Coach Manny Diaz has a system that is steeped in having two inside linebackers. The Mike (middle linebacker, Shaquille Quarterman) is the leader. He calls the defense, he’s a run stopper that can blitz, and he can drop into coverage if needed, but he’s the weakest in coverage. The Will (weak side linebacker, Michael Pinckney) is still inside in Manny’s predominantly 4-2-5 defense, but is expected to be a scrape linebacker that helps clean up for the Mike, and has to be a better pass cover LB as well since he will get swings from the RB’s and screens as well. The Sam is part safety, part linebacker, and can be pulled off the field in true nickel situations (3rd and long or 10 personnel). In the 4-3, coach seems to like him to the field, in the 4-2-5 he’s to the field or pass strength.
The SAM linebacker in 2016 and he’s the incumbent to start in 2017, is Zach McCloud. McCloud is a 4* from Santaluces High School that totaled 37 tackles and 4.5 TFL. McCloud is built like an athlete, shredded muscle and explosive in his play. Zach has a great first step and can play the flat and blow up bubble screens in team’s RPO game. Also, he likes to hit the weights.
In the weight room looking like a gatorade commercial— Zach McCloud (@chief__20) January 18, 2017
Above, you can see the run fits in the 4-3 defense against 21 personnel
Above, you an see runs fits in a 4-2-5 adjustment vs 20 personnel
Above, you can see a 4-2-5 with the SAM locked up on the slot and the FS in the apex
Above, 4-3 vs 21 personnel pass drops
Above, 4-2-5 adjustment where SAM splits difference pass drops
Above, 4-2-5 with SAM pressed on slot and FS in apex
Below, McCloud is set to the field and the H-Back. Pinckney is set to the over-tackle, expecting the run to come at the overload.
Below, McCloud is set to the field and twins look (trips if you include the H-Back).
Below, McCloud is outside the box and aligned to pick up the H-Back. He’s also set to the field.
Below, in the 4-2-5 against 10 personnel, McCloud is to the field and plays the flat at 100MPH hawk & roll tackling the slot that catches the bubble.
Below is a great look at what a QB sees from the ‘Canes 2 inside linebackers pre-snap.
Below, McCloud is to the field in the 4-2-5 and splitting the difference (playing in between the end man on the line and the slot).
Below, McCloud is to the field and trips against FSU.
Below, McCloud is off the field against a predominantly spread 10 personnel squad in West Virginia.
Below, you can see McCloud playing over and off the slot in a 4-2-5 alignment
The GIF below is the above play in action