The journey of the Miami Hurricanes sixth year defensive end, Zach McCloud, has been one of ups, downs, twists and turns.
As the only member of Miami’s 2016 recruiting class still on the team, McCloud has been involved in a variety of things that many college football players have never experienced in their careers. These include:
- Participate in the same program with three head coaches. McCloud originally signed the support dossier with Miami in the summer of 2015 when Al Golden was the coach. He eventually signed a national memorandum of understanding and played three seasons for Mark Richt before playing the final two for Manny Diaz.
- Redshirting as a senior. Instead of playing fewer snaps behind Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney in 2019, McCloud decided to use the 4-game redshirt rule and redshirt during his senior season. That earned him two extra years at Coral Gables (2020 and next season) as the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19.
- Change of position as senior in the fifth year. McCloud made the switch from linebacker to defensive end this spring. Most players across the country don’t get the opportunity to play a sixth season at the same school, let alone their sixth season being the first in a completely different position.
His decision to do a red shirt in his senior year completely changed his hurricane career. McCloud was supposed to lead the Hurricane Linebacker Room in 2020 but had a disappointing season in which he only made 27 tackles, the lowest number of any seasons in his hurricane career other than his red shirt year.
Its lack of production drew all sorts of emotional (mostly angry) reactions from fans who expected more from a fifth grader and the entire linebacker room as a whole.
McCloud made Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche useful on the defensive end in Miami’s Cheez-It Bowl loss to Oklahoma, despite never having played a defensive end before. That helped give birth to the idea that McCloud could make another contribution to the 2021 Hurricanes.
McCloud has spent the entire spring learning the intricacies of the final defensive position and will play there in 2021.
“Zach, to be honest, exceeded my expectations,” Miami’s head coach Manny Diaz told the media in April of McCloud’s move on the defensive. â€œNot that I thought he wouldn’t do well there. I didn’t think that it would look so natural so quickly. “
Diaz also compared McCloud to Trent Harris, who ended his hurricane career with 15 sacks.
How many snapshots McCloud will get on the defensive end in 2021 remains to be seen. He competes with Jahfari Harvey, Cameron Williams, Chantz Williams and Tennessee transferred DeAndre Johnson for the season.
It wouldn’t be surprising if McCloud took some significant snapshots. Diaz and his defensive coaches have shown a tendency in the past to trust older players, and only Johnson and McCloud on the list above aren’t red-shirts or true newbies.
Miami lost both defensive starts at Roche and Phillips and Harvey, Cameron Williams and Chantz Williams combined for just 27 tackles and a sack in minimal snaps last season. Johnson had 28 tackles and 4.5 sacks in eight games for Tennessee in 2020.