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Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Auburn departure

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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “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.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “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.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Jake Browning, Jalen Hurts highlight Davey O’Brien Award watch list

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Once the Conference of Defenses, has the SEC morphed into the Conference of Quarterbacks?

According to the folks at the Davey O’Brien Award, that certainly could be the case as the hardware handed out annually to the nation’s top quarterback released its 2018 watch list Tuesday morning, with the SEC accounting for six of the 26 players listed.  Next up are the remaining Power Five conferences, with the Pac-12 leading that group with four, followed by three apiece for the Big Ten and ACC as well as two for the Big 12.  With two each, Conference USA and the MAC pace all Group of Five leagues, with the AAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt all seeing one player on the initial watch list.

Individually, there are a pair of two-time O’Brien Award semifinalists on the roll — Washington’s Jake Browning and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (whether Hurts gets the opportunity to three-peat as a finalist is another matter entirely).  Additionally, there are six other 2017 semifinalists on the list as well — Clemson’s Kelly Bryant, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Arizona’s Khalil Tate.

Of the 26 players on the list, 13 are listed as seniors and 12 as juniors.  The lone sophomore is Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Below is the complete 2018 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List:

Jake Bentley, South Carolina, (Jr., Opelika, Ala.)
Jake Browning, Washington (Sr., Folsom, Calif.)
Kelly Bryant, Clemson (Sr., Calhoun Falls, S.C.)
Mason Fine, North Texas (Jr., Peggs, Okla.)
Ryan Finley, NC State (Sr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (Sr., Richmond Hill, Ga.)
Andrew Ford, UMass (Sr., Camp Hill, Penn.)
Jake Fromm, Georgia (So., Warner Robins, Ga.)
Will Grier, West Virginia (Sr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Justice Hansen, Arkansas State (Sr., Edmond, Okla.)
Justin Herbert, Oregon (Jr., Eugene, Ore.)
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin (Jr., West Chester, Penn.)
Jalen Hurts, Alabama (Jr., Houston, Texas)
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo (Jr., Norton Shores, Mich.)
Daniel Jones, Duke (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Kyle Kempt, Iowa State (Sr., Massillon, Ohio)
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Drew Lock, Missouri (Sr., Lee’s Summit, Mo.)
Trace McSorley, Penn State (Sr., Ashburn, Va.)
McKenzie Milton, UCF (Jr., Kapolei, Hawaii)
Nathan Rourke, Ohio (Jr., Oakville, Ontario)
Brett Rypien, Boise State (Sr., Spokane, Wash.)
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (Jr., Stephenville, Texas)
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (Sr., Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Khalil Tate, Arizona (Jr., Inglewood, Calif.)
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State (Sr., Novato, Calif.)

Kentucky transfer Eli Brown granted immediate eligibility at WKU

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As it turns out, Western Kentucky will be the beneficiary of a Power Five playing sooner than most had expected.

When Eli Brown transferred to WKU in late March, nearly six weeks after leaving Kentucky, it was thought that the redshirt junior linebacker would have to sit out the 2018 season. However, both the Hilltoppers and the player have confirmed that Brown has been granted immediate eligibility, which will allow him to compete in 2018 as well as the 2019 season.

The school didn’t specify on what grounds the waiver was granted, although Brown had left the Wildcats for the Hilltoppers in order to be closer to family.

“Not only is Eli one of the best high school linebackers of the last decade in our area, he is an incredible young man with a powerful story,” a statement from WKU head coach Mike Sanford began. “We’re ecstatic that he will be able to play for us this season. I commend the NCAA for truly putting the student-athlete first in this decision.”

A four-star member of UK’s 2015 recruiting class, Brown was rated as the No. 20 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kentucky according to 247Sports.com. Brown was the highest-rated player in the Wildcats’ class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Brown played in 12 games in 2016. Because of injuries to others, the 6-2, 215-pound redshirt sophomore started five games this past season and was seemingly in line for significant playing time at the SEC school in 2018 prior to his decision to transfer.

Another player, this one a 2018 signee, leaves Dino Babers’ Syracuse program

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For at least the eighth time this offseason, a player has decided to exit Dino Babers‘ football program.

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, and citing a Syracuse spokesperson, running back Akeem Dixon has parted ways with the SU team. The only reason given was unspecified personal reasons.

Dixon enrolled at the university in May after signing with the Orange in February as a member of the school’s 2018 recruiting class.

A three-star signee, Dixon was rated as the No. 75 running back in the country coming out of high school in Vero Beach, Fla. Prior to his departure, the 6-0, 235-pound recruit was expected to contribute immediately as a true freshman.

Dixon was one of three running backs the Orange added this offseason, joining fellow 2018 three-star signee Jarveon Howard and Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams. The latter will be forced to sit out the 2018 season due to NCAA bylaws.

In addition to Dixon, defensive end Justin Ellis (HERE), linebacker Troy Henderson, defensive tackle Kayton Samuels (HERE) and four defensive backsJuwan Dowels, Daivon Ellison, Cordell Hudson and Rodney Williams — have all left the Orange in the last few months.

Report: Baylor LB DeMarco Artis, WR Rajah Preciado leave team

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Baylor linebacker DeMarco Artis and wide receiver Rajah Preciado have left the team, according to a report from SicEm365The site reports that the pair leave the program on good terms; both players are still on the online roster as well as the paper roster that was distributed at Big 12 media days on Monday.

Artis was a rising sophomore from Sanford, Fla. He appeared in six games as a true freshman in 2017, recording one tackle and one hurry.

Preciado was a junior from College Station, Texas. Appearing in 18 games over his freshman and sophomore seasons, Preciado did not record a catch but posted 14 career tackles and returned one kickoff for 10 yards.