Spring Preview: LB

Spring Preview: LB

For the second straight spring, the Canes don’t have many questions at linebacker. Miami returns all three starters at the LB position going into the 2018 season, with the Bermuda Triangle 2.0 of Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, and Zach McCloud now juniors. Perhaps the trio didn’t quite perform up to expectations in 2017 after breakout freshman seasons that saw Quarterman and Pinckney named to the Freshman All-America team and McCloud coming on strong late in 2016. They seemed out of place a lot of the time, while over-pursuing and leaving gaps in the defense way too often. Still, as a whole, the linebackers played well for true sophomores on the #28 scoring defense in the nation, especially Quarterman and Pinckney.

Last year, Quarterman was second on the team with 83 tackles, 7 TFL, with 2.5 sacks and 5 PBU’s, earning a spot on the 2nd team All-ACC roster. He’s a true leader in the middle for the Canes that the team looks to in times of strife, but this spring he’ll work on making more impact plays within the defense: Quarterman had a tendency to disappear from games at times, something that’s unacceptable for a player of his talent level.

Pinckney arguably had the best season of the three, flying around Manny Diaz’s defense to finish with 68 tackles, 11 TFL, and 3.5 sacks, plus an interception. At 6’1” 220 pounds, he’s a big play waiting to happen and Pinckney will continue to build strength this spring and work on his coverage skills: too often he was caught peeking into the backfield and lost on passing plays. With big junior seasons, Pinckney and Quarterman will be potential early departure candidates for the NFL.

McCloud was a bit of a weak link here. He’s constantly out of position, takes poor angles to the ball-carrier, and really seemed to struggle with his understanding of the defensive concepts, often "guessing" instead of making the proper read. McCloud’s play led to some of the more noticeable defensive busts of the season. While he regressed a bit, McCloud is known as the team’s hardest hitter and he recorded 48 tackles, 4.5 for losses, with 2 sacks. The coaches are still high on him, but he’ll need to up his level of play, or risk losing his job to a hungry underclassman.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz loves to rotate at every position, so having plenty of capable bodies at LB is preferred. That depth was impacted a bit with Darrion Owens transferring to Houston in the off-season, but the Canes still have a solid, if unspectacular, group of seniors to help in that department. Senior CJ Perry looked to be the best of the bunch last season, showing the ability to make some huge plays off the bench (6 tackles against GT, interception against UNC) before his season-ending knee injury against ND. His health this spring will be something to keep an eye on. Senior Mike Smith is probably Diaz’s most trusted backup, as he’s rarely out of position and gives maximum effort whenever he’s out on the field.

The third backup role is a bit of a mystery. Sophomore De'Andre Wilder had the best season of Miami’s three freshman linebackers in 2017 and is expected to be more of a contributor in his second season. He has great speed off the edge and has a big learning curve at linebacker after mostly playing DE in high school. Wilder has the best shot to unseat McCloud from a starting job at this point. BJ Jennings is a physical presence who the coaches love and should be more improved with a year under his belt. Waynmon Steed hasn’t been able to show anything at Miami yet, redshirting last season coming off a knee injury suffered in his senior year at Miami Central. He'll use this spring to prove he belongs on the field. Getting quality reps from Steed would be a bonus in 2018.

If this team wasn’t so low on scholarships, redshirt senior Terry McCray likely would’ve been given a degree and a handshake from coach Mark Richt by now. He played in 1 game last season as a junior and just doesn’t have the speed to play at this level. He will look to help out on special teams, but if McCray is playing significant minutes at LB, something’s gone terribly wrong. With his size at 6’3” and 238 pounds, there’s a chance McCray could move down to DE and provide some depth to a position where the Canes just don’t have any numbers.

A wildcard is here Derrick Smith, who will take some reps at outside LB this spring after playing his freshman season in 2017 as a safety and nickel corner for the Canes. At 6’2” and 200 pounds, if Smith can continue to put on weight, he could act as a rover or hybrid LB/S type that can use his speed and coverage skills to improve the Miami defense, especially in passing situations. The linebackers struggled mightily in coverage as a group last year, with teams picking apart the middle of Miami’s defense in the intermediate game with regularity. Smith’s progress could lead to less reps from McCloud in this defense.

The team signed one LB in the 2018 class and South Dade’s Patrick Joyner will come in the summer and add depth.

In sum, there’s a lot to like here at linebacker for the Canes this spring. It’s one of the most stocked positions on the team in terms of returning playing experience and there will be plenty of competition for backup reps, and possibly even McCloud’s starting role.
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
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7,259
#3
Steed is going to be the best backup LB on the roster imo. Mike Smith will likely dominate the backup ILB reps, so Bradley Jennings likely isn't going to be used too heavily this season. Charles Perry is recovering from injury, but once he returns, he's going to get a lot of the backup OLB reps too.

OLB though is open. In no way is McClouds starting spot locked down. The best 3 LBs will see the field, and with Perry rehabbing, Steed and Wilder have a great opportunity this spring to make a move for McClouds job. Personally I think McCloud will step up his play, but Steed is going to be the primary OLB off the bench until Charles Perry returns.

Derrick Smith is going to be heavily used this yr I think. He's going to be in a LOT on passing downs, I'd bet. I much rather have Smith on the field at LB in 3rd and long than one of our LBs...unless they can rush the passer.

SLB: McCloud > Perry > Wilder/Smith > Joyner

MLB: Shaq > Smith > Jennings

WLB: Pinkney > Steed

I agree with Terry McCray moving down to DE. At the end of the day he should NOT in any circumstance play LB for us because we have 10 guys ahead of him on the roster. But at DE we only have 5 guys. McCray honestly shouldn't see the field at DE either. But at least he will have practice there if the situation gets really bad due to injuries. honestly though if we needed it I rather switch the defensive allignment to more of a 34 look and kick willis/bethel out to DE....thanhave McCray play a snap
 
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Nov 4, 2011
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#4
Stefan your analysis of our LB play was excellent, especially what you said about McCloud.
 
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Aug 17, 2014
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#5
:sleep:;) Good article for the most part. He stuck to the facts which is what a good reporter should do!!!
 
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Jun 24, 2014
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2,163
#6
Last summer a number of people where extremely high on Zach... I thought a lot of those opinions where too high.... Now there is a number of people wanting Zach on the sideline... I again I disagree with those opinions. Zach will be fine and produce. I think the expectation where overstated last year with those guys being true sophomores... As True Freshmen a number of teams expected them to be a liability... but they held their own... causing them to be considered during the game planning during their Sophomore year. They were sometimes exposed for their aggressive pursuit... Confused with false pulls and other blocking schemes to get them up field when they should have been a bit more patient... but all in all they will be fine... Comparing Shaq's Freshmen to Sophomore year transition from High School to his Freshmen to Sophomore year in college are almost identical for the same exact reasons... If his Sophomore to Junior season transition follow the same path... which I expect... he will have a great season. Mike is always ready I think he has matured a great deal and his focus is now were it needs to be to have an excellent season. As much as people where down on Zach this year... I think he was his own worst critique. I think he got down on himself and couldn't dig himself out. I think the season break has allowed him to forget an move on... and I expect him to have his best season thus far.... This season with the young.. hungry studs behind them pushing.. they will all be a bit better... iron sharpens iron
 
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Aug 24, 2013
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2,326
#8
I feel like the unit as a whole didn't make the jump predicted of them from Freshman to Sophomore season. McCloud the most obvious, but Shaq and Big Mike were solid, but perhaps it was heightened expectations. Felt there were issues with pursuit, as Papa Shaq laid out. McCloud always the most obvious, but the unit in total had plenty of issues in this regard.

Also, the lack of quality depth last year really showed as I feel the sophomores played an insane number of snaps and as the season went on, it felt like the grind got to them...hope the young'ns are able to step up and provide quality snaps and push'em.

I am sure the sophomores are looking at declaring early...or at least considering it. I really do not see pro play from anyone from the unit yet, but hopefully the allure of the pro game guides them to some All-American seasons.
 
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Jan 4, 2015
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#9
Last summer a number of people where extremely high on Zach... I thought a lot of those opinions where too high.... Now there is a number of people wanting Zach on the sideline... I again I disagree with those opinions. Zach will be fine and produce. I think the expectation where overstated last year with those guys being true sophomores... As True Freshmen a number of teams expected them to be a liability... but they held their own... causing them to be considered during the game planning during their Sophomore year. They were sometimes exposed for their aggressive pursuit... Confused with false pulls and other blocking schemes to get them up field when they should have been a bit more patient... but all in all they will be fine... Comparing Shaq's Freshmen to Sophomore year transition from High School to his Freshmen to Sophomore year in college are almost identical for the same exact reasons... If his Sophomore to Junior season transition follow the same path... which I expect... he will have a great season. Mike is always ready I think he has matured a great deal and his focus is now were it needs to be to have an excellent season. As much as people where down on Zach this year... I think he was his own worst critique. I think he got down on himself and couldn't dig himself out. I think the season break has allowed him to forget an move on... and I expect him to have his best season thus far.... This season with the young.. hungry studs behind them pushing.. they will all be a bit better... iron sharpens iron
On point, I agree there was preseason hype for McCloud and I didn’t really agree with it at the time. I also saw the same pursuit issues the entire season from all of them. Well said.
 
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Jun 24, 2014
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#10
I agree @BoxingRobes ... their sophomore season was not a good auditions for the NFL Draft... If they were to consider leaving early I would expect a huge leap for their junior season. They know this, and a sign of them maturing ... instead of the traditional Spring Break they are at the school grinding during Spring Break. But we shall see.
 
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Aug 24, 2013
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#11
I agree @BoxingRobes ... their sophomore season was not a good auditions for the NFL Draft... If they were to consider leaving early I would expect a huge leap for their junior season. They know this, and a sign of them maturing ... instead of the traditional Spring Break they are at the school grinding during Spring Break. But we shall see.
One thing I've never doubted in all three of these kids was their maturity. Glad to hear they are putting in real deal work. IMO, you've got to be special to declare early for the draft as a traditional off-ball linebacker. Some special measureables PLUS excelling on the field as a first team all-conference player. Look at the top three off-ball LBs in this years draft...Roquon Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, and Leighton Vander Esch...all superior athletes, all superior All-Conference players.

Looking at that tier two at the position, Malik Jefferson was an All-Conference player before injury, and a superior athlete. Shaquem Griffin speaks for himself. Then you get to the Josey Jewell types that are essentially All-Americans sans elite measurables. This is the status quo at the position...you've got to get to that level. Right now, the boys are more like honorable mention All-Conference players. Need to ascend up the ranks this year and make a HUGE leap.
 
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Jun 24, 2014
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#12
Putting on the Poppa hat... Shaq was 2nd Team All ACC this year... 3rd Team last year along with Freshmen All American...then invited to this year's Combine as a projected top 32 for the 2019 Draft... so he has mustered up some accolades ... but Im with you expecting more than what we got last season... to be honest i expected a little more out of his Freshmen season... I didn't give him a break for being a Freshmen... as I saw it as he was playing with his peers ... but don't get me wrong I'm extremely proud of him ... but he and I agree there will always be room for improvement
 
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#13
And not promoting them to leave... again I don't think they have proved that point yet... but how often do you see 4 year starters at a P5 Program?
 
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#14
Watch out for D Smith. I think he's on the field a lot. If Steed is healthy, he's another one who will earn snaps.

Shaq has the full package. That said -- and I'm no expert, just a long-time fan -- my eyes tell me that Shaq isn't producing like past Canes LBs that went early to the NFL and thrived. That could change this season, and I know he has the potential to single-handedly wins games. I want to see it happen, I want to see him rise to the occasion against LSU, FSU, Va Tech and Clemson (and hopefully lay the wood on Francois!).
 
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Jan 17, 2012
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#15
Last summer a number of people where extremely high on Zach... I thought a lot of those opinions where too high.... Now there is a number of people wanting Zach on the sideline... I again I disagree with those opinions. Zach will be fine and produce. I think the expectation where overstated last year with those guys being true sophomores... As True Freshmen a number of teams expected them to be a liability... but they held their own... causing them to be considered during the game planning during their Sophomore year. They were sometimes exposed for their aggressive pursuit... Confused with false pulls and other blocking schemes to get them up field when they should have been a bit more patient... but all in all they will be fine... Comparing Shaq's Freshmen to Sophomore year transition from High School to his Freshmen to Sophomore year in college are almost identical for the same exact reasons... If his Sophomore to Junior season transition follow the same path... which I expect... he will have a great season. Mike is always ready I think he has matured a great deal and his focus is now were it needs to be to have an excellent season. As much as people where down on Zach this year... I think he was his own worst critique. I think he got down on himself and couldn't dig himself out. I think the season break has allowed him to forget an move on... and I expect him to have his best season thus far.... This season with the young.. hungry studs behind them pushing.. they will all be a bit better... iron sharpens iron
You make an interesting point - when a player is unknown, almost any positive production is seen as a surprise. And teams don't know what to expect. The question is how they respond when teams start game planning specifically to negate them. Kind of like a QB that seems to come out of nowhere and plays lights out. Once teams get film, and structure a defense to stop their specific skills, the QB has to adjust or he won't be successful.

I thunk our young LB's will be more comfortable this coming season, and I expect they will all shine.
 
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Nov 3, 2011
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#16
Please drop that Bermuda Triangle 2.0 stuff, they haven't earned it
 

lurk

Recruit
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Dec 17, 2017
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#17
And not promoting them to leave... again I don't think they have proved that point yet... but how often do you see 4 year starters at a P5 Program?


It is really GREAT to get a "papa perspective" on a wide range of subjects from you. It's also been nice when you have relayed the "mama perspective" from time to time....THANK YOU!
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2014
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3,074
#18
I agree @BoxingRobes ... their sophomore season was not a good auditions for the NFL Draft... If they were to consider leaving early I would expect a huge leap for their junior season. They know this, and a sign of them maturing ... instead of the traditional Spring Break they are at the school grinding during Spring Break. But we shall see.
that's where I always was during spring break or christmas or any other break

everyone else is out having a good time, you would find me in the gym
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2013
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1,521
#19
And not promoting them to leave... again I don't think they have proved that point yet... but how often do you see 4 year starters at a P5 Program?
I’m not sure of the numbers but Kayaa should have stayed for his sr start
 
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Sep 11, 2016
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5,888
#20
McCloud got a lot of good competion now with Smith and Wilder. I really believe Derrick Smith is going to take the starting job at SLB. McCloud has all the physical talent but he is going to have to prove that he's starting caliber.

I know we got on ppl for calling out Pinckneys weight gain last year... but he really needs to get in better shape. That was the biggest difference imo between his play last year and his freshman year.

Quarterman is going to beast... i want to see more splash plays from him on top of more consistency and I believe we will see that with him this season.
 
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Jan 11, 2015
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1,563
#21
Poppa Shaq is right. Way to many people are really down on Zach. I think early in the year he was trying to live up to all the hype and destroy someone on every play instead of just playing ball. There was a play on the first drive of the BCC game that summed up his season when he overran the play and just destroyed a blocked as the ball carrier ran by him for a 20 yard gain. However he played better late in the year and i think he got his confidence back a bit, but that was a great point by Poppa Shaq. He was down on himself and couldn't dig out. Confidence is a huge factor to playing well.

As for the expectations for our guys last year, i think we all expected them to be first team AA and the expectations were probably just a little bit unreasonable. This season is huge for them because now they know how teams will attack them. How do they counter will be a huge part of their success this season IMO. I actually think our LBs are going to have the season this coming year that we all wanted them to have last year.
 

2019 Commits

WR
6'1"
186
Neptune Beach, FL
OLB
6'0"
200
Fort Lauderdale, FL
OLB
6'3"
200
Fort Lauderdale, FL
S
5'11"
195
Hollywood, FL
CB
5'10"
150
Hollywood, FL
DE
6'4"
225
Vero Beach, FL
DT
6'4"
270
Brooklyn, NY
DT
6'2"
280
Buford, GA
DT
6'4"
278
Fort Lauderdale, FL
TE
6'2"
234
Tampa, FL

Latest Predictions

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2018 Schedule

09/02
LSU
Arlington, TX
L 33 - 17
09/08
Savannah State
Miami Gardens, FL
W 77 - 0
09/15
Toledo
Toledo, OH
W 49 - 24
09/22
FIU
Miami Gardens, FL
W 31 - 17
09/27
North Carolina
Miami Gardens, FL
W 47 - 10
10/06
Florida State
Miami Gardens, FL
W 28 - 27
10/13
Virginia
Charlottesville, VA
L 16 - 13
10/26
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA
L 27 - 14
11/03
Duke
Miami Gardens, FL
L 20 - 12
11/10
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, GA
L 27 - 21
11/17
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
W 38 - 14
11/24
Pittsburgh
Miami Gardens, FL
W 24 - 3
12/27
Wisconsin
New York, NY
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