AUBURN, Ala. — Byron Cowart will admit he didn’t fulfill his own personal expectations as a freshman last season.
“It wasn’t what I thought I was going to do,” Cowart told reporters in his first interview since arriving to Auburn. “It comes with the territory. Some guys peak differently than other guys. I’m still trying to get to my peak.”
Cowart, the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2015, failed to live up to lofty expectations and admittedly struggled to adjust to defensive line coach Rodney Garner’s teaching. Despite appearing in 13 games, Cowart recorded a mere six tackles.
It proved to be a difficult time for the Seffner, Fla., native, who, as the prized recruit of Auburn’s class, was expected to contribute immediately.
“It was hard in the beginning, but I came in to learn, anyway,” Cowart said of the hype that came with his stature. “I didn’t come in trying to boast and brag, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.’ I just came in to learn. It was hard. It was an adjustment. But I learned everyone at this level is good. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day.”
As his on-field struggles became more apparent, Cowart found his way into the spotlight for a comment he made back in August. The 6-foot-3, 277-pound defensive end was frustrated for “being penalized because i was the number 1 player but I’m struggling,” he said in the Tweet.
It added to further speculation that he wasn’t happy at Auburn.
“It was difficult at first, but Coach G (Garner) told me the best way to cancel all of that is to stay off of Twitter,” Cowart said. “When you’re at the level of popularity, you have to be careful what you Tweet.”
The message has since been received.
Following Auburn’s 31-10 win over Memphis in December, Cowart says he’s made significant strides under Garner.
“I’m just trying to take Coach G’s (Garner) coaching and just get better,” Cowart said. “(The) competition with guys coming in and stuff, you don’t want to get passed up. I just want to take the coaching and get better. I feel like I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet.”
Cowart added: “It’s intense (Garner’s coaching), but I need it. Coming from my family — just me and my mom — I need a strong figure in my life to coach me and be on me.”
Cowart said he’s been keen on improving his mechanics this offseason. But his biggest task, however, has been improving his mental toughness.
“That’s the biggest thing, just being able to move on to the next play,” Cowart said. “If you mess up on the last play, don’t let it affect the next play. If you let it affect the next play, then you’re affecting the whole team.”