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Why did Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney return to Miami? ‘I needed my boy’

University of Miami middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman talks about Hurricanes’ defense

Miami Hurricanes middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman talks about the Canes' defense on Tues., Sept. 25, 2018.
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Miami Hurricanes middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman talks about the Canes' defense on Tues., Sept. 25, 2018.

Shaquille Quarterman waited less than 24 hours after Michael Pinckney announced he was returning for one last season with the Miami Hurricanes to do the same. Pinckney sneaked his announcement out via Instagram just before the sun set on New Year’s Eve, then, on New Year’s Day, Quarterman used Twitter to make his announcement.

The final decision all came as part of a whirlwind three days for Miami. The day before Pinckney announced, the Hurricanes hired Manny Diaz as their head coach and the final pieces were in motion for the two linebackers to return for their senior years. Quarterman and Pinckney wanted one more chance to play together, and one chance to play for Diaz as coach.

“I needed my boy, man,” Pinckney said of Quarterman after Miami opened spring practice Tuesday. “Me and him sat down a lot of times towards the end of the season. ‘What are you going to do?’ Because you know I really didn’t come back without him. We built that camaraderie with each other, so I was like, ‘I need you.’ Let me know what you’re going to do. If you leave, I’m going to still think about leaving. If you stay, I’m with you, and Coach Diaz coming back, that solidified it.”

Diaz’s transition from defensive coordinator to coach will certainly have its glitches at points throughout the year, but he probably won’t have to worry much about his linebackers. Quarterman, Pinckney and McCloud, who is now listed as a striker, give Miami three returning starters at the position, all three of whom could have opted to enter the 2019 NFL Draft after strong junior seasons.

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McCloud was the first to announce in the midst of the Hurricanes’ preparations for the Pinstripe Bowl. Quarterman and Pinckney waited a little bit longer to figure out what they wanted to do as a tandem.

“We often communicated because I wasn’t going to have him leave me and me come back, and have a new ‘Will’ when we’ve been playing together for our whole career,” Quarterman said Monday, “and the same thing vice versa.”

Quarterman has been Miami’s starting middle linebacker since the start of his freshman year, and Pinckney has been the starting weak-side linebacker playing next to him the entire way. For each of their first three years they played for Diaz not just as defensive coordinator, but also as their position coach — Diaz was also Miami’s linebackers coach before he briefly became the Temple Owls’ coach at the end of last year.

It made these two uniquely excited about the prospect of Diaz running the show in Coral Gables. Quarterman even announced his intention to return by tweeting a picture of himself standing next to Diaz at a practice.

“As soon as he got the job, he called me the next morning and he’s always been a very, very solid guy,” Quarterman said. “He’s never lied to me. He’s always kept it very honest with me, and I really appreciate the transparency because a lot of coaches across the country aren’t like that, so he called me and we talked for a little bit. We talked often after that. It’s hard to not go with that guy. I would suit up for him any day.”

The simplest reason the two linebackers are back, though: The 2018 season wasn’t the way Quarterman and Pinckney wanted their last year in South Florida to go.

This is what Quarterman mentioned before diving into any of the other reasons he decided to come back.

Quarterman made his reasoning as blunt as possible: “Did not want to leave Miami the way that the season ended off last year.”