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What will Zach McCloud’s impact at defensive end be?

The South Florida native will play his sixth season in 2021, but his first at defensive end

NCAA Football: Miami at Pittsburgh
Miami Hurricanes linebacker Zach McCloud (53) waits to take the field against the Pittsburgh Panthers before the first quarter at Heinz Field.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Zach McCloud’s journey with the University of Miami football program has been a long and interesting one.

After choosing to only play four games and redshirt in the 2019 season, McCloud wound up gaining an extra two seasons at Miami because the NCAA declared that 2020 would not count as a year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is the only player left on the Miami roster from the 2016 recruiting class.

McCloud will spend his sixth year on campus playing a different position for the Hurricanes. The Miami Herald reported this week that McCloud will work at defensive end rather than linebacker, where he has played for the past five seasons.

The move is an interesting one for the Hurricanes from a depth and roster management perspective.

McCloud would have been Miami’s most experienced linebacker returning in 2021. However, as we saw in 2020, experience does not always equate to playmaking.

There were times when McCloud looked lost in coverage and even with run fits. You could argue that when he looked his best playing the linebacker position in 2020 was when he was rushing the passer, something that he would obviously be doing much more at his new position in 2021.

McCloud has played one game at defensive end in his UM career: the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl. He finished that game with 1.5 tackles. Pro Football Focus also credited him with a team-high five quarterback pressures in that contest, although he had no sacks.

Not bad numbers for having about two weeks of practice at a brand new position.

You rarely say the potential of a sixth-year senior is intriguing but McCloud’s potential at defensive end should pique the interest of Hurricane fans this spring. With Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche gone, snaps are largely up for grabs at the position between Jahfari Harvey, Chantz Williams, Cameron Williams, Tennessee transfer De’Andre Johnson, McCloud, and others.

McCloud and Johnson are older players who bring a much needed physical maturity to the defensive end competition this spring.

If McCloud can take the spring and learn the techniques he needs from new defensive line coach Jess Simpson, he will be a part of the rotation at defensive end in 2021.


Where will Zach McCloud land on the 2021 depth chart at defensive end?

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