Unselfish in an era where everyone tends to be a “me” guy, and not a team guy. Unselfish at a time where your teammates really can use your leadership. Zach McCloud decided a season ago what was best for him, and the Miami Hurricanes was to redshirt, and come back in 2020 to lead the linebacking group. The Canes, Blake Baker and the rest of the defense should be incredibly happy that McCloud decided to make this decision.
Zach arrived in 2016 as a 4-star athlete according to ESPN and 247 Sports and came in as the number two outside LB in the state of Florida according to Scout.com. Alongside Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, the three were able to grab the starting job at all three LB positions in Mark Richt’s first year. Many compared them to the Bermuda Triangle of Barrow, Armstead and Smith, which put a lot of pressure on the kids to play to lofty expectations.
McCloud started his 1st game as a freshman vs FAMU and logged 1 solo tackle in his debut. McCloud would go onto start 11 total games as a true freshman and have a very solid campaign totaling 37 tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss. Miami had a solid campaign going 9-4, and linebacker was a big reason for optimism heading into the 2017 year.
2017 was magical for many reasons, and the play of the Miami defense was a huge part of it. McCloud saw action in all 13 games, and started 11, and finished the year with 48 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 2 sacks. Zach had his first sack of his career in a hard fought come from behind win vs Georgia Tech, and had a good game in the nationally televised beatdown of Notre Dame with 5, 1.5 and another sack. Miami would start the year 10-0, but unfortunately it came unraveled in an upset loss to Pittsburgh. McCloud had maybe his best game during that loss tallying 10 total stops, as the defense did everything, they could to keep Miami’s sputtering offense in the game. Miami would lose the ACC Championship game to Clemson and then struggle in the Orange Bowl vs Wisconsin, but McCloud’s spot seemed to be very secure.
2018 did not go the way Miami or McCloud wanted. Manny Diaz changed the Canes defense to get more speed on the field, so he added a striker position which is basically a hybrid safety/corner/LB position which can do a better job covering some of the spread offenses that Miami encountered. Romeo Finley was inserted more into the lineup which meant McCloud spent a lot more time on the sidelines. He still started nine games, and his stats did not significantly drop off, and McCloud would finish with 44 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Heading to his senior season McCloud is one of the team leaders for the Canes.
Zach McCloud says he has no regrets on redshirting last season to come back for this fifth year. "Every decision that I make I stand on."— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) August 8, 2020
Zach McCloud did one of the most unselfish things a player could do during the 2019 season. With the striker role even more prominent, McCloud took advantage of the new 4 game redshirt rule and did exactly that for Miami. He played in 4 games total and made a huge impact during a spot start against Pitt. For the year he finished with just 8 total tackles, but the impact for McCloud will be what he provides as a redshirt senior.
Zach McCloud says it's "coming along pretty nicely" getting reacquainted with playing middle linebacker.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) August 8, 2020
Miami was going to be severely young and inexperienced at linebacker if McCloud was not back for the 2020 season. Sam Brooks Jr played well in the Independence Bowl, Aubrey Huff looks the part, but neither of them has taken the snaps in ACC play like Zach. McCloud will slide into Shaq Quarterman’s role as a Middle LB, and he seems perfectly fit to cover that role. His biggest weakness has been against the pass, but now at the mike he will have the opportunity to play downhill and thump in the run game. Leadership though will be the biggest impact on the team. As a RS Senior, McCloud has been through it all and is one of the few contributors who was around during the 10-0 start of 2017. Miami needs to learn how to win again, and McCloud can help provide that wisdom.
Look for Zach McCloud to give Miami 80-90 tackles, 10 or more for loss and a couple of sacks. If McCloud can play even equal that of Shaq Quarterman, he will make himself a draftable player, and his unselfish act of coming back to school will pay huge dividends.