Diaby’s Strengths Punctuate Buccaneers’ Defense

Ken Cross

August 08, 2023 at 2:50 pm.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Yaya Diaby (0) during training camp at AdventHealth Training Center. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Yaya Diaby has proved his stability with his pre-NFL career.

He wasn’t recruited at all out of high school and spent his first college season at Georgia Military Academy. His ability plus motivation to become a football player at a high level gave him a move from GMA to the University of Louisville and then to Tampa Bay, where he became the Bucs’ third-round choice this past April.

At Louisville, he was able to get himself settled in his first season and then turned into a fierce pass rusher where he became the ninth leading tackler in 2021. He amassed 39 stops as 24 were solo and also included three quarterback sacks as a sophomore with the Cardinals.

Diaby then solidified himself with 14 tackles-for-loss and nine sacks last season. He finished one-half sack and one-half tackle-for-loss behind Louisville LB Yasir Abdullah, who was chosen by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth round, two rounds after Diaby.

“It’s just the drive,” said Diaby. “I love this game. Every day I come out here and have a smile on my face and want to get myself, not only myself but my teammates, better. Whoever I face, it’s drive for me.”

Diaby was named third-team All-ACC and has been able to consistently solidify his speed with power to be a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

Now, with the Bucs, Diaby drops more into coverage as an outside linebacker while he was primarily a defensive end at Louisville.

“It’s just reps,” Darby explained. “I’m getting more reps and more reps, so I am getting the rhythm of it. Overall, it’s been good.”

Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said that Diaby is “comfortable enough” as of now in changing the rush pattern of a defensive end into dropping as an outside linebacker. 

“We gauge you by your athleticism,” explained Bowles. “If you are not a great dropper, you probably will not be dropping.”

Diaby has come into the Buccaneers with the idea how he needs to drop into coverage and also how to perfect his drops.

“It’s probably a little new for him, but for the few times we ask you to drop, I think he has done a good job,” said Bowles.

Diaby’s strength and toughness are prime examples of why Bowles and his staff look forward to Diaby being a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s explosive off the ball,” noted Bowles, “He has heavy hands. We always say we like guys with heavy hands that can handle any kind of block. He’s very versatile. He’s making his presence felt this camp in pads.”

Diaby loves the game and he came into camp wanting just to get on the field. He appreciates his learning opportunities from linebacker Shaq Barrett, defensive end Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and linebacker Anthony Nelson.

“I am just trying to prove to those guys that I can be in the rotation with them and that we can be a good front,” explained Diaby.

Finally, as the Pittsburgh Steelers invade Raymond James Stadium on Friday night, Diaby will be able to play physically and make tackles, as well as hit quarterbacks.

“I can’t wait until Friday to be able to actually hit the quarterback,” said Diaby. “I hope I can hit them the right way so I don’t get flagged.”

As he laughed at his comment, Diaby’s hard work and focus are about to pay off on his drive to become an NFL player and a member of the Buccaneers.

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