AUBURN, Ala. — A brand-new Byron Cowart for Auburn football is coming soon to a stadium near you.
That’s what sophomore defensive end Marlon Davidson said Tuesday, following Auburn’s sixth spring practice of 2017. Davidson claims his junior teammate and former backup is a new man after moving from end to tackle.
“A different Byron, that’s all I can say,” Davidson said. “He’s a different Byron. Byron has come a long way, and every day, he’s taken a step forward. Every day, he’s always telling me, ‘Come on, baby. We got it, baby.’ He’s got that swag about him now. He’s looking great.”
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Cowart, a former consensus 5-star prospect who was ranked as high as No. 1 nationally by recruiting services, made the switch to the interior line this offseason after two underwhelming years. The Florida native has 12 career tackles and zero sacks to his name.
He spent most of 2016 backing up Davidson, who won the starting job at defensive end as a true freshman. But after the departure of three senior defensive tackles, Cowart is a boost to the Tigers’ depth down the middle.
“I feel like the move he made is a good move for his career, you know?” junior linebacker Darrell Williams said. “Moving from end to tackle, that’s going to cause a lot of mismatches in the inside. So I feel like a lot of that playing with more swag and stuff has come from him feeling a little better.”
So far in spring practice, Cowart has rotated at defensive tackle with a number of key names, including returning starter Dontavius Russell, former 5-star Derrick Brown and fellow junior Andrew Williams.
Auburn could flex him out at defensive end in certain situations, but defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said the Tigers want him mostly at tackle.
“We’re going to keep things really, really simple and try to not do a lot of moving around in the spring,” Steele said earlier this month. “For those guys that are going to cross train, we will get a couple of snaps here and there. … But right now, he’s going to be in the three (technique).”
According to his teammates, the position change has done wonders for Cowart’s confidence. Davidson said he could tell Cowart “got down” in 2016, but he has a new attitude this spring.
“He feels good while he’s playing,” Williams added.
SPRING PRACTICE: Auburn shifts focus to first scrimmage in return
Cowart has transformed his body with the move inside. Williams said the junior is now around 280 pounds, “if not more.”
“He can (fill gaps at tackle),” Williams said. “He just got bigger. … He’s getting a lot bigger and a lot stronger, and I feel like he can do it, definitely.”
Cowart still has work to do this season in learning the ins and outs of defensive tackle after years of primarily being an edge player.
However, Davidson thinks Cowart has what it takes to make the jump in 2017.
“Just like playing on the end, it’s a transition, you know?” Davidson said. “How to take on blocks, how to do this, learning plays… Just different things, man. It’s nothing that (Cowart) just can’t achieve.”