Photo: Mohamoud Diabate; Credit: University of Florida athletic association
When the Florida Gators first brought in Mohamoud Diabate there were a lot of questions surrounding his involvement to start off his career at Florida. Now, it appears he is solidifying himself as one of the primary defenders within the group, earning a vote of confidence from his linebackers coach, Christian Robinson.
"I think he's on track to be one of those special guys," Robinson said during his press conference on Thursday.
"I think a year [of] spending [time with], playing right next to [linebacker] Ventrell [Miller], it just, seeing the things that Ventrell had to, seeing the growth. You know, when David Reese left, that opened up an opportunity for Ventrell to step in that leadership role. I think you see Mohamoud doing the things in the weight room, doing the things in the classroom with me, talking, communicating."
Diabate, now listed at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, has grown within the Florida weight training regime since entering the program in 2019. With the help of strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage, Diabate has gained around nine pounds and he hopes to continue to add weight in order to hold up within the SEC as a true junior this year.
“That’s one of my main focuses this offseason," Diabate last month.
"Last season we didn’t have the opportunity with the COVID and everything. Going home you’re on your own. This season, once spring gets over with, I’m really excited to have the summer session with coach Savage, hopefully get up to 235-240, add just 10-15 pounds, and I feel like that will make a good difference in my play that you guys will notice.”
Getting up to 235-240 pounds considering his frame is workable but would be a drastic difference from when he entered the program at 213 pounds, soaking wet. But, Robinson feels Diabate is up for the task; he's been a consistently hard worker since entering the program and that has been clear from Robinson's perspective.
"I said, 'If, after the season, how do you want your teammates and people in this building to view you?' And, the word that he chose was 'savage.' That, I let him have whatever, free reign. I said, 'It has to mean something to you,' and for him, it was going all out in all areas, and people around him knowing 'Hey, that guy goes hard,'" Robinson recalled.
"And, kind of what the sales message was to him in recruiting was the same that coach Mullen has always said, 'Does hard work sound attractive?' And I said, 'If you want to be a guy like [former Gators edge rusher] Jon Greenard, if you want to be a guy that works his way into a valuable role for this team, a valuable role for the next level, it takes daily grinding and daily attention to detail."
The attention to detail is what can make the difference in a player's prospect of going on to the next level, to the NFL. With Diabate, he has already begun to lead by example. Through his hard work, Robinson says that the team's young defensive backs have already begun to notice, and Diabate is one player that has been pointed out as someone who "goes hard," day-in-and-day-out.
Last season, Diabate appeared in 11 games, tallying 67 total tackles (33 solos), seven tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks and one interception. Those totals dwarfed his freshman season totals, showcasing the rise in a young player that Florida was looking for. That much could be seen in the SEC Championship game along with the Bowl game Florida took part in to end its season in 2020.
"And I think he's accepted it, and I'm seeing with his training, his leadership on the field, and his versatility. I mean, he's played four different positions here, and that just shows you, you can't do that without the desire to be special and desire to learn, and be your best when your team needs it.”
For Diabate, the sky is the limit, and this season could be his best yet.