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Dialed In: South Carolina Cornerback a Good Fit in Patriots Secondary

Patriots sixth-round pick Marcellas Dial has the physical traits and football skills to make early contributions for the Patriots.

Patriots selected DB Marcellas Dial in the sixth round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Patriots selected DB Marcellas Dial in the sixth round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

It took until the sixth round of the 2024 NFL Draft before the New England Patriots selected a defensive player. With glaring holes on offense, that side of the ball was rightly the focus through the first two days of selections.

But when it finally came time to add a defender the Pats tabbed cornerback Marcellas Dial of South Carolina, a ball-hawking and experienced cornerback from the SEC who, despite his draft status, has an opportunity to not only make the 53-man roster in New England but carve out a role for himself on defense.

A native of South Carolina, Dial spent his early days at Woodruff High School, earning three varsity letters in football and two each in basketball and track. But as a zero-star recruit with no offers, Dial took a detour, enrolling at Georgia Military College and staying there for two seasons. The junior college approach allowed Dial to get his academics in order while getting a stiff dose of military college discipline.

After the 2020 season was canceled, Dial earned a three-star juco rating and committed to play for Shane Beamer and his home state Game Cocks.

"When I was hired as the head coach of South Carolina back in December of 2020, we had a very small signing class that year," recalled Beamer. "So we immediately had to broaden our spectrum on who we could bring in. Marcellus was a South Carolina native who was at Georgia Military at the time and the people at Georgia Military raved about him. We got him in and he's done nothing but develop and get better every year at our place."

However, it was a tough transition on the personal front as Dial lost his dad to liver and kidney disease in the summer of 2021, just as he was getting ready to suit up for South Carolina.

"He has grown so much off the field," said Beamer. "That was obviously tough for him, losing your dad at a young age and he dealt with that adversity and continued to grow."

Dial appeared in 13 games with seven starts in his first year at South Carolina, demonstrating a nose for the ball that would help propel his draft status in coming years. In 2021 he registered six passes defensed. In 2022 that number jumped to 15 with three interceptions, as Dial began to blossom.

"You go back, we beat Clemson in 2022 and he was out on an island the entire game by himself and Clemson kept challenging him and he had a heck of a day that day, we beat Clemson," said Beamer. "And that just kind of propelled him into 2023. I thought he had a really solid, consistent 2023 and still has a huge upside."

In 2023, Dial again led the team in passes defender with 10 despite teams looking to avoid his side of the field. The impressive season continued to propel Dial's draft status, as he settled in with more experience and understanding of the game.

It was enough to earn Dial an invitation to the East-West Shrine Bowl with the opportunity to further impress NFL coaches and scouts.

"Pretty quickly it was like, yeah, this guy's one of the best athletes here," said Shrine Bowl director Eric Galko. "He stood out right away in just how smooth and natural he is. The drills look easy for him, he's fluid and confident, everything feels really easy because of how balanced and controlled he is. And it makes him a guy that's going to stick in the NFL for a long time because in drills and in the game he's not going to be out of position. Maybe he won't make the play or maybe he won't finish in a certain way or the guy makes the catch but you're never going to be like, where the hell was Marcellus on this play? That's not how he operates."

View Photos of Patriots sixth round pick, defensive back Marcellas Dial in action at South Carolina.

Despite being the only drafted defender by the Patriots this year, Dial enters a position group that could present a few different opportunities.

Christian Gonzalez, last year's first-round pick and the AFC's Rookie of the Month for the only month he played through last season, is an intriguing second-year player with elite potential. On the other side, Jonathan Jones is an experienced veteran with top-notch speed and inside-outside flexibility.

But after that duo, there are questions at cornerback. Who will play the slot? Will a third corner emerge from a group that includes second-year corner Isaiah Bolden and Alex Austin among others? Could one of those corners even contribute in a free safety role?

Dial has the size and ball skills necessary to enter those conversations.

"He's tough. He runs well. He's got length. He's not afraid to tackle and stick his face in there," said Beamer. "We played him primarily outside at our place, but certainly feel like he has the ability to [play inside as well].

"He loves football. And the thing I love about Dial, he is very consistent and not too high, not too low. And he really studies the game."

"I think first and foremost, like most guys picked on Day Three of the draft, he'll have to make a role on special teams, but he can certainly do that," said Galko. "But this is a guy that athletically showed it at the NFL combine… he can really move, he's really fluid and is really a composed controlled athlete too.

"I think his long-term role could be a lot of different things, but short term he's going to add depth in a couple spots and he'll be a great, great special teams player early on in his NFL career."

With impressive athleticism and standout ball skills, Dial has the base traits needed to compete in the NFL and if he continues to make strides like he did with South Carolina, who knows how big a role he might secure with the Patriots.

"I mean, you're talking about a guy that out of high school, went to a junior college and coming in and from day one did some good things, but the way he's just developed every year," said Beamer. "His body's changed, he's gotten stronger, he has gotten bigger. He has gotten faster on the field. To me, he got better each year and played with more and more confidence each year.

"He's excited to be a Patriot and getting an opportunity up there with you guys I have no doubt he will continue to grow and develop."

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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