Reports: Former five-star defensive back Cormani McClain transferring to Florida from Colorado

Reports: Former five-star defensive back Cormani McClain transferring to Florida from Colorado

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The 2024 college football season will be a pivotal one for Billy Napier.

He got a boost this week with cornerback Cormani McClain, a former top-rated high school recruit who spent last season at Colorado, committing to play for Florida, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for the Lakeland, Florida native, who made headlines last year by decommitting from Miami and promptly committing to Deion Sanders and Colorado.

McClain reportedly may join the Gators as a walk-on, as Florida’s allotment of 85 scholarships has already been filled for next season. Once in Gainesville, he’ll aim to bolster a defense that struggled at times last season, finishing 78th among 133 FBS programs in scoring defense, at 27.8 points per game.

As he’s set to join the Gators, here’s what you need to know about McClain:

Cormani McClain recruit ranking

McClain came into college with no shortage of hype, a dynamic cornerback who was pursued by seemingly every major program in the sport.

He was a five-star recruit who was rated by 247Sports’ Composite Ranking as the No. 13 player nationally in the 2023 recruiting class. He was also the No. 1 cornerback nationally and the No. 3 player in Florida.

Before ending up at Colorado, he had originally committed to Miami. He had received offers from, among others, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, Oklahoma, LSU, Tennessee and – last, but not least – his new home, Florida.

After his lone season in Boulder, Colorado, McClain was rated by 247Sports as the No. 21 overall player in the transfer portal and the No. 5 cornerback.

Why did Cormani McClain transfer?

McClain was one of the highest-profile additions from an extraordinarily busy first offseason for Sanders as Colorado’s coach. At least initially, it appeared like a perfect pairing of mentor and mentee, with a highly rated, Florida-bred cornerback linking up with perhaps the greatest defensive back of all-time as he sought to rebuild a once-proud program.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Even on a roster that had several capable defensive backs — namely, All-American Travis Hunter — McClain wasn’t able to make the kind of impact so many anticipated when he helped Sanders earn one of his biggest recruiting victories.

In 10 games last season, McClain had 13 tackles, six of them solo and one of them for loss, along with two pass break-ups.

McClain started just four of the Buffaloes’ 12 games and struggled to get consistent snaps. Sanders told reporters that in order to get more playing time, McClain needed to “study, prepare, be on time to meetings, show up to the darn meetings, understand what we’re doing as a scheme.” As Colorado struggled in the final weeks of a 4-8 season, Sanders said last November that he was “really, really proud of Cormani” after he and his staff “challenged him tremendously all year long.”

“I pray to God that he goes to a program that challenges him as well as hold him accountable and develop him as a young man,” Sanders said to DNVR, a Colorado-based media outlet, after McClain transferred. “Unfortunately, we weren’t the program that can accomplish that. So prayerfully he understands that this is the second go-round and go get it, man. Because he has a tremendous amount of talent, but he has to want it.”

After McClain’s departure in April, he said during a YouTube question-and-answer session that there were “no hard feelings,” but that “I feel like I just don’t want to play for clicks,” an apparent dig at the media-savvy Sanders, who has seemingly every facet of Colorado’s program videotaped and showcased to the wider world.

“I actually want to be involved with a great leading program that’s going to develop players,” McClain said.

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