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COLUMNS

If Cormani McClain gets his act together, Florida football might have just struck gold

David Whitley
Gainesville Sun

Pedestrians sauntering around UFֱs campus had to be careful Wednesday afternoon. They might have been hit by a flying champagne cork.

Florida football went into party mode over the Cormani McClain news. The greatest cornerback in recruiting drama history was transferring in from Colorado.

ֱItֱs always a lesson when you take a lost, as soon as you it correct it. #Backhome,ֱ McClain wrote.

The announcement was on X, where grammar doesnֱt count. Or maybe Colorado doesnֱt require freshmen to learn proper punctuation.

One thing we know is McClain didnֱt learn how to be a stud cornerback. So for now, fans should keep the champagne on ice and repeat three little words:

Cormani McClain, walk-on.

Thatֱs like saying ֱElon Musk, computer repairman.ֱ Heֱs supposed to be so much more.

Not too long ago, McClain was about the hottest thing on the recruiting market. The string-bean from Lakeland was Americaֱs top-ranked cornerback prospect. A program maker.

His recruitment turned into a drama-drenched reality show. The football version of ֱThe Bachelor.ֱ

For the longest time, it appeared Billy Napier would get the rose. McClain broke a million Gator hearts when he gave it to Mario Cristobal and Miami.

Then he snatched it away and gave it to Deion Sanders. The match made in cornerback heaven quickly turned into a dysfunctional relationship.

Now, just a year after having more scholarship offers than he could count, McClain is reduced to walking on at Florida?

To be fair, thatֱs something of a technicality. The Gators are at the 85-scholarship limit, and McClainֱs NIL package will undoubtedly cover room and board.

But the walk-on designation should also serve as a warning sign. Nobody really knows what Florida is getting in McClain.

If youֱve been monitoring the online reaction out of Colorado, you might think the Gators are getting damaged goods. McClain was in Deionֱs doghouse most of last season.

ֱStudy, prepare, be on time for meetings,ֱ Sanders explained. ֱWant to play this game. Desire to play this game.ֱ

Itֱs tempting to roll your eyes at whatever comes out of Coach Primeֱs mouth. In the Book of Deion, nothing is ever Deionֱs fault. But McClainֱs high school coach hasnֱt exactly rushed to his former prodigyֱs defense.

ֱHeֱs a kid that grew up and always got away with things because of how good an athlete he was,ֱ Keith Barefield told.

He thought Colorado would be the right place for McClain.

ֱI knew Deion wouldnֱt kiss his butt,ֱ Barefield said.

No doubt, there are two or three or 10 sides to the Cormani drama in Boulder. But McClain left town with his reputation in the diva dumpster.

A lot of people donֱt think heֱs worth the trouble. Napier has spent two years fumigating UFֱs locker room of bad actors.

Now heֱs bringing in a 5-star malcontent?

Lakeland's Cormani McClain puts on the baseball cap after choosing Miami.

Florida believes McClainֱs a good kid who got caught up in the recruiting whirlwind. Heֱll be better off escaping the Sanders Family Circus and getting into a more structured environment.

If he does show his butt, it will be kicked, not kissed.

And itֱs not as if McClainֱs slowing down at age 20. The skills that had Nick Saban salivating are still there.

Itֱs a low-risk/high-reward proposition. When he entered the transfer portal, McClain explained why on his YouTube channel.

ֱBring the old version of me out,ֱ he said, ֱand change the narrative of (what) everyoneֱs thinking of my name.ֱ

Right now, his name is Cormani McClain, walk-on. If he can change that narrative, Florida will really have reason to break out the champagne.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on X @DavidEWhitley