Miami Hurricanes DE Zach McCloud moved from LB after joke

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

Miami Hurricanes defensive end Zach McCloud moved from linebacker following a joke during a defensive team meeting last season before the Cheez-it Bowl against Oklahoma State. McCloud was a three-year starter for Miami at LB from 2016 beginning as a freshman through the 2018 season.

McCloud signed with Miami as the 21st ranked outside LB in 2016. During a zoom meeting with reporters on Tuesday, McCloud stated the evolution behind his switch from LB to DE and that he expected to be a pass rusher when he first arrived at Miami. The opportunity to play immediately changed that expectation.

McCloud has 164 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 39 career games. The switch to DE by McCloud comes at a critical time for the Miami Hurricanes. Miami lost starting DEs Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche from the 2020 team. Tight end Brevin Jordan is the only other starter Miami lost from 2020.

McCloud is one of the most experienced players on the Miami Hurricanes roster. McCloud is entering his sixth season after redshirting in 2019 and the NCAA freezing eligibility for everyone during the 2020 season. Miami needs McCloud to be a leader on the 2021 defense. McCloud spoke to reporters on Tuesday.

"“I can do that…just kind of like being cocky…I was making a joke…I’ve been doing a lot of edge work, and it’ll come off like a surprise to see like a move work or something like that in practice, or a technique get applied in a certain way, and all it is is just me and a lot of other guys on the team, we’ve put in a lot of extra work.For a lot of people, things are coming on fast and I’m just a part of that group.”"

McCloud was part of the all true freshmen LB corps with Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman in 2016. They started together through the 2018 season. With Miami switching to the striker position for the third LB, McCloud lost playing time in 2018 and redshirted after four games in 2019.

The transformation McCloud made as a pass rusher in his first game against Oklahoma State in the Cheez-it Bowl was impressive. Per David Lake of Inside the U, McCloud had 1.5 TFLs and four QB pressures on 22 pass-rushing snaps against the Cowboys, the most of his career. McCloud added two tackles against Oklahoma State.

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Miami is counting on two players switching from LB to DE in 2021. DeAndre Johnson played outside LB as an edge rusher at Tennessee in the Volunteers 3-4 defense before transferring to Miami in January. Adding the experience of a graduate transfer with McCloud will be helpful to an otherwise young Miami DE unit.