Mohamoud Diabate credits mental preparation for success in filling in for Miller

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate (11) tackles Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) behind the line of scrimmage Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida junior linebacker Mohamoud Diabate has settled into his role as starting middle linebacker in the absence of injured Ventrell Miller. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Diabate’s history of filling the “next man up” role.

“My first year, freshman year, Jeremiah Moon got hurt, so I had to step up. My second year Moon got hurt again, I had to step up again. So just getting used to it, always preparing, like I was just telling (Anthony Richardson): prepare like you’re the starter every single week,” Diabate said. “So, whenever you get the opportunity, you're not shaking, you're not nervous, you know what it's like to be there.”

Diabate stepped up once again, recording eight tackles in Saturday’s 38-14 victory over the Volunteers, giving him 26 tackles on the season, tied with safety Trey Dean for Florida’s most tackles through four games. 

Although Miller’s presence is sorely missed, the Gators have plugged Diabate in almost seamlessly, and the Auburn, Ala., native made sure to remind the world after Saturday’s performance that it’s not his first rodeo when it comes to filling in for an injured starter. Since arriving on campus in 2019 as a true freshman, Diabate has yet to miss a game, having played in all 29 after signing as a four-star prospect.

“I feel like Ventrell not being here, it wasn’t like a big ‘oh my God’,” he said. “It was just, like, I gotta step up and do a couple of more things now, be a little bit more vocal.”

When it comes to ascending into a larger role, Diabate said the preparation extends outside of practice and in the film room, too. Much of the pregame process is mental. 

Envisioning the smell of the field, hearing the roar of the crowd, the blinding lights – before Diabate played a meaningful down with the Gators, he’d tried to think of it all.

Now an upperclassman who's set to play a valuable role, Diabate’s reminding his teammates of the importance of cognitive preparation. 

“You got to make yourself do it mentally every single day. It's just not, like, something that you come and you figure it out on Saturday; you got to sit down sometimes in your room when it's dark and just visualize what you're gonna do when it's your time,” Diabate said. “That's what I personally do, and that's what I tell my brothers to do.”

Diabate’s leadership role has him preaching his message to those waiting in the wings. 

As the Gators get further into SEC play, he knows the injury list may grow, making it all the more likely another player is forced into a large role, which was the case Saturday with the absence of starting cornerback Kaiir Elam. For the betterment of both the team and his teammates, Diabate wants to make sure his fellow Gators are as ready as possible when the next man goes down and their time comes. 

“Kaiir being out, them young guys have done an incredible job of preparing themselves. I personally have stayed hard on them. I just went to tell them after the game that I was really proud of them,” Diabate said. “Just ‘cause of the work they put in, Jason (Marshall) and Avery (Helm), I feel total confidence in them being out there. I feel confident that they can execute exactly what they need to execute. Just because I see them in practice, I see them around the building – they work, they care about it. And that's half the battle, just working hard and caring about your job, and they do that and they have the talent, so, the rest will be taken care of."