Florida Gators fans and coaches breathed a collective sigh of relief as Diwun Black finally made his way onto campus last week to enroll for the Summer A semester.
Black likely felt a weight lifted off of his shoulders as well with a dream several years in the making finally becoming reality. Very few players forced to take the JUCO route ultimately find their way back to their original school, but Black set out on a mission to be a Gator, and that is exactly what he did.
Now that he is in Gainesville, real preparations for a role in Florida’s defense can officially be made. At 6-4, 225, Black is one of the most intriguing new players on the roster. It is easy to picture him earning significant playing time early in his career.
However, it is important to set expectations at a realistic level. Black has all of the physical tools to be a star in the SEC, but he has only played against real competition in one of the last three years.
He missed his senior season of high school football after transferring to Osceola (Kissimmee, FL). The 2020 season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College was cancelled due to COVID-19, but he shined in the 2019 season with 46 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and a pick-six.
Black is a versatile defender, giving Florida’s coaching staff some flexibility in deciding where he will be most useful. When asked where he predicts him fitting in this spring, head coach Dan Mullen simply said he would see once he arrived.
He will either end up in Christian Robinson’s room or under the wing of new safeties coach Wesley McGriff. Black is listed as a linebacker, but has the skill set to play nickel or safety as well.
The Gators lost a pair of linebackers to the transfer portal in James Houston IV and Jesiah Pierre. Despite the losses, Florida still has several options to complement redshirt senior Ventrell Miller.
Between veterans Mohamoud Diabate and Amari Burney along with less experienced guys like Ty’Ron Hopper and Derek Wingo showing promise, Black will have to work to earn a place in the mix.
The thing that sets Black apart is his coverage ability. Florida’s linebackers have sorely lacked in that area for a while now. And with as often as linebackers seem to get matched up with the opposing team’s best receiver in this defense, the Gators could utilize that aspect of Black’s game as much as anything.
While Florida is looking to improve a linebacker unit that struggled in 2020, it has bodies at the very least. The same can’t quite be said at safety.
Leading up to Black’s initial signing back in 2019, many pegged him as a safety at Florida. Now, the Gators enter the 2021 season on somewhat shaky ground there.
Trey Dean is among the most experienced defensive backs on the team, but is still on a mission to prove his worth after several position changes. Rashad Torrence showed potential last season, but the experience behind those two is next to none. From there, it’s up to sophomore Mordecai McDaniel and true freshmen Donovan McMillon and Corey Collier Jr. to step up and provide depth.
If he is not a mainstay in the defensive backfield, Black provides some cushion to fall back on should injuries or other hardships occur.
Some level of flexibility to move around the field is almost becoming a requirement in Todd Grantham’s defense, making Black a perfect addition.
However the Gators decide to use him this fall, his hard work and sacrifice to reach this point already qualify him as a success story.
“He committed to us, was steadfast in his commitment to us the whole time,” Mullen said. “A lot of the recruitment is making sure he’s taking care of his business to get everything done academically he needs to get done to make it here. Give him a lot of credit, because he’s worked hard to get that done and to take care of what he needs to get here.”