Former No. 1 recruit Byron Cowart is leaving Auburn

Byron Cowart (R) celebrates a defensive stop against the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Byron Cowart, the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 class, is no longer with the Auburn football team.

After multiple reports emerged Tuesday morning, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn confirmed Cowart, a junior, was granted his release to transfer from the program.

“Byron Cowart has come to me numerous times over the last couple of weeks disappointed with playing time,” Malzahn said. “Yesterday he came to me and said he wants to quit to pursue other opportunities. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

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Cowart told Al.com his release allows him to land at any school “outside the SEC or Auburn’s 2018 schedule.” Auburn plays Washington, Southern Miss, Liberty and Alabama in addition to its conference schedule next year. Cowart said he plans to return to his home state of Florida to continue his schoolwork and care for his mother.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart said. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do. This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

Cowart, a 6-foot-3, 283-pound defensive lineman, has appeared in 26 games in his college career but has never started a game. Before this season, Cowart slid inside from end to tackle and totaled three tackles with .5 tackles for loss for the 2-1 Tigers this fall. Overall, Cowart totaled 15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble at Auburn.

Back in 2015, Cowart had some signing day drama, bringing signed letters of intent for both Auburn and Florida before ultimately choosing to play for Auburn. Will Muschamp was a major player in Cowart’s recruitment, recruiting Cowart heavily when he was head coach at Florida and carrying that relationship over to his season as defensive coordinator at Auburn. Muschamp left Auburn after one year to become head coach at South Carolina.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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