The Colorado Buffaloes had arguably their best recruiting class in the history of the program, as a 1-11 program, that had just hired a new head coach, and was thought to be behind the 8-ball on NIL.

How earth did they accomplish that feat?

Coach Prime.

The captivating CEO of the Buffs program has overhauled the culture and recruiting presence of the Buffaloes in just a few short months, and Colorado football fans are already reaping the rewards of his labor.

What were the biggest headlines from Prime’s first National Signing Day of the regular recruiting period, and who are the latest prospects that CU stole away from a blue-blood power? Let’s take a look.

Cormani McClain officially signs with the Colorado Buffaloes

Some members of the Buffalo herd may take Cormani McClain’s signing today for granted, and they would be foolish to do so.

Throughout the entire process, McClain’s recruitment has been a winding trail. He was originally widely expected to go to the University of Florida to become a Gator, before surprisingly committing to the University of Miami Hurricanes. Then, right before the Early National Signing Day, after two months of being committed to Miami, McClain decided to not sign and de-commit from the school.

So, even though he ultimately decided the University of Colorado was the right fit for him, it only made sense to be cautious until pen was put to paper.

Today, that pen was put to paper, and history was made for the Buffs football program.

Cormani McClain automatically becomes the third-highest-rated freshman recruit in program history, the highest-rated defensive freshman recruit in program history, and the highest-rated freshman recruit overall since 2008.

He’s a hyper-athletic cornerback who initially got his start at wide receiver, and is one of 247Sports’ 10 highest-rated cornerback recruits ever. The No. 1 player on that top-10 list, Travis Hunter, was also added to the Colorado Buffaloes’ roster this offseason.

McClain was compared to Seattle Seahawks freak rookie standout Tariq Woolen by 247Sports, in a write-up from Andrew Ivins that described him as, “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.”

Plus, his wide receiver background gives him elite ball skills, which should make him a magnet for big plays.

Coach Prime dominates the transfer portal

To no one’s surprise, Coach Prime’s staff continued their domination of the transfer portal on the first day of the second phase of National Signing Day.

Five of the six new additions announced on Wednesday were transfer-portal players, with four of those five coming from SEC schools, and three of those five entering college with at least a 4-Star rating. That’s a lot of premium talent that just happened to struggle to break through at the SEC level.

Now, some of those players, like Fresno St.’s Leonard Payne Jr. or Kentucky’s Kavosiey Smoke are a little less touted (they were recruited out of high school as 2-Star and 3-Star talents, respectively) but still could potentially bring a lot to the table at some major positions of need for the Colorado Buffaloes.

With Alex Fontenot gone, the Buffaloes are down their best running back and will likely turn to a committee approach to carry their run game. Adding Smoke, an SEC back averaging over five yards per carry over his five-year college career, will spruce that committee up considerably.

Meanwhile, as much as the offensive line is dwelled on, the defensive line was equally bad for the Colorado Buffaloes a season ago. Prime has already made some critical additions here, but those were generally focused on rushing the passer. Payne Jr. is a big body that can eat up blocks, fill rushing lanes, and stifle the ground game of Colorado’s opponents.

Other transfer recruits, like Yousef Mugharbil, Myles Slusher, and Demouy Kennedy look like potentially overlooked stars.

Mugharbil was a 4-Star add for the Florida Gators just last offseason, but after not seeing the field at all as a freshman, he decided to head to Boulder, where he’ll likely be a plug-and-play starter. He might be rated as a 3-Star now, but that high school pedigree matters, and he hasn’t put anything on tape that would lead to the drop in rating, because he hasn’t put anything on tape whatsoever.

Slusher has a little more tread on his tires, as a member of the 2020 class, but is another excellent high-ceiling proposition. Slusher landed at Arkansas as a 4-star safety with idyllic, do-everything skills. As a high school star, he showed the ability to thrive in both deep coverage, and around the line of scrimmage as run-defender, or as a nickel-corner. At Colorado, he could be the finishing touch to an elite secondary, that already boasted some awesome cornerback talent.

Kennedy might have been the most exciting add of them all though, as he came as a complete surprise, but we’ll discuss him more in the next section.

Colorado Buffaloes pull off two huge surprises

On the eve of the big signing day, one of Coach Prime’s assistants, defensive ends coach and assistant coach Nick Williams, said in one of their in-house YouTube videos that it would be the best signing day the Buffaloes have ever seen and that the team would have, “a few more surprises.”

Well, Coach Prime’s staff certainly delivered on that promise come Wednesday, as two monumental moves seemingly came out of the blue.

First, they snagged Demouy Kennedy — a former 4-Star with a 0.982 composite score, who was rated as the third-best inside linebacker in his 2020 high school class — from Alabama, by way of the transfer portal.

The Kennedy addition was a complete surprise, and will immediately help upgrade the Buffs’ front seven.

During his National Signing Day press conference, Coach Prime discussed his belief that you build from the outside in, on defense. Now that he’s gotten an elite secondary built up, it makes sense that he’s turning his eyes toward shoring up the spine of the Colorado defense.

Kennedy, who was a special teams ace at Alabama, but struggled to crack the starting defense, should make an immediate impact on the Buffaloes’ defensive roster.

Then, Brandon Baker, one of the high school recruits that visited the campus this past weekend, and the No. 4 offensive tackle recruit in the 2024 class, seemingly hinted at an impending commitment to the University.

Now, it’s very clearly not an official commitment, but it’s hard to think what else Baker could be hinting towards.

Landing Baker would be a huge get for Coach Prime, as it would address one of Colorado’s biggest lingering needs, and it would help establish a Mater Dei pipeline — something that’s clearly a priority for the new Buffalo regime.

Several of the highly touted recruits that visited this past week were from Mater Dei, and nabbing Baker — who, if signed in 2024, would become the Buffaloes’ second-highest-rated offensive line recruit ever, and fifth-highest-rated recruit overall ever — could be the first domino.