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Miami Hurricanes 2022 Path to the NFL Draft: LB Zach McCloud

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McCloud has been a part of the U since 2015-16. Three coaches and multiple positions later, he now hopes to find a landing spot in the NFL.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Georgia Tech at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The longest tenured Cane, Zach McCloud, has a been a fixture on the Miami roster since 2016 (and truly before) and it culminated this past season with being named one of four team captains. McCloud has seen his ups and downs while at Miami, but in the age of the often overused transfer portal, McCloud stuck it out the whole way.

Three coaches and multiple positions later, the Lake Worth product aims to land on an NFL roster in the coming weeks.

LB/DE Zach McCloud Draft Snapshot:

2022 NFL Draft Ranking* - 49th Linebacker

(Position Ranking based on The Athletic, Dane Brugler, 2022 Draft Guide)*
Height: 6’2” (47th Percentile)
Weight: 246lbs (77th Percentile)
Arm Length: 34 3/8” (96th Percentile)
Wingspan: 81” (97th Percentile)
Hand: 9 1/2” (41st Percentile)

Career Statistics:
2016: 13GP/11GS, 37 Tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2 PD
2017: 13GP/11GS, 48 Tackles, 4.5 TFLS, 2 Sacks, 1 FF
2018: 13GP/9GS, 44 Tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 0.5 Sacks
2019: 4GP/1GS, 9 Tackles (Redshirt)
2020: 9GP/8GS, 27 Tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 PD
2021: 12GP/9GS, 28 Tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 5.5 Sacks, 1 FF
CAREER: 193 Tackles, 22.5 TFLs, 10.0 Sacks, 3 FF, 4 PD

Pro Football Focus (PFF) Grades
- Overall 2016 PFF Grade: 60.9
- Overall 2017 PFF Grade: 52.4
- Overall 2018 PFF Grade: 60.3
- Overall 2019 PFF Grade: 67.6 (Redshirt)
- Overall 2020 PFF Grade: 46.9
- Overall 2021 PFF Grade: 66.4, 464 DLine, 1 Box, 49 Punt Coverage, 28 FG/XP Block

Pro Day Results:

40-Yard Dash: 4.64 (68th Percentile)
Bench: 17 reps (14th Percentile)
3-Cone: 7.33 (18th Percentile)
Shuttle: 4.47 (13th Percentile)
Vertical Jump: 33.5” (47th Percentile)
Broad Jump: 9’10” (58th Percentile)

Background:

Did it All in Six Years at the U... Linebacker, Defensive End, Captain,

As a four-star recruit hailing from Lake Worth, Florida, McCloud has always been held to a high standard. However, in the age of the transfer portal and despite a hardly linear path, McCloud stuck around in Miami and held on for the turbulent ride to get to where he stands now.

McCloud’s career appeared to start out on the straight and narrow, as his trajectory seemed above expectations as an immediate full-time starter. However, McCloud originally joined the U in the summer of 2015 with Al Golden as the coach. In 2016, however, the program hired Mark Richt who McCloud played under. He rolled with the punches and tallied 129 tackles in his first three seasons at linebacker.

In 2019, the Canes had another changing of the guard with Manny Diaz being brought in as head coach. McCloud, in what would be his senior season, opted to redshirt. The following year, he returned but his production dipped as he only tallied 27 tackles, lower than any total over his first three seasons. Due to COVID-19 rules, McCloud had the chance to return for a sixth season.

In that final year, McCloud showed off positional versatility and willingness to change positions in the best interest of the team. McCloud, as a result of Jaelan Phillips, Quincy Roche, and Gregory Rousseau departing for the NFL, moved up the formation from linebacker to defensive end to provide the Canes with a veteran option at the position. There was a drop-off in pass rush prowess for Miami, but McCloud led the teams in sacks with 5.5. In this final season, McCloud was named captain.

Player Profile:

McCloud is plenty seasoned as he collected 193 tackles during his Miami tenure. He has picked up even more NFL Draft momentum by displaying his leadership skills and also shined at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he tallied six combined tackles - leading both teams (he also had a key fumble recovery late in the game to seal the win).

McCloud also proved he can offer position versatility as he put the team-first in switching positions to defensive end in his final season. He was also featured on special teams in punt coverage, punt return, and FG/XP attempts. Special teams is likely the area where he will be able to contribute right away in live action at the next level.

The baseline skill level is there as McCloud proved during her first three season in Miami. Where he is put on an NFL roster is the better question scouts and teams will have. Namely, he has the ability to line up at outside linebacker, inside, and on the line of scrimmage. McCloud showed poise as a pass rusher this year and especially can disrupt due to his arm length/wingspan (96th/97th percentile among linebackers) but may project best as an off-the-ball linebacker where he is most comfortable.

Mostly due to switching around positions, and curtailing his progress his redshirt season, McCloud will likely need refinement in technique. McCloud plays smart and is assignment-sound. For what he may lack in top-notch pursuit speed, he makes up for it in discipline and effort. If he sticks with the off-the-ball linebacker route, we will need to work on coverage capabilities as his numbers were limited there (only four pass deflections in his six-year career). Due to his capabilities at multiple positions, his draft stock may be docked as he could be considered a ‘tweener’ with no true position.

Strengths/Positives

  • Leadership, Captain Senior Year
  • Positional Versatility (played Linebacker and Defensive End)
  • Long enough wingspan to excel across the front seven
  • Willingness to put team first
  • Special Teams Experience
  • Disciplined and good field awareness

Weaknesses/Negatives

  • Lacks top notch speed and athleticism
  • Production dropped as career progressed
  • Limited explosiveness (not always flashing on tape)
  • May lack ability in open space (four passes deflected in six-year career)
  • Bit of a ‘Tweener’ at positions
  • Will be 24-years old rookie season

Best NFL Fits (Undrafted Free Agent): Minnesota Vikings (Top-30 Visit), Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Commanders

NFL Comparisons: Jonathan Garvin

Bottom Line:

McCloud was plenty seasoned going into this year as he ended up tallying 193 tackles in 64 games. He displayed leadership as a captain and versatility by switching from linebacker to defensive end this past year. That willingness to change positions will be necessary at the next level as he’ll likely have to grind his teeth via the special teams route initially.

Draft Night Projection: (Seventh Round/UDFA)

Seventh Round to the Minnesota Vikings: This is somewhat of a bold prediction but Minnesota reportedly used a top-30 NFL Draft visit on McCloud, at least according to his agent. He will most likely be utilized on special teams to start his career.