It has been a productive offseason for Byron Cowart. When it started, there were more questions than answers concerning his recruitment. But now, the nation's top prospect has a much clearer outlook.
"Before the summer I had schools that were leaders and I knew nothing about them," the 6-foot-3, 252-pound defensive end from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood said. "I was really in a hard spot. But I got everything I wanted out of this summer so it's time to lock it down and focus on the season."
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Before Cowart locks it down, he'll take one more visit to Florida this week, possibly during the weekend.
As far as what he accomplished this offseason, it is this: Cowart, along with along with four-star receivers George Campbell and Ryan Davis, have plans to take official visits to Ole Miss on Oct. 4 for the Alabama game, and to Florida on Oct. 11 for the LSU game. The trio is also deciding on which Sept. 20 game to attend - either Florida at Alabama or Clemson at Florida State.
Cowart puts the chances that the Cowart-Campbell-Davis commit to the same school at 7 out of 10.
He also seems to have narrowed his choices down to Florida and Florida State, though Oregon remains in his top three, and he said he can see Clemson and LSU joining the discussion.
"I told the other guys," said Cowart, referring to Campbell and Davis, "that I'm in a win-win situation because I'm interested in two schools and they're both in the state of Florida. Florida had one down year, they both have great defenses, and they both put defensive ends in the league."
Most recently, he was at Florida on Saturday, where CeCe Jefferson happened to be there as well. The Cowart-Campbell-Davis trio stopped by Gainesville on their way home from a two-day visit to Nashville, where they were at Vanderbilt.
While at Florida, Cowart and Jefferson went over the playbook with Brad Lawing, which was important to Cowart because the weekend before, he visited with Seminoles defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri and the two looked at Florida State's playbook.
"It's probably going to come down to coach Lawing and coach Sunseri," Cowart said. "I talk to those two a lot. Coach Lawing coached Jadeveon Clowney and coach Sunseri coached Julius Peppers. So it's like, what do you do?"
After reviewing Florida's playbook, Cowart sees himself fitting in well with either the Gators or Seminoles' defense.
"Just looking at the playbook, looking at the plays, I'm doing the exact same thing," Cowart said. "It might be on a different scale, kind of. But I'm in coverage, I'm in man with running backs, I'm lining up away from the tight end, pedal over the center - it's the same thing for both schools."
As for his visit to Vanderbilt, Cowart said that was more of an end-of-the summer getaway before season practice ramps up. He and his 7-on-7 teammates from Team Tampa went with coach Woodrow Grady to see Vanderbilt players Josh Grady and Kevin McCoy, both of whom played at Armwood and on Team Tampa.
"It was good to get up there and see family," Cowart said.
Cowart dismissed the idea that he, Davis and Campbell actually have interest in attending Vanderbilt.
"I was looking at Vanderbilt when (James Franklin) was there," Cowart said. "But (Franklin and his coaching staff) left. My guy Kyle Gibson had committed there, but now he's at UCF, so it's kind of hard to say, 'I like Vanderbilt.'
"They have a whole new staff. When I was up there, we didn't go over any plays or anything. … The staff is new and they're focusing on building relationships with their actual players. Those guys were kind of distant, but I understand because they were running their camp."
Cowart did spend time talking with new head coach Derek Mason while visiting.
"I liked him a lot," Cowart said. "He's a down-to-earth guy, a really cool person. We talked mostly down-to-earth stuff from a man-to-man standpoint. I'd been there a couple times before and I knew what they had to offer, so I just watched the practice and camp.
"It was just a vacation."
Cowart is still determining the rest of his official visit schedule and will likely take numerous unofficial visits throughout the season. He's still not sure if he'll visit one of his top schools, Oregon.
"We'll see," he said. "If I don't take an official to Oregon, I probably won't go there because I have to see the school, you know?"
Cowart will be a December graduate and plans on announcing sometime toward the end of his senior season, if not shortly after the season.
"I haven't set an exact date yet," he said.
Adam Krohn is a Southeast Region football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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