Zach McCloud Discusses Senior Season, Potential Of Young Linebackers

Zach McCloud Discusses Senior Season, Potential Of Young Linebackers

Ever since Manny Diaz arrived at Miami as the defensive coordinator, the Hurricanes have fielded one of the best defenses in the country year in and year out. The backbone of that defense has been the linebacker play, as the same trio of linebackers have been taking snaps together since they were true freshmen. As that trio heads into their final year at Miami, I caught up with Zach McCloud and discussed how he is approaching his senior campaign.

“It’s really tightening all the small screws. I’m doing a lot more as a senior now just because of the bouncing around positions. It’s that quick learning. I need to be sharp so there is no dropoff when I get on the field.”

With the addition of the striker position into Miami’s defense, Zach McCloud has moved from SAM to the main backup for both MIKE and WILL. This means McCloud is learning the assignments and how to play two different positions at the same time, which is a difficult challenge for anyone.

“Learning all of the adjustments for SAM was probably more difficult than learning MIKE and WILL at the same time. It’s just the time. The amount of time I had to get on-field experience was so short, but I have great coaches and people around me giving great advice. It has its difficult days, but that is only because the expectations are so high.”

Along with Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, McCloud feels the mix of experience and continuity has made the linebacker room a well-oiled machine, even with a new position coach in Blake Baker.

“It’s really the same thing because the meetings can almost run themselves. We know on the field when we do something wrong or we mess up a technique or an assignment and we say it on the field. The meeting can run themselves, but the coach provides the expectations. You get a coach to push you over the edge and push you further, and that’s what they do. We all have the want to, and they have the knowledge.”

Led by this linebacker room, Miami is looking to do great things once again on defense. In McCloud’s mind, this could be the best defense Miami has ever seen.

“We can be the greatest. That is a very realistic possibility. It is attainable. It is just about doing that every day. You cannot come out here and slack and miss a day because there is another team, another defense being pushed as hard as we are. They might not have an off day, so we have to come out and do that every day if we are going to be who we say that we are.”

With three bonafide starters at linebacker for so many years, recruiting this position has been a struggle at times. However, Miami may have finally struck gold last year when they signed Sam Brooks and Avery Huff at that spot.

“I am really excited to see what they mature into and can be in this defense. They always have these plays in practice where you are like ‘Man, these boys can really be something.’ It’s not an uncommon thing. It happens all the time. I am really excited to see them. With the strength training program we have, with the coaching we have, I think we have some All-Americans back there.”

Huff and Brooks are not in the same position as the linebackers from the 2016 class because they are not being asked to start right away, but McCloud still gave us his comparison between his class and this new duo of linebackers.

“They have the luxury of not being asked to start that first game right away. We had to grow up fast as a group and they have more time to sit back and learn things at a different pace and get it solid in their head. They can learn some things that we might not have had the chance to just because of the time.
“Also, we didn't have someone to show us the ropes other than the coaches. We didn’t have that player-to-player mentor thing. The difference is really just having those mentors - being me, Shaq, and Pinckney - showing them the right way to practice and stuff like that. It can’t be all on the coaches because the best teams are the player-led teams.”

McCloud finished 2018 with 44 tackles and will look to improve on that now that he is back to playing a more traditional linebacker role.

Comments (22)

With the addition of the striker position into Miami’s defense, Zach McCloud has moved from SAM to the main backup for both MIKE and WILL. This means McCloud is learning the assignments and how to play two different positions at the same time, which is a difficult challenge for anyone.

This is huge. Not only does it serve as a great solution for our LB depth concerns, but I really think McCloud can thrive in this role. McCloud was at his worst when he was forced out into space as a result of offensive formation with 3+ WRs. Playing in the rotation at Mike and Will will allow him to more regularly play an "in the box" role which he should do well at. Plus, it seems to indicate an emphasis on keeping a real Striker on the field a greater percentage of the time.
Brooks and Huff having to opportunity to learn from these guys will push them to the next level. Those guys are so big and fast, I cant wait to see them next season. This defense is going to be super athletic in 2020.
Great news to hear from Zach on how great this defense can be given the sum of its parts. They’ll all need to work in concert with each other to truly become a great defense. That said, I’m pleased that McCloud is here to provide an exceptional backup role to #55 and #56. He’s built for an in-box position which frees up Romeo and Gilbert to terrorize in coverage. I’m really liking how the DL is stacking up as well as the LB corps of course. It’s the newbies at secondary who are going to have to do what all three LB’s did their frosh season - grow up quickly. I think they can do it.
really too bad Steed and Wilder have been derailed with injuries, here's hoping Jennings can come on a bit

Whoever is part of the next LB class will play immediately it looks like
So you are going to redshirt a 3 year starter? Are you trying to win games or mailing in the season

out on a limb assumption here, but you're the board genius aren't you??
Why would he do that? You one redshirt a players if he is not ready to play
I also redshirt for numbers and save a year. He’s a back up this year his last year if he redshirt he would be the starter next year.
It could have really been easy for him to transfer and be a full time bonafide starter pretty much anywhere. The fact he stayed shows true leadership and selflessness. Rare qualities in college football players today.
And what’s gonna be the LB depth next year. Better yet who’s the clear cut starters next year.

There’s grad transfers , a big lb class and guys coming back from injury . Next year is next year , take him away and we’d be beyond f’d this year.

This isn’t how you run a program.