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Q&A With Zach McCloud: Miami Career, Mario Cristobal Replacing Manny Diaz, Future In The NFL

Zach McCloud of the Hurricanes.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 6: Miami defensive lineman Zach McCloud (53) pursues the ball carrier in the second quarter as the University of Miami Hurricanes faced the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on November 6, 2021, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Zach McCloud came to Miami in 2016 as a potential-packed linebacker. He left the program in 2022 as a prospect capable of playing off the ball and rushing the passer.

This past season, Miami switched McCloud's position from linebacker to edge rusher. It was a seamless transition for the Florida native, as he racked up 28 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Overall, McCloud finished his Miami career with 192 combined tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles. His production at the collegiate level earned him an invitation to the NFLPA Bowl.

We caught up with Zach McCloud to discuss his Miami career, the Hurricanes' coaching change, going through the NFL Draft process and much more.

The Spun: How has this draft process been for you?

Zach McCloud: It’s definitely a transition preparing your body for a game compared to preparing it for these tests. It’s more so about developing technique, but I’m really enjoying it.

The Spun: What was your NFLPA Bowl experience like?

ZM: It was a great opportunity for sure. I enjoyed being in that team setting and learning from legends on that staff, like Rod Woodson and Marvin Lewis. I was really just trying to soak it all in and be around the game.

The Spun: You had a lengthy career at Miami. When you look back at your career what do you think?

ZM: Every semester comes with its challenges. It’s easy to look back and reflect on it. All the challenges I faced might not come to me right away, but I’ll look back and see how far I’ve come.

The Spun: Do you have a favorite moment from your time at Miami?

ZM: We played Notre Dame in 2017. We were undefeated for most of the season. There was a lot of hype going into that game and I remember that opening play you could see everyone was ready to go. It’s one of the best feelings being victorious in a game like that.

The Spun: You’ve been around Manny Diaz your entire career. Were you surprised he was let go?

ZM: At the end of the day, it’s a business. There are moves being made left and right. If you look at free agency in the NFL, football is just crazy. When you think about it as a business, you expect these type of things. I don’t want to say it didn’t affect me at all because I was on my way out. The relationship I had with Coach Diaz was strong. But I know what comes with this game, and they know what they signed up for as well.

The Spun: Have you been able to talk to Mario Cristobal?

ZM: I met with him while I was already training for the NFL. He called me up to his office so we could talk about the future of the team. He asked what I thought held us back in the past and what could help us moving forward. The fact that he asked players like myself shows that he’s really all in on doing everything he can to make sure this team is successful in the future.

The Spun: What role do you envision yourself playing in the NFL?

ZM: Honestly, I thought I preferred being an edge rusher. But when I went to the NFLPA Bowl, I ended up playing middle linebacker for most of the game. I wasn’t expecting to do that, but I went out there and had a lot of fun. So it just brought me back to why I enjoyed playing linebacker in the first place. Edge rusher feels natural to me, but I think I can do whatever a team wants me to do.

The Spun: Which defensive players do you like to study on film?

ZM: Shaq Barrett for sure. There’s something I can take from everybody. I can watch Jason Pierre-Paul. It’s good for me to watch a ton of players. I love to watch Von Miller, T.J. Watt and players that just continue to put up numbers year after year. You try to think about how they’re constantly beating their opponents.

The Spun: What do you think will allow you to have success at the next level?

ZM: I’d say my determination. It leaks into those other qualities I have. That’s just how I am as a person. If I see something going wrong, I’m determined to make things right. I’m constantly trying to improve as a player and a person. I think that enhances the other qualities.

The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Zach McCloud

ZM: I have a fire and passion for the game. I’m excited to just be a student and really take my game to the next level. I’m not going to cause any trouble in the locker room. I’m like glue - I bring everyone together.

McCloud has shown countless times that he's a difference-maker when in pursuit of the football. He plays with strong leverage when rushing the passer, he bends around the corner well, and has a high motor.

Miami fans will find out where McCloud's football career will resume later this year.

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.