For the second consecutive year, the world thought Texas was back. And for the second consecutive year, the Maryland Terrapins crashed the party. Last year, wide receiver D.J. Moore broke out with 7 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. It helped kick-start his final season with the program before becoming a 1st-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
This year, things were a bit more tough to come by offensively. Ignore that the Terps did manage to scratch out 34 points on their way to a 34-29 victory. If there was a breakout player who announced his presence to the world in Week 1 for the Terps, that honor would go to defensive lineman Byron Cowart.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. A five-star recruit who originally committed to the Auburn program. Cowart was with the Tigers from 2015-2017, logging just 15 total tackles in 26 total games. Cowart would play in parts of three seasons before leaving the Tigers for a JUCO program last September.
Byron alluded to the 2016 departure of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as the catalyst for him leaving the Tigers. He reportedly also had some family matters that were impacting his performance in class and on the football field.
Now, after Week 1 of the 2018 season? Cowart is a starting defensive end for the Maryland Terrapins and if his performance against Texas is any indication, he's ready to put those five-star skills to use.
I was highly impressed with Cowart's physicality up front. Facing off against redshirt senior Left Tackle Calvin Anderson for the majority of the game, Cowart was a load up front. On more than one occasion, Cowart was able to generate pressure through force in his hands.
Collapsing Anderson with a potent punch and length, Cowart was a thorn in the side of the backs thanks to his skill in pushing the line of scrimmage. Without much room to run, the Longhorns averaged less than 4.0 (3.9, to be exact) yards per rush attempt and were forced to try to win the game on the arm of QB Sam Ehlinger.
And there was where Cowart's efforts shined the brightest against Texas. There is a lot of power in his game, but there's also several attractive uses of Cowart's hands that gave Texas fits in pass protection. Cowart's first flashing rep came when he doubled back inside on a pass rush against Anderson.
There was deliberate intent with the outside push before an inside push to the B-gap. Anderson was able to utilize an arm over technique to drop the hands of his blocker. From there, functional strength to play through lateral resistance allowed Cowart to disrupt the throw.
Entering the season, it was teammate and fellow defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam who was held in high regard. But in Cowart, teams will have a new name to circle. His functional play strength, persistence as a B-gap pass rusher and length, will draw appeal from scouts as he's able to sustain that success this season.
And redshirt junior, the NFL isn't far off. Helping wreak havoc in the Big Ten may be just what the scouts ordered.