College Football
What 5-star QB JuJu Lewis could learn from former Colorado CB Cormani McClain
College Football

What 5-star QB JuJu Lewis could learn from former Colorado CB Cormani McClain

Updated May. 30, 2024 7:04 p.m. ET

Julian "JuJu"Lewis could learn something from Cormani McClain

Though Lewis – the nation's No. 9-ranked recruit and No. 2-ranked quarterback in the class of 2025 – has been committed to USC since August 2023, he's taking visits to Indiana, Auburn and Colorado, as well as USC.

Every player should take the opportunity to visit as many college campuses as they can, and no player should limit their options in this new era of college football. This is especially true of current five-star recruits like Lewis, and former five-star recruits like McClain.

Players' bargaining power used to peak as high school seniors when coaches would say and do anything with reason — and sometimes without — to earn the commitment, let alone the signature, of a highly sought-after player. Now, that power ebbs and flows. It ebbs when a player is stuck on the bench waiting for an opportunity, and flows when he plays well. 


This cycle has become part of the college football process since 2018 with the creation of the transfer portal and has steadily gained speed with the introduction of players earning money for the use of their name, image and likeness, as well as being granted immediate eligibility following a transfer. McClain has become yet another test case for the value of a former five-star player who did not reach his billing as a true freshman.

McClain, who was the top-ranked cornerback prospect in the nation, flipped his commitment from his home-state Miami Hurricanes to Colorado in January 2023. The move led to a chorus of raucous fanfare headed into a season of unknown, the first year of Deion "Coach Prime" Sanders in Boulder. But less than a year later, not only is McClain no longer playing for the Buffaloes, but he has since transferred to Florida as a walk-on with the understanding that he'll be placed on scholarship in December after playing in nine games and starting four in Boulder.

Expect the cost of attending school at Florida to be picked up by an NIL deal(s), but that does not distract purveyors of the sport from noting just how quickly a five-star recruit's stock can fall.

With Florida defensive backs Jason Marshall and Devin Moore in the secondary, there isn't much risk to Billy Napier snagging a former five-star DB without needing to use a scholarship. And yes, the Gators need him. Florida finished with just five interceptions last year and ranked 101st in turnover margin. 

McClain's talent isn't in question. His commitment to work has been, and he's since publicly stated he wants to work and make his chance in Gainesville count.

But there's more to it than that. With Coach Prime, there always is. The attention Coach Prime garners is striking, especially coming off of a 4-8 season. People find him and his program compelling. But at the moment, that's all it's been – compelling.

Cormani McClain transfers to Florida & Colorado threatens USC to snatch five-star QB JuJu Lewis

We're still waiting for Coach Prime to produce a first-round draft pick. And, for the moment, perhaps Prime's most successful pupil has been his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who projects as a first rounder in 2025. Then there's do-everything Heisman hopeful Travis Hunter, who will likely be selected before Sanders in next year's draft.

Perhaps Lewis knows this, like he knows Colorado could be a place where he stands a chance to start right away in 2025 and make seven figures while doing it with an NIL valuation of more than $1 million — the most among high school players in 2024. There is a serious push in Boulder to flip him from USC.

Lewis also needs to weigh his development seriously, which he does: It's why he committed to USC, a program led by a head coach and play-caller who has developed three No. 1 overall selections and three Heisman winners in seven years. 

Being a quarterback at USC, especially one who can lead the Trojans to their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff and win a Big Ten or national title, means money will follow him. After all, USC isn't exactly hard up — paying Lincoln Riley $19.7 million in 2022. 

A blue blood with deep pockets feels like exactly the kind of program Lewis would want to play for. The only thing USC can't afford Lewis that Colorado could is Coach Prime, and even the most cynical fan of Riley would say that's a push at-best. Five-stars don't always play to their ranking in college, and USC has certainly had its share of five-star busts. McClain is the first five-star to demonstrate just how quickly people's opinions of your play can deteriorate at Colorado.

But Riley? With quarterbacks? That's a real prime position for a five-star recruit. And Lewis is a prime-time player.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.


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