‘We’re fortunate to have him’: How Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate impacts Utah’s defense
The linebacker missed spring drills after undergoing shoulder surgery. Now he’s finding his place on the Utes’ D
In January, linebacker Mohamoud Diabate transferred from Florida to Utah. During the spring, he was sidelined from practices as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
Now, during fall camp, Diabate is finally on the field and practicing with his teammates.
“So far, so good. It’s an amazing feeling just to be out here and to be with the guys, to get a feel for it and compete,” said the senior from Auburn, Alabama. “It’s been what I’ve been waiting for since I touched down here in January. It’s a great feeling.”
And as fate would have it, Diabate’s first game as a Ute will be against his former team; Utah visits the Gators on Sept. 3.
“He has tremendous range sideline to sideline. He’s got great athleticism. He’s got a good ability to deal with blockers. He’s just an athlete. That’s probably his best asset — his sheer athleticism.” — Kyle Whittingham on Mohamoud Diabate
That will certainly be a unique and unusual experience for Diabate.
“Nothing compares to it. It’s going to be a great environment, a great opportunity. It’s like going to my ex-wife’s house. It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I still have a lot of love and respect for those guys and the university (at Florida). Right now, we’re just focusing on what we’ve gotta do. And when that time comes, it will come. We’ll be ready.”
Diabate is expected to help fill the void left by Devin Lloyd, the 2021 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a first-round NFL draft pick — by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
How does defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley describe what the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Diabate brings to the Ute defense?
“Athleticism, speed, energy. He is a savvy football player,” he said. “He’s not as big as Devin. But he’s long and fast and just as quick. You can tell he was coached up well at Florida. We’re fortunate to have him.”
“He has tremendous range sideline to sideline. He’s got great athleticism,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s got a good ability to deal with blockers. He’s just an athlete. That’s probably his best asset — his sheer athleticism.”
Cornerback Clark Phillips III has also been impressed with Diabate.
“He’s a long-levered guy. He’s kind of the new-school linebacker. He’s super fast. He’s got range. It’s fun looking over and seeing a dude like him across the middle,” he said. “I’m like, ‘They’re not getting a quick slant.’ That’s definitely fun seeing. Overall, he’s busting his butt and trying to get better.”
Since he’s been on campus, Diabate has spent considerable time studying Utah’s defensive scheme.
“I feel like I’m pretty familiar. I’m not 100% full speed yet because I’m getting used to the little (things),” he said. “But I feel like coach Scalley and (linebackers) coach (Colton) Swan did a great job during my time here, even though I couldn’t practice, to make sure I’m still learning the defense. I feel pretty confident playing in this defense and I look forward to growth with every practice.”
In three seasons with the Gators, Diabate recorded 170 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
Diabate said his skills and style fit in well at Utah.
“Like coach Scalley says, ‘RSNB. Relentless, smart, nasty, ballhawks.’ My speed and my abilities, I’m always pushing to the ball,” Diabate said. “Once I get there, it’s going to be nasty. I’m still buying into the coaching staff and doing everything that this program is asking me to do.”
Though he didn’t participate in spring ball, Diabate said he’s building a solid chemistry and trust with his teammates.
“It’s been coming along great. We’ve been together since January. We’ve been chilling with each other, talking ball, picking each other’s brains,” Diabate said. “We’ve come a long way because we’re familiar with each other. Now that we’re together, we’re rolling and getting better every single day.”
When he was playing for the Gators, Diabate wasn’t utilized as a pass rusher often. But he said he has the ability to be a pass rusher, a role he is expected to take on at Utah.
“I feel that I’ll fit in in multiple places. I pride myself in versatility, being able to do different jobs, whether they be rush or cover from different places,” he said. “I can play the run in different places. In my career I’ve been able to play so many different positions in the front seven. Now, I’m ready to do whatever. I’m ready to work with coach Scalley and coach Swan and coach Whitt and find whatever recipe is best for success.”
Scalley is happy to add a proven talent at linebacker.
“He’s performed at an elite level already in the SEC,” he said last spring. “For him, a lot of it is getting the terminology down and understanding our scheme and our culture. He loves it and we love him.”
As a Muslim, Diabate observed Ramadan last spring. His faith has played a big role in shaping him and he’s more than willing to share his beliefs with others.
“My faith definitely is something that’s pushed me and helped me stay disciplined. It’s allowed me to become the player that I am,” he said. “It’s something that shapes my mind and allows me to be the person that I am. It is something that I share with people.
“But especially being in a different place, anybody that wants to learn, I do it in that type of fashion. Anybody who would like to learn about it and educate themselves, I love sitting down and talking about it. That’s how it is.”
Off the field, Diabate said he’s interested in current events and world history.
“My dad’s a professor. When I go home, a lot of people watch cartoons. I watch the news,” he said. “I’m a different type of guy. I like to know what’s going on in the world and what’s going on around me. That’s what I like to focus on.”
And right now, he’s focused on finding his place in Utah’s defense and preparing for a huge season opener against his alma mater at a place he knows well — The Swamp.