FOOTBALL

Mohamoud Diabate's physical growth should 'help him tremendously' in 2021 for Gators

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

The annual update to the heights and weights of the Florida football team typically is met with exclamation at the biggest losers of the latter; junior offensive lineman Ethan White, for example, weighed more than 400 pounds when he enrolled at Florida but now tips the scale at just 319 pounds, according to the newly released 2021 roster.

Freshman Desmond Watson joins White in the “weighs 40 percent of a ton” category, too, leading many to speculate how much weight he’ll cut over the next two years at Florida. 

Yet the majority of the physical developments on the roster involve adding weight and muscle, though they don’t usually see the same amount of exclamation from fans and media alike, likely due to them being incremental gains rather than incredible figures. 

One look at the physical transformation of junior linebacker/defensive end Mohamoud Diabate, however, should warrant a reaction similar to the one awarded White. 

Diabate, the upperclassman out of Auburn, Alabama, was listed last season at 221 pounds at the beginning of fall camp, though he’s adamant he weighed more than 10 pounds less by the conclusion of the 12-game season. 

Florida junior linebacker/defensive end Mohamoud Diabate says he is stronger and faster heading into the 2021 season.

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Seeing as he’s set to play more inside and on the defensive line this season, Diabate said he put all his focus over the course of the summer into furthering his physical development, resulting in an increase in both strength and speed on the football field. 

“It was a good offseason. I felt like I dedicated myself every day, my nutrition, my stretching, everything. I put on about — at the end of the season, I might’ve been like 210, honestly, after all those games, and then right now, I’m standing here at like 227. So, I’m trying to get a few more pounds and get to 230, so that would be like 20 pounds, 15 pounds in the offseason,” he said. “So, I feel like, you know, I’ve always been a good (size) — like, the last two years, I’ve been able to have a big impact on my team and make big plays, and I feel like with this added weight — with the weight, I’m even faster. So, with all that, I feel like it’s time.”

Though after last season, exertion in the weight room pales in comparison to the tribulations he faced on the field. 

The 2020 campaign challenged Diabate in ways he hadn’t faced before as he adapted to a new position in a year practically devoid of structure due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, and his progress on the field took a hit as a result, particularly early in the season. 

Rather than ignore the criticism from those outside the program, Diabate let it fuel him, and he’s not shying away from the critics as he enters his third year with the program. 

“I felt like a lot of people except for my coaches don’t understand how hard it is from straight going off the ball and trying to get the quarterback too, OK, now you have to pass off routes, now you have to backpedal. I never had to backpedal before,” Diabate said. “My dad says what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So, things go bad, you learn from them. You learn very quickly, and by the time I got to the last game of the season, I was comfortable. And then with the spring and then this camp, it’s time, like I said.”

Some shy away from the “chip on your shoulder” cliche, but he doesn’t; that’s just what works for him. 

Anything at his disposal that may motivate Diabate, he embraces, while any criticism lacking validity doesn’t deter him. 

“I don’t know, like, for the rest of the guys, but personally, everything I see in the media, in the world, you know, I take it, you know, because I feel like that’s good. If somebody’s saying something negative, I take that and use that as motivation to work and to go and do what I got to get done,” he said. “So, I feel like all of us do got a chip on our shoulder because we were seeing what everybody was saying about our defense, about our coaches, personal, about us. So, it’s like, how can you not have a chip? How can you not remember that when you’re working out, when you’re watching film. So, yeah, we’re remembering all that, and we’re keeping it.”

Throughout the first week of fall camp at Florida, Diabate’s increased physical prowess has been on display for his fellow players and coaches, though neither party was in need of an education, nor were they the cause of that chip on the shoulder. 

“I think (Diabate’s weight gain) is going to help him tremendously. The goal of the program is to develop. If we were just taking the best players and not developing them for what comes after here, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re supposed to do. That’s what Coach Mullen says. With him, you sit down with him during the offseason and say, 'Hey, this is what you have to do to take the next step.' To see him every day, I post a lot about those guys so that people see their growth and development,” UF linebackers coach Christian Robinson said of Diabate. “He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do. And Coach Savage, and just being a gym rat, his body looks the way a linebacker’s supposed to look. He has more to grow and he knows that he has to keep developing and doing his part. And he’s become a leader.”