Star Colorado football flip Coach Prime picked on 'played like a freshman' in 2023: Analyst

Nov 17, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Lincoln Victor (5)
Nov 17, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Lincoln Victor (5) / James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Former Miami-to-Colorado football flip Cormani McClain was tabbed as a potential breakout candidate by BuffZone's Brian Howell, but at the same time, he was (somewhat) negatively assessed the cornerback's freshman year as one where he "played like a freshman."

"A high profile, five-star recruit as a true freshman last year, McClain played in nine games, with four starts," Howell prefaced before saying, "He posted 13 tackles and two pass breakups and flashed his talent at times. Quite often, he played like a freshman, though, which is understandable. A late arrival last summer, McClain is now hoping to have a full offseason of training with the Buffs’ staff and that could allow him to make a significant leap forward."

Some consider McClain not transferring impressive for what he went through with Coach Prime at the beginning of the 2023 season. By the end of it, he became one of Deion Sanders' favorites. Before that, though? Oh boy...

Colorado football CB Cormani McClain had roller coaster year with Coach Prime

When asked ahead of the USC game in Week 5 why McClain hadn't gotten a shot up until that point and what he could do to get defensive snaps, Coach Prime let McClain have it.

"Study and prepare," Sanders prefaced before saying, "Be on time for meetings, show up to meetings. Understand the scheme. I check film time from each player so I can see who's preparing, so if I don't see that, you would be a fool to put somebody out there who's not prepared. That goes for all our players."

McClain flipped that narrative by season's end, though.

“He’s been a lot more focused, a lot more understanding of the expectation and what we want from him — that we’ve challenged him tremendously all year long," Coach Prime said after a 34-31 loss to Arizona in Week 11 (h/t On3). "He stood up to the task over the last, probably, week and a half. I’m really, really proud of Cormani. I really am."

After everything he's been through, McClain becoming a star for Sanders' Buffs would be a storybook development for the sophomore. Howell having faith in that happening, based on the work McClain has put in this offseason, is a great sign that is more than possible.