Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is ready to let true freshman Byron Cowart loose on the SEC.
Addressing reporters Sunday night, Muschamp was asked if Cowart would be used as a situational pass-rusher.
Muschamp stopped short of calling Cowart a starter, but was very clear in stating the 6-foot-3, 277-pounder will have an expanded role on the defense when the Tigers head to the Georgia Dome Saturday to face Louisville.
“Byron is going to play, it doesn't matter first down, second down, third down,” Muschamp said. “He's going to play in the game and play a lot."
Coming out of high school, the 5-start prospect was one of the top recruits in the country getting the coveted No. 1 ranking in ESPN’s top 300, and the No. 1 spot in the Rivals 100.
He had 11 sacks as a senior at Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, and was the MVP of the Under Armour All-American Game.
Cowart picked the Tigers over Florida on signing day last year, and is now in position to be one of the building blocks of a defensive front that features returning starter Montravius Adams and a healthy Carl Lawson.
Adams, who started 10 games last season, has seen Cowart’s potential during training camp with the way the freshman can “move off the ball” and “get off tackles and make plays.”
The tackle said one of the ingredients Auburn’s defense was missing last season was a consistent pass rush off the edge.
“Having all that this year I think it’s going to help a lot,” Adams said.
As Auburn locks in on Louisville, Muschamp thinks freshman like Cowart will only continue to improve.
"I think the last week or so he's been a much improved guy, but we continue to narrow down game-plan wise what we do,” Muschamp said. “It's certainly helped him, and it's helped all the freshman. We are in the mode of installation in the early part of camp, there's a lot thrown at them and we start to narrow down things down during game week.”
While Muschamp listed a number of other freshman that might contribute -- a list that includes linebacker Jeff Holland, linebacker Darrell Williams, defensive back Jeremiah Dinson, defensive back Tim Irvin, defensive back Carlton Davis and defensive back Javaris Davis -- no one will be as big of a part of the game plan as Cowart.
Adams smiled talking about Cowart’s potential impact, but knows from his own experience that nothing can truly prepare a true freshman for the atmosphere of college football.
t ready to see how it is when 90,000 fans are out there because it will be a little different then,” Adams said, with a laugh. “I think he’s ready to play. I’m just ready to see him help the team.”