch List via Football Writers Association of America, but a lower body (knee) injury forced him to miss the final three games of 2019. In returning from injury, Dale did not have the same burst and quickness on the interior as a sophomore. He had 22 tackles (one for loss), two pass breakups, and one fumble recovery, but there were moments where offensive linemen blocked him out of plays.
Dale could not create any penetration into the backfield, and his lack of leverage made him a non-factor upfront at times.
During those moments, the Crimson Tide turned to Tim Smith. He provided a lift off the bench with his energy, quickness, and effort to affect plays in the backfield.
Dale is now two years removed from his knee injury, so this fall is critical for him on the line.
We have seen names such as Marcell Dareus, Da’Ron Payne, Quinnen Williams, and Christian Barmore use their third season at Alabama as one to impress NFL teams. Dale has the physical tools, but will he be able to fend off Smith?
Once a four-star from Sebastian (Fla.) River High School, Smith is the nose guard that fans want to see start for the Tide. It will be difficult for the coaching staff to keep him off the field. Dale has been working with Dr. Matt Rhea on improving his speed this offseason.
Najee Harris teamed up with Rhea, and it led to him having an incredible year in 2020. The same is possible for Dale if he continues to put the work in. Alabama has both veteran leadership and young talent on its defensive front.
It is good enough to push the Tide to a national championship, but it needs Dale to be at his best.
He wants to be viewed as a first-round pick, so he has to bring the production this spring.
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