Auburn lands top recruit Byron Cowart — eventually

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Auburn almost had a Malik McDowell drama on its hands.

On Wednesday morning, defensive end Byron Cowart went on live TV and said he was heading to Auburn. But not long after that, rumblings started making the rounds that the top prospect on ESPN's top 300 list hadn't faxed in his letter of intent.

The same thing happened to Michigan State last year, when McDowell told reporters he was signing, but his mother wouldn't let him fax it in.

Like with the McDowell-Michigan State situation, the Cowart-Auburn situation resolved itself — only faster.

The McDowell saga dragged on, but by late Wednesday afternoon, Auburn had the paperwork in hand.

Cowart said at the urging of family, he held of on faxing just to make sure his "heart is there."

Cowart had given his high school coach in Florida two signed letters, one for Auburn and one for Florida. He originally had leaned toward Florida and was recruited there by then-coach Will Muschamp, but Muschamp was fired in November and became defensive coordinator at Auburn.

That played a role in Cowart's final decision.

"It put the icing on the cake," Cowart told ESPN. "I was considering Auburn before, and it was a coincidence they got Coach Muschamp. I wasn't going to take a visit. He helped them to get me to take a visit. After that, I was able to see everything for myself, and I'm like, 'OK, so you guys were telling the truth.' "

New Florida coach Jim McElwain did sit down with Cowart in his bid at the top prospect, and Cowart said it was a tough decision.

Cowart called Florida "a team on the rise."

While Florida lost Cowart, it did land fellow five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson.

Something big is Bruin

UCLA sure is stoked.

The Bruins had a monster day, highlighted by the signing of the son of acclaimed rapper Snoop Dogg, receiver Cordell Broadus.

Broadus was considering Snoop Dogg's favorite school, USC, but went a different direction with the blessing of his father, Calvin Broadus.

"UCLA presented the best platform for him when his football career is over," Snoop Dogg told the Los Angeles Times.

Broadus told reporters he's had a firm offer from UCLA since the ninth grade

Coach Jim Mora took over in December 2011, when Snoop's son was a freshman at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas.

That wasn't the only highlight for UCLA, which introduced a class 19 deep, with all but two having at least one four- or five-star ranking to their credit.

That includes Connecticut five-star tight end Chris Clark, a top Michigan target.

Win some, lose some

Pat Narduzzi was under the gun at Pittsburgh.

With only a few weeks to salvage his first recruiting class, the former Michigan State defensive coordinator had one notable win and one notable loss.

The loss was bigger, though, because it was on Narduzzi's preferred side of the ball.

Three-star defensive end Shawn Curtis had committed to Narduzzi in late January, but shocked many people by signing with Mississippi.

Narduzzi did pick up a quarterback transfer from Tennessee, Nathan Peterman, who as a graduate student is eligible to play immediately.

Just after 7 a.m., the time recruits could start sending in letters, Pittsburgh got one from the top recruit in Pennsylvania, four-star defensive back Jordan Whitehead, who spurned Penn State and West Virginia.

"He can do it all," said Narduzzi, adding he never was worried about losing Whitehead.

Quantity, quality

When you think Southeastern Conference, Tennessee isn't the first team that pops into your mind — or the fifth.

But with a class of 29 recruits, Tennessee earned the No. 5 ranking by ESPN.

That's quite a day for Butch Jones, the former Central Michigan coach entering his third year.

The biggest coup was five-star offensive lineman Drew Richmond, the top prospect in Tennessee who had been solidly committed to Mississippi for several months. That changed recently, and when Richmond attended a Tennessee basketball game last weekend, the student section gave him a very warm welcome, according to the Tennessean.

In honor of the Richmond signing, Jones even paid tribute at his news conference, wearing a bow tie — a signature part of Richmond's wardrobe.

"The things we'll do in recruiting," Jones said.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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