On Tuesday afternoon, head coach Mark Richt casually confirmed that sophomore linebacker Zach McCloud will miss the remainder of spring practice due to a wrist injury. There was no information on when and how McCloud sustained the injury. As Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post noted, McCloud was dressed for practice in his usual attire, with the exception of a brace on his left wrist. CMR did state that McCloud should be good to go when fall practices get under way later in the year.
No one wants to lose a player for any extended amount of time. As a sophomore last season, McCloud finished with seventh on the team with 48 total tackles, adding four-and-a-half tackles for loss and two sacks. Those numbers are good, yet they could’ve been better in 2017. There were times where McCloud missed tackles, was out of position, and essentially looked lost in some instances on the field. Chalk that up as “sophomore slump” more than a indictment of No. 53’s talent. Now the team has to be patient once more, waiting until training camp towards the end of summer to gauge the progress of the junior linebacker.
In McCloud’s absence someone will have to step up to line up alongside starting linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. An early candidate is LB De’Andre Wilder, who enters the season as a sophomore. A former standout from Carol City High School, Wilder had 10 tackles last season playing as a reserve linebacker and on special teams. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has sung the praises linebackers Waymon Steed and Bradley Jennings Jr. of the past week. Diaz credit both Steed and Jennings Jr. for staying square against incoming blockers, shedding blocks and making the tackle.
The new additions to the linebacker room, former safeties Derrick Smith and Romeo Finley should also see an increase in their practice time on the field at the SAM position, yet both players are vying to be on the field in the ’Canes nickel package than as base defenders in Miami’s 4-3 formation.
The absence of McCloud is a loss, but the competition this spring continues without him. Meaning that we will see a fresh face line up with the dynamic duo that is Pinckney and Quarterman, at least for a little while anyway.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!