Miami Hurricanes’ Zach McCloud done for spring; Mark Richt on OL, DL, RB, WR battles

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Zach McCloud (53) celebrates with fans after the end of the second half of the game between Miami Hurricanes and Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, November 11, 2017. Final score, Miami Hurricanes 41, Notre Dame, 8. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

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CORAL GABLES — Zach McCloud was on the field Tuesday, but not doing much.

The reason: Miami’s starting Sam linebacker has a left wrist injury, which will limit him the rest of the spring.

“He won’t be able to go through spring, but he’ll be ready in the fall,” coach Mark Richt said. “I think the entire summer he’ll be good as well to train and be ready.”

McCloud, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior from Santaluces High, has started 22 of 26 games the last two seasons. His backup is sophomore De’Andre Wilder, who mainly played special teams last year. Miami is also using safeties Derrick Smith and Romeo Finley as outside linebackers in an effort to add mobility to the position.

McCloud was in full practice gear and wore a brace on his left wrist Tuesday. He ran and participated in drills, albeit ones without contact, during the 20-minute media viewing period.

Miami’s spring game is April 14 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Richt alluded to McCloud’s injury Monday in a radio appearance on WQAM.  When asked to name his top position group this spring, Richt said, “I really like our veteran linebackers,” referring to McCloud and the other two members of Miami’s starting linebacker trio, fellow juniors Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney. The latter two have started UM’s last 26 games, and played the lion’s share of minutes.

“They’re veterans now,” Richt said. “You’ve got Shaq, you’ve got — well, McCloud’s not playing right now. … They know what to do, they know how to do it.”

* Miami’s offensive line, hoping to coagulate into a five-man unit, was the same as the first three sessions. The depth chart remained the same at all positions.

Richt, in his Monday radio comments, said he expects his two most recent recruiting classes to contribute this year.

“They’re athletic and talented,” he said, “maybe not 100 percent game-ready but that’s why we’ve got spring and summer and fall practices.”

Right guard Navaughn Donaldson (2017) returns after an ESPN freshman All-American season. Three classmates, left tackle Kai-Leon Herbert, center Corey Gaynor and right tackle Zalon’tae Hillery, opened spring as second-teamers. A 2018 signee, Delone Scaife, is getting a shot at second-team right guard.

“They’re actually doing pretty good,” Richt said Tuesday, also referring to freshman tackle John Campbell. “They probably don’t think so right now, because so many things are going [on] and their heads are spinning. We’re going at veteran’s pace. They show signs of athleticism. When they get contact, they have strong hands. … They’ve got the length of the arms you want, the athleticism that you want. We’re pleased with them. They’ve got a long way to go to learn what to do, but it’s very encouraging, the last two classes we’ve signed.”

* Richt also praised senior first-string center Tyler Gauthier for “pointing out where everybody needs to go. Really pleased with what he’s done so far.” Gauthier and left tackle Tyree St. Louis are considered by coaches to be the steadiest players on the starting unit.

* How is redshirt junior George Brown Jr. faring as a first-string right tackle? In Saturday’s practice, UM’s first in full pads, Richt said Brown “had some victories and some not-so-good ones, but you’re going against guys like (defensive ends) Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin, so there’s going to be some victories on that side of the ball too.”

* Miami’s interior linemen — including fifth-year left guard Jahair Jones, getting a shot to lock down a starting spot this spring — have struggled to handle defensive tackle Gerald Willis.

“No one can block the guy,” Richt said, “I can tell you that right now, at least not on a consistent basis.”

* Richt’s comments about his defensive tackles echo what he said last spring about his running backs: “Really thin,” was his assessment of the group. “Super thin right now.” The good news: reinforcements will arrive this summer, in the person of grad transfer Tito Odenigbo (Illinois) and freshmen Nesta Silvera and Jordan Miller.

“The guys that are in there are doing well,” Richt said, first mentioning the unblockable Willis. “Pat Bethel’s solid, as you can imagine. (Jon) Ford’s getting there, Tyreic Martin, our young guys are trying to find their way.”

* Junior Travis Homer and sophomore DeeJay Dallas combined for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns. To that duo, Miami adds Lorenzo Lingard, the five-star freshman. Richt said UM is installing the offense at “a veteran’s pace,” and Lingard is trying to keep up.

“You can see his attitude and effort is unbelievable. He’s a high-energy guy. He’s strong and fast,” Richt said.  “If you put him on the right track, as far as inside zone or outside zone and let him start reading a certain block and let his instincts take over, he’s pretty good.”

* Richt is encouraged by his collection of wide receivers, which has (in this view) potential to be the ACC’s top set. Still missing Ahmmon Richards and Evidence Njoku (both limited after late-2017 knee surgeries) and yet-to-arrive Mark Pope and Marquez Ezzard, the unit looks fit and fast.

“If we have everybody healthy and everybody playing at full-speed, there’ll be a lot of fast-paced offense going on, because we’ll be able to substitute freely and keep people fresh,” Richt said.  “You always try to keep people happy — if you’ve got the right kind of guy, he’s happy. He’s working, he’s playing, he’s blocking, he’s helping the team win.”

SPRING FOOTBALL  2018 

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