Monday brought some surprising news with five-star Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) linebacker VanDarius Cowan, who was dismissed from his high school program after being initially suspended for a personal foul in the first quarter of his last game, Thursday. After that point, per reports, his conduct while not in the game didn't aid his Gator teammates in a tough loss. Three days later, in speaking to Scout, he had no idea he would be dismissed.
Cowan would wish his former teammates well before Tweeting the news that the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he has been committed for more than six months, remains behind him and will honor his scholarship.
The days before that, the senior reported a great time during his first official visit, which was to the program he's long been pledged to.
"My official visit to Alabama felt the same, you get treated the same, same amount of love, talking to everybody," he said. "You know, it's home. It was normal, the same as my other visits, they always treat you the same no matter what.
"It was a good time as always."
Since Cowan's last game, now his final one, was on Thursday he was able to begin his official visit before most other recruits on Friday. His mother accompanied him and it was her initial Tuscaloosa experience.
"It was her first time, she loved it, she didn't wanna leave," he said. "She's still talking about it, she wishes she could have stayed their longer. She's talking about moving to town someday. It was everything, the area, the atmosphere, the people, she just loved everything."
Constant in his firm status with 'Bama, Cowan says he allowed his mother to spend a lot of time with the coaching staff, including Nick Saban, without him around in order for her to become more accustomed to the program.
On Saturday, while admitting the offense wasn't quite up to par in the win over Texas A&M, Cowan of course was keyed into the other side of the ball.
"The defense held their own, got another defensive touchdown. The interception right after we threw one was amazing. The atmosphere there is always amazing," he said. "I was glued in to Tim Williams and Reuben Foster, I would notice certain things Texas A&M was doing, like running the running back out of the backfield to draw Reuben out of the box, and once you put Reuben out of the box the quarterback was just taking off and running.
"With Tim, I was just watching him pass-rush and see how they try to stop that man, I haven't seen a team stop him yet, the guy is like a pass-rushing legend, almost. He just goes."
Cowan wants to continue to take part of what he sees into his own game ahead of graduating from Palm Beach Gardens in December in order to enroll at UA in January.
"When I was up there this summer I took some of the things I learned and put them in my game this year," he said. "My run-stopping had got way better than last year, just keying the back-side guard, front-side guard, actually using my hands on the offensive linemen, shedding off blocks. That kind of stuff. We get into my game now and how I can improve, like stopping my false-steps, working on my eyes, stuff like that. For next year it's more about coming in and learning the playbook, it's not about playing time -- I want to be the smartest guy on the field. I want to learn everything, be able to train at multiple positions, I want to be versatile and everything.
"I want to be the fusion of Reuben and Tim...that mean and gritty linebacker in the box and then be able to be smooth and fluid on the pass-rush. I'm listed right now as an inside linebacker but me and coach (Tosh) Lupoi have talked three or four times about pass-rush and stuff just like Reggie Ragland. He was in the box, pass-rushed sometimes. Coach says in my film I don't pass-rush a lot but when I do, it's fluid, smooth and natural even though I don't really work on it. So once I work on it, it will be way better."
The X's and O's visit experience, being hosted by fellow versatile talent Rashaan Evans and continued talks with the coaching staff only strengthens the commitment status to Alabama.
"It keeps me locked in, makes me wanna play at 'Bama, you know, savages wanna play with savages," Cowan said. "100 percent, I'll be there in January, I'm not changing my mind."
In the meantime and while on campus, there is also a concerted effort to build on the current No. 1 class in the Scout recruiting rankings. As public and vocal as any of the 22 commitments in the class of 2017, he takes a personal approach depending on the target. It was more of the same over the weekend.
"I don't change my pitch, it's the same ole same ole," he said. "I walked up to Stanford Samuels III and I was like, 'you like ice? You like watches? Rings? Come here, get all that.' Stanford knows what's up. Then I gave him the difference between (Alabama defensive coordinator) coach (Jeremy) Pruitt and (FSU defensive coordinator) coach Kelly. There's a big difference, really big difference, two different types of coaches. One coach is winning one coach is not doing so hot right now. That plays a big part in Stanford's commitment to Florida State and if he was to come to Alabama -- that defensive coordinator position. I told him, 'coach Kelly is going to have you playing D-line, bruh, he don't know what he's doing over there.'
"I don't wanna skip a beat. When Tim, Reuben, all those guys leave, I want the new guys in those spots to be able to do the same thing. I don't want to see us get beat, I don't want to miss a step, none of that."
Despite recruiting others, including newest pledge Major Tennison, Cowan will continue to take official visits elsewhere. He expects to be at LSU when it hosts Alabama November 5 and at Georgia the following week. After the season is completed, he had planned to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game, but his jersey presentation was cancelled following his team dismissal Monday. According to multiple reports, his status in the early January game is under appeal.
Senior Highlights: Vandarius Cowan