Byron Cowart, the No. 3 national recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite, chose Auburn over Florida on National Signing Day. Cowart is a consensus five-star recruit who received a composite rating of 0.9987 and is listed as the No. 1 defensive end in the nation.
He announced the Tigers live on ESPNU, switching his high school's hat for a navy Auburn hat.
That was followed by some apparent drama involving (at best) severe miscommunication between Cowart and his high school coach, who was in charge of faxing in the documentation. Hours later:
Malzahn announces they "have just received Byron Cowart's paperwork."— WarEagleExtra (@wareagleextra) February 4, 2015
It had been a tough race to predict all along:
"Cowart plays the recruiting game with the best of 'em," said Bud Elliott. "But two things have remained constant: his connection with Will Muschamp and his affinity for Florida. Picking between Auburn and Florida will be tough. During Armwood coach Sean Callahan's tenure, the Gators have had a leg up on signing his stars, and Callahan's son, Kirk, is the new defensive backs coach for the Gators. But I'm picking the Tigers because of the Muschamp connection."
Cowart is a 6'4, 250-pound pass rusher with a reported 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds. During his senior season at Armwood High School in Seffner, Fla., Cowart racked up 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks to help lead the Hawks to a 15-0 record before the team lost in the Florida Class 6A state championship game.
He took official visits to Maryland and Alabama in addition to the pair of finalists, but canceled an official visit that he was expected to take to visit Florida State in the final weekend before National Signing Day.
With no clear-cut consensus for the top prospect in the nation, there's an argument to be made for Cowart as the No. 1 recruit. Wescott Eberts think he's one of five players with an argument as the No. 1 prospect because of his already polished pass-rushing abilities:
"His ability to use a number of different pass-rushing moves is what sets Cowart apart. Most prospects get by on natural ability, but Cowart is the rare player who has a high-level understanding of how to his hands as a pass rusher. especially on rip and swim moves."
Elliott wasn't as convinced in his scouting report of Cowart, saying that the defensive end is "closer to his ceiling" than other prospects, although he does believe the recruit is a player with the potential to be a multi-year starter for a power-conference team:
"At his best, Cowart can overwhelm opposing blockers with his strength and quickness. He really does a great job of keeping his feet moving on contact. He also changes directions pretty well, and his closing speed in the open field is also good.
"Cowart does not have the most developed repertoire of moves, and improvement in his game will likely come from using better technique. While he does show impressive quickness and burst in his highlights, he must show it more consistently in games."
Cowart is listed as ESPN's top-rated recruit in the nation and was one of three players to receive a rating of 93.