Miami Hurricanes 2020 defense will be led by LB Zach McCloud

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 06: (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 06: (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Entering his fifth season with the Miami Hurricanes after a redshirt year, three-year starter Zach McCloud is ready to lead the defense.

Linebacker Zach McCloud redshirted in 2019 to help the Miami Hurricanes add experience in the middle of their defense in 2020. McCloud lost playing time last season to the striker position after he started with classmates Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney during their first three seasons as Hurricanes from 2016-2018.

McCloud returns in 2020 ready to lead the Miami defense. McCloud will take over Quarterman’s position of middle LB after playing strongside LB during his first three seasons. After playing in four games in 2019, McCloud has 137 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and three pass breakups during his Miami career.

McCloud is one of a few fifth years seniors on the Miami roster. Even more of a rarity a player that has spent his entire collegiate career in Coral Gables. Miami has added multiple graduate transfers for the roster for the second straight season from other schools. McCloud and those veterans will mesh to become the Hurricanes leaders.

On defense McCloud and Temple graduate transfer defensive end Quincy Roche will be the leaders of a defense that learned on Thursday that All-American defensive end Greg Rousseau is opting out of the 2020 season. Head Coach Manny Diaz discussed McCloud‘s leadership and being without Quarterman and Pinckney.

"“It was definitely a little bit peculiar, but I know Zach provides great value, for not just our defense, but our football team…It helps when your best players are also your best people. And I think Zach’s a guy that’s got the respect of everybody in our locker room, so, he’s one that you want the young ones to emulate.How do I work? What do I do in the weight room? How do I practice? What should my habits be? He’s a great one for the young ones to learn from.”"

McCloud had to watch Quarterman and Pinckney from the sidelines most of their senior season on the field. The plan was for the three to play their last game together in Miami’s bowl game. McCloud had to use up his fourth game to maintain his redshirt season against Pittsburgh in relief of an injured Pinckney.

McCloud discussed after practice on Saturday how it is going to feel being on the field without Quarterman and Pinckney. The three will be linked in the history of the Miami Hurricanes forever. One of the best units of LBs the Hurricanes have ever had. McCloud has a chance to stake his individual accolades in 2020.

"“It’s always going to be different being on the field without them. They left such an impression on me. But that’s part of the thing, the feeling of not having them with me, I keep them with me right here, the same way.”"

McCloud is expected to team with sophomore Sam Brooks and redshirt freshman Avery Huff at LB in 2020. Brooks will likely be the starter after recording 12 tackles starting with Quarterman in the Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech. Miami is high on the potential for Brooks after an academic redshirt in 2020.

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The transition year with McCloud at MLB will help the Miami defense in 2020 and the future. Having the experience McCloud will provide in the middle of the Miami defense takes a lot of pressure off of Brooks and Huff and allows them to grow. The tradition at LB in Miami should continue for the foreseeable future.