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Byron Cowart Requests Release From Auburn

By on September 19th, 2017 in Football, News 12 Comments »
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Julie Bennett/al.com

It has seemed inevitable for the last year that Byron Cowart, one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school, would eventually transfer from Auburn. While his decision may have been surprising to some, the transfer of five-star recruits isn’t anything new in the SEC. Take SEC West foes Texas A&M and Alabama, for example. The Aggies and Tide both have had multiple five-star quarterbacks leave their programs. 

Of course, Alabama has ridiculous turnover because of the sheer number of elite prospects that end up in Tuscaloosa. The issue with elite recruits, especially at quarterback, has put Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin on the hottest seat in the SEC.

Auburn began battling with the nation’s elite recruiters when Gus Malzahn came to the Plains. In that time, Auburn has signed 13 five-star recruits (according to Rivals), including Byron Cowart.

He was Auburn’s highest ranked signee, but he never lived up to his lofty five-star ranking. You may recall our scouting report of Cowart, where I shared some early thoughts that he wasn’t as good as advertised. 

It wasn’t surprising that he couldn’t find traction early as a true freshman in 2015. But his inability to find playing time as a sophomore had to be disheartening as incoming freshman five-star recruits Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown earned immediate playing time. Disturbingly for Cowart, he was banished to the third string entering 2017.

At the start of the season, Cowart made the move to defensive tackle from defensive end when freshman Nick Coe pushed him further down the depth chart. 

The final straw may have come this Saturday when Coe earned the starting nod against Mercer in place of Marlon Davidson. While Cowart was penciled in as a defensive tackle, it would have been a great time to move him to his natural spot, at least for a game. Instead, Cowart played limited snaps, recording a single tackle, while freshman Coe and Big Kat Bryant received the bulk of playing time. 

Was the issue with Cowart just a personal problem, such as an attitude issue? Or could it be part of a systemic problem the Auburn staff has in identifying and developing recruits into SEC caliber players? 

A deeper look into the situation reveals a worrisome trend: the inability of blue-chip, skill-position recruits to pan out. Of those 13 five-star recruits, five were kicked off the team or transferred, including skill-position players Michael Dyer, Roc Thomas, Duke Williams, and Jovon Robinson. Only Cam Newton panned out as a skill-position recruit, but he was a “one-and-done” player from the beginning.

Auburn’s success stories include Shon Coleman, Montravius Adams, Kris Frost, Carl Lawson and Tré Williams. Although Kris Frost never lived up to his five-star billing, he was a heavy contributor over his career as while battling injury and coaching turnover. Obviously, this is a credit to the defensive staff, in particular D-line coach Rodney Garner. 

Garner said Cowart, “Came in with unrealistic expectations. [The media] put more pressure on the kid than he could ever live up to. It’s a process. As he continues to get better, he will play. Just because your stars and ratings don’t match up, that’s on you.”

That sentiment has been attributed to Cowart each year that he has been on the Plains, but it isn’t something that has been said about fellow five-star guys Marlon Davidson or Derrick Brown. In fact, the opposite has been echoed about both of them from the day they arrived.

According to the coaches and players, both showed up ready to play on day one and never looked like freshmen. This is a primary reason that Cowart never made headway on the depth chart. He leaves Auburn with just 15 tackles, with 1.5 for losses, in his 26-game college career.

12 Comments

  1. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Unfortunately, this is life. Produce, stand out from the equals in your position, or you get passed over.

  2. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    Zach –
    I appreciate your insight but I simply cannot fully agree with everything you state in this post. I really don’t understand how a kid between 18 and 20 not making the grade can be classified as a “systemic problem” with the coaching staff. This same thing happens everywhere.
    I, for one, wish there were no “stars” for recruits. Let the coaches go see them play, meet them, and then perhaps give an offer.
    In this case, Cowart couldn’t do the job so, yeah, somebody else gets the accolades. This isn’t the fault of Davidson and Brown – it’s the fault of Cowart – and it is not a “systemic problem”.
    I have always respected your opinion – and I still do – just happens that I don’t agree with this one… Sorry.

    But…
    War Damn Eagle!!
    And let’s hope AU kicks the other Tigers on Saturday night!

    • Tigerpharm says:

      Same here Zach

      And if the coaches can not identify and help develop players how did the following players make it to the NFL?

      Nick Marshall
      Cameron Artis Payne
      Trey Mason
      Dee Ford
      Jay Prosch
      Cory Lemoier
      Cassanova Mc Kinsey
      Greg Robinson
      C. J. Uzomah
      Gabe Wright
      Angelo Blackson
      Sammie Coates
      Blake Countess
      Ricardo Louis
      Joshua Holsey
      Carl Lawson
      Montravius Adams
      Rudy Ford
      Quan Bray
      Corey Grant
      Jonathan Jones
      Brandon King
      Jermaine Whitehead
      Cody Parkey
      Cam Newton

  3. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    Actually, I never state that it is a problem. I asked if it is.

    I will debate you on this:

    If the coaching staff is developing talent, how could we be 8-5?

    Also, the nfl has been pretty clear that skill position players from Auburn arrive under developed.

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      Well, yeah Zach, you did kinda state that it is a problem – the question you asked is “could it be part of a systemic problem…”. You didn’t ask if there is a systemic problem.

      (Full quote: “Was the issue with Cowart just a personal problem, such as an attitude issue? Or could it be part of a systemic problem the Auburn staff has in identifying and developing recruits into SEC caliber players?”)

      As for the debate – I don’t see having a record of 8-5 as an issue with player development.
      This is still on the coaches, for sure, but musical chair QB’s for the Clemson game, an injured Sean White against UGA; Bama being Bama; and then SW getting further injured in the Sugar Bowl is the reason for the record.

      This, to me, isn’t player development – this is a coaching staff that didn’t properly game plan, didn’t properly execute said game plan, made no adjustments during games, and let a wounded QB try to shoulder the team.

      • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

        Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray. All in the NFL. All had issues with drops while at Auburn. Drops. The most critical part of a WR’s game.

        The NFL pros have commented on Coates and Louis, specifically, on being under developed. Coates, himself has said as much.

        • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

          No argument in that regard but the Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, just remarked that Jonathan Jones has “textbook technique” – The Patriots did not teach him those techniques this quickly.
          And “drops” are WR’s not doing their job and catching the $%^#&$ ball.
          Maybe I simply misunderstood your definition of “player development”. I am about half ignorant so…
          But, Cam Newton, Nick Fairley (prior to having a medical issue), Cody Parkey, Carl Lawson, and Montravious Adams (prior to a foot injury) – all in the NFL and seemingly doing fine.
          And do you not think that Legatron will go pro and be fine?

          You asked me about the 8-5 record and I responded. And I still don’t think that record is a result of player development or lack thereof.

          And, Zach, my feathers are not even remotely ruffled – I don’t get angry over blog banter. We can agree to disagree and still be TET friends and pull for our Tigers but I still believe the 8-5 record was caused for the reasons I earlier stated.

    • AuJ says:

      So because a #1 DL prospect didn’t turn out, that somehow means there is a systematic failure in the coaching staff? Interesting logic. So, forget the players on the 2 deep DL rotation that are producing and making big plays. Instead let’s overreact when a #1 prospect leaves after having no big impact on the team in 3 years and then call it “systematic failure” of coaching. C’mon man.
      How exactly has the NFL been clear that skill players from Auburn arrive under developed? Please share the data.

  4. neonbets says:

    It is possible that Malzahn and Co have a systemic problem in developing incoming-blue-chip talent.

    Of course, it’s also possible that Malzahn and Co is doing a stellar job in developing diamonds in the rough who wind up surpassing the original blue chippers and making them seem like busts.

    Seems like a mix of both to me.

  5. dyingculture dyingculture says:

    Last year, when Marlon Davidson got hurt for a couple of games, that could have been Cowart’s big chance to prove himself, as Cowart was listed as Davidson’s backup. Instead, Garner moved Derrick Brown, a 330-lb true freshman DT, over to DE to cover for Davidson (and Brown did do a pretty good job). Pretty much said it all where Cowart stood.

  6. Tiger4Life says:

    #1 Recruit in the nation? It would nice to have him, but coaches get the last word on who plays– and usually it is those they feel give Auburn the best chance to win…
    To be honest, when Gus hired Kevin Steele– he said he wanted to bring some stability to that side of the ball… With our offensive struggles of late, one wonders if the same needs to be done in regards to the offense and offensive recruiting in particular…

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      When AU hired Steele there were a lot of fans, both for AU and for other places he had been, who frowned on that particular hire. I think Steele has done an awesome job and hope AU can continue to retain him.
      As to your point, maybe the offense does need that same type of “stability” and “recruiting” — sure as heck fire won’t hurt anything!

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