5-star CB Cormani McClain commits to Deion Sanders and Colorado

For a second straight recruiting cycle, Deion Sanders has reeled in 247Sports’ No. 1 ranked cornerback. In 2022, it was Travis Hunter. In 2023, it’s five-star Cormani McClain. In a private ceremony Thursday in Lakeland, McClain told 247Sports’ Carl Reed he committed to Colorado.

“I play DB and Coach Prime is the best DB. I wanna be in the same shoes, same predicament, gold jacket, everything,” McClain told 247Sports. “Get coached by the best DB. Why not?”

McClain was committed to Miami but did not sign during the Early Signing Period, setting off smoke alarms. As recently as Friday, Miami was still trying to lock McClain down, sending several staff members to Lakeland (Fla.) High School, but McClain was not in school and already en route to Colorado.

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound McClain also strongly considered Alabama and Florida during his process and is the No. 9 prospect overall. McClain becomes the 19th high school prospect to commit to Colorado in the 2023 cycle. With him in the fold, the Buffaloes’ recruiting class rises from No. 44 to No. 29 in the 247Sports Composite Standings. When you include transfers, Colorado’s overall 2023 haul moves from No. 22 nationally to No. 19. McClain will be the highest-ranked high school prospect to sign with Colorado since 2008, when the No. 4 overall prospect Darrell Scott chose the Buffaloes.

Sanders pulled the biggest recruiting shocker of all-time during the Early Signing Period of the 2022 cycle when 247Sports’ No. 1 ranked recruit, Travis Hunter, backed off a long-standing verbal to Florida State in favor of Jackson State. Hunter helped Sanders and the Tigers win a SWAC Championship in the fall and then followed to Boulder as 247Sports No. 1 ranked transfer portal prospect.

No longer are we surprised by Sanders’ progress on the trail. When McClain opted not to sign with Miami during the three-day Early Signing Period that began on Dec. 21, 247Sports had it first that the Buffaloes were in contact. Sanders and his staff have been going hard for McClain since and now land his pledge.

McClain had been committed to Miami since October when he surprisingly announced for the Hurricanes over the Gators. It was then unexpected when he didn’t put pen to paper during the Early Signing Period. This is a recruitment that’s had it’s fair share of intrigue including BYU making the ballyhooed defensive back’s original top five.

READ: The 20 biggest moments of McClain’s roller coaster recruitment

It’s easy to see why McClain has been coveted for so long. He emerged as a national recruit when he picked off nine passes as a sophomore. McClain snagged 10 more interceptions as a junior and two more as a senior for Lakeland (Fla.) High. He capped his prep career playing in the Under Armor All-American Game. 247Sports Director of Scouting Andrew Ivins compares McClain’s game to that of Pro Bowl defensive back and this year’s co-NFL interception leader Tariq Woolen.

“A new-age cornerback prospect that has a chance to be a difference maker at football’s highest levels given his rare blend of size, length and speed. Started prep career off playing primarily wide receiver before being thrust into action on the defensive side of the ball. Excelled right away as a perimeter defender against top Sunshine State competition picking off nine passes as a sophomore and 10 more as a junior. Still very raw from a technical standpoint, but is athletic enough to carry and cover most vertical routes. Leggy transitions aren’t exactly ideal, but has a knack for putting himself in position to make a play at the catch point and can quickly close gaps with an elite burst. Has experience working in both man and off-coverage. Not one to shy away from contact and is a rather spirited as an open-field tackler, but must improve in the boxing ring if he’s going to settle in as a true bump-and-run corner on Saturdays. Tested off the charts as an underclassman posting a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash to go along with a 128-inch broad jump and a 4.3 in the short shuttle. Will need to eventually add mass to a slender frame and continue to refine footwork/technique once enrolled at the school of his choice, but has one of the highest ceilings in the entire class of 2023 given how he moves –and covers– for someone that’s pushing 6-foot-2. Must learn how to block out mistakes and find some inner confidence once adversity hits, but has the physical makeup of a potential impact player for a College Football Playoff contender and a possible early-round NFL Draft selection if he can keep progressing. Could experience some initial growing pains, but freakish traits are worth molding for the long haul.”

Colorado hasn’t produced a first-round NFL Draft pick since 2011, when both Nate Solder and Jimmy Smith came off the board. In the span of a month, Sanders now has two talents on campus who profile as eventual Day 1 picks in McClain and Hunter.

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