2020 Defensive Breakout Player: Mohamoud Diabate
In the past few seasons, the Florida Gators have been defined for their aggressive defensive tendencies.
A significant reason for Florida's success since Dan Mullen took over has been their ability to consistently disrupt the pocket and take down the quarterback in passing situations by bringing constant pressure.
In 2019, the Gators found themselves ranked fourth overall in total sacks with 49 on the season.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham brought the aggressive mentality and demeanor to the team when he came to Florida from Mississippi State following the 2017 season.
Since then, the team has fully-embraced the bend-don’t-break mantra that encourages players to run wide-open on every play.
This style of play allows opposing teams the opportunity to bust big plays if they can find the holes quickly enough. A feat that is a lot more difficult to accomplish when eight defenders come crashing in on the quarterback in such a little amount of time.
Since Grantham has arrived at Florida, the Gators have seen the likes of Jachai Polite, Jabari Zuniga, and Jonathan Greenard impose their will on the defensive side of the ball.
But, in 2020, without those familiar faces lining up for the orange and blue, there will be a new and unproven talent to be discovered on the defensive side of the ball.
The importance of their production is at an all-time high as Dan Mullen enters his third season and looks to take the next step in their evolutionary journey to reach the pinnacle of college football.
The big question surrounding the defense in 2020: Who will have a breakout season for the University of Florida?
Mohamoud Diabate, a former four-star prospect out of Auburn, Alabama, flashed his potential during his limited amount of playing time as a true freshman for the Gators in 2019.
The talented first-year player put on a dominant performance against SEC rival Vanderbilt, where he showed his playmaking ability by tallying three of his four sacks on the season and forced a fumble that turned a Vanderbilt scoring opportunity into six points.
Diabate brings a unique skill set to the table. In 2019, many saw that he could be useful in a multitude of ways for the Gators defense - logging 30 snaps at off-ball linebacker, 12 STAR nickel cornerback, and 144 at BUCK rush end (per PFF).
He posted 21 quarterback pressures during his freshman campaign, which ranked second on the team behind Greenard (46) - on only a quarter of the amount of pass rushing snaps Greenard recorded in 2019.
Standing 6’2 and weighing in at 213 pounds, Diabate has the physical attributes to be a very productive player off the edge for Florida in 2020. But, his athleticism and versatility—which lightly resembles Jacksonville Jaguars rookie and former Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen—makes Diabate an extraordinary piece in anchoring down the defense going forward.
His skill set allows the Gators to disguise looks at the line of scrimmage and gives them the ability to drop him back in coverage or let him pin his ears back and get after the quarterback.
In 2020, look for Diabate's name to be called very frequently for multiple different reasons.