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Zach McCloud: 2016 Season Review

After rounding out a starting lineup of all freshman linebackers, Zach McCloud finished 2016 bursting with potential.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

He recommitted to the Miami Hurricanes once Mark Richt became head coach, and completed what fans began to call the “new bermuda triangle”.

Zach McCloud, Shaq Quarterman, and Michael Pinckney were often talked about as one over the course of 2016, but their individual development moved at a different pace.

Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney made immediate impacts on the team, and after dealing with an injury in the spring, McCloud joined the starting lineup in the fall.

McCloud finished the season with less tackles than Quarterman and Pinckney, but by the end of his freshman season, his impact became apparent on the field.

McCloud pulled in 6 tackles with a tackle for loss and pass deflection in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and helped solidify the unit after Michael Pinckney left the game due to a targeting penalty. He progressed as the season went on, and said the ability to play his freshman season is vital towards his development.

“There is a difference when you’re watching it on film,” McCloud said in November. “You can know all the X’s and O’s, but until you see it and you actually have to put your body in certain positions that’s one thing. I’ve learned to push harder than what I’m used to.”

McCloud was thrusted into a significant role after the departure of Jermaine Grace, and stepped up in several key moments including a 3rd down tackle for loss in the second half against pittsburgh.

McCloud entered Miami at 6’2” 218 lbs according to, and is currently listed at 230 lbs after a year of strength and conditioning. McCloud has grown in every part of his game since arriving in Coral Gables, and went from 1 tackle in his first game to a marquee 6 tackle performance in his last game of the year.

Little depth sat behind McCloud at the linebacker position all season, which added more pressure to an already tense situation with three freshman linebackers. McCloud worked hard on his pass coverage all season, with that standing as a key to unlocking his potential. In the last game of the season, a near interception embodied his progression defending the pass, and combined his natural instinct with his intense film study.

McCloud’s improvements help Miami turn a poor October into momentum at the end of the year, and he will combine with Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney once again next season to try and take the next step as a defense.