Florida Gators like what they see in Diwun Black: An inside linebacker with 'DB skills'
Although Ventrell Miller’s absence for the majority of Florida football’s spring camp is far from desirable scenario, the fifth-year inside linebacker’s situation has provided an opportunity for the Gators to build depth at the position behind Miller.
With Miller limited due to a scheduling conflict, Diwun Black has gotten noticed. A senior in his first spring with the program, Black has turned heads and garnered praise from his teammates and the Florida coaching staff throughout three weeks of camp.
Some of it may have to do with Black’s atypical ability at his newfound position.
The combination of Black’s length and speed has made him a disruptive force in passing lanes for UF’s defense, leading his position coach, Jay Bateman, to compare his skill set to that of a defensive back.
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It isn’t an off-base comparison, seeing as Black played the majority of his minutes at the Star position in 2021 — a role he also played early into his impressive high school career, where he accrued 12 interceptions during his sophomore season at Forest (Miss.).
“I think he's really got DB skills. I think he really has the skill set to go play Star or go play in the secondary,” Bateman said. “He's really long, he's got long arms. I think he's got a lot of skills. I think he's a really, really good pass rusher.”
Black, who arrived prior to last season by way of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, has sported a noticeably slimmer frame at spring practice, which Bateman attributes in part to his heavy workload in camp — which continues with practice Thursday and a closed scrimmage Saturday.
Having spent the majority of his collegiate career at the JUCO level — and at a different position — Black appears keen on taking advantage of each session as he hopes to carve out a consistent role in a room led by Miller, as well as fellow fifth-year linebacker Amari Burney.
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“He was up (in weight) as high as the 230s. He’s probably not quite that right now with the amount of reps he's been taking,” Bateman said of Black. “I think there's absolutely a role for him. I tell him every day, you’ve got to continue every day, every practice to increase what we feel comfortable with you doing and knowing. I think as that happens, he’s going to play more.”
He may be a relative newcomer at the position, and at the Division I level, but Black isn’t unfamiliar with making critical plays.
During the 2019 season with Mississippi Gulf Coast, Black recorded an interception and five pass breakups to go along with 46 tackles and 8.5 tackles-for-loss in helping his team secure the 2019 NJCAA National Championship. His natural ability upon arriving in Gainesville ensured Black would see the field in 10 games during the 2021 season despite only going through preseason camp with the program.
His former teammate, Khris Bogle, labeled him “a monster” in UF’s defense after witnessing Black work in the buildup to the 2021 season, and it didn't take long for him to see the field. Black recorded a pair of tackles in his collegiate debut, UF’s 42-20 win at South Florida, though he spent much of conference play on the Gators’ special teams unit as the season took a turn for the worse.
It’s not difficult to understand why the Gators are high on Black's potential. Until he implements it in-game for the Gators, however, it's just talk among his teammates and coaches. There's no apprehension being expressed – it’s just the next step for a player who has already taken many to reach this point.
“I expect him to be seen and make a name for himself on Saturdays,” outside linebacker Antwaun Powell said of Black. “He feels like he can do it all. He doesn’t really complain much. He just does whatever they ask him to do.”