SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Mo Diabate is so looking forward to going back to The Swamp, he can almost taste it. Or at least smell it.
“I’m really excited to smell the place,” he said. “It’s the smells that give you that nostalgic feeling. So I’m ready to go there, take a fresh breath of air, realize where I am and go to work.”
Diabate, who spent his first three seasons with Florida, has been chatting it up with his former teammates.
“Yeah, we’ve been talking for the past nine months,” Diabate said. “But the talk is kind of winding down now. The nerves are rising, we’re getting closer and closer. There’s nothing much more to say.”
Diabate’s arrival on the Utah campus couldn’t have come at a better time. With Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Devin Lloyd off to the NFL, the Utes needed a new leader on defense, and Diabate has proven to be just that.
“Without a doubt,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s got a lot of the same qualities, personality-wise, as Devin Lloyd. It’s very similar, and he’s had a really good fall camp. I wish we would have had him for spring ball. But he really hit the ground running and has done a great job.”
“He’s a natural leader,” added linebackers coach Colton Swan. “He’s done a great job. He’s coming into a new system and a new culture. The expectations were really high for him, and I think he’s handled all of it.”
In his three seasons at Florida, Diabate had 170 tackles, six sacks and one interception. But with a coaching change made during the off-season, Diabate wanted a change of scenery for his senior season.
Leading up to the season opener, Diabate has given the Utes inside information about certain Florida players. But he’s mainly prepared the Utes for the kind of atmosphere they’re about to encounter in Gainesville.
“It’s an electric atmosphere,” Diabate said. “It’s one of a kind. I don’t think there’s any place that can compare to it. I used to love playing there, so I’m excited to go back. It’s going to be a great environment. It’s going to be fun.”
Utah and Florida kick off at 5:30 MT Saturday evening.