Breakout Candidate Quinton Dial Feels Stronger, Faster than Ever dug up the best behind-the-scenes photos from the team's OTAs and minicamp.

When Ian Williams suffered a season-ending leg injury early in the team's Week 10 matchup against the New Orleans Saints last year, the San Francisco 49ers were left lacking a nose tackle who had any prior starting experience at the position.

At the time, Glenn Dorsey was still recovering from a biceps tear he sustained in August. So without their top two guys on the depth chart, the 49ers turned to second-year player Quinton Dial, who had primarily only ever played defensive tackle.

The 2013 fifth-round pick out of Alabama went on to collect a crucial overtime sack of Drew Brees in San Francisco's win over New Orleans. He experienced similar success at nose the remainder of the season as well, tallying 20 tackles and a sack in a four-game stretch from Nov. 27-Dec. 20.

Dial credited his strong performances in a pinch to how he prepared while watching from the sideline.

"To be honest with you, I just wanted to play," said Dial, who was limited to three games his rookie year due to injury. "So whatever role became available, I knew I had to be ready for it.

"I remember Jim Tomsula told me that I'm going to get an opportunity, but he didn't know when it would be. He told me to be ready, so I practiced every week like I was the starting guy. I watched my film, I went over the plays every night, and once my number was called, I hit the ground running."

Now back for his third NFL season, Dial has high expectations for himself in 2015, especially now that two starters on the defensive line from last year are no longer on the team (Justin Smith and Ray McDonald).

"I've been focusing on a lot of things like getting faster and stronger. And I think I've done that," Dial said. "I've been working on pre-snap reads and making sure they're on point, too. I want to be a better football player to help my team win."

Earlier this offseason, Tomsula said that he sees Dial "more as an end" but that the 24-year-old will continue to receive reps across the d-line. Dial is confident that his versatility will lead to more snaps.

"I can play wherever they want me to," Dial said. "I think that means I'll be harder to take off the field."

As if he required any more motivation for a breakout campaign this fall, Dial welcomed his first child to the world in May. He and his wife brought home a son named Tatum Arnez Dial.

"I ain't getting a whole lot of sleep, but it's a great feeling, man," Dial said. "Just looking at my son and knowing how I grew up is going to be totally different than how I'm going to bring him up.

"I'm going to show him the ropes, show him to be respectful to people; women. I'm just going to try to be the best father I can be."

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