You don’t read very many scouting reports that begin: “When you watch Cowan play, you see violence” — a sentence that should makes everyone reading this inappropriately tingle.
But, I’m not sure that there is a better way to describe his game: He is an expert in malevolence; a terrifyingly fast speed rusher; he is relentless pursing the ball; he gets east-west with his great feet and agility; and, at the end of the play, he is a punishing tackler. In many respects, he combines the violence and versatility of Ryan Anderson, the sheer nastiness of Reuben foster, and the speed and polished pass-rushing chops of Tim Williams. Like Williams, he is not comfortable in pass defense, but he enters with a nearly complete line of scrimmage game as a Jack LB. Cowan is not a one position pony though — he can be moved all over the field. Throughout his career he has played inside and outside linebacker and has even played some end. He is a mismatch waiting to be exploited.
Cowan’s trajectory seemed off the charts entering his senior season at Palm Beach Gardens HS (FL). The 6’4” 235 pounder was courted by most elite programs, and it was a horse race between FSU and Alabama as to who would retain his services. Cowan chose the Tide early his senior, and then seemingly everything went off the rails. Vandarius had a series of self-inflicted disciplinary issues in high school -- including the incident that resulted him being kicked off the team, where he was cutting up on the sidelines, eating, and playing grab-ass with people in the stands after being pulled from the game. Making the story worse, it was a playoff elimination game for his team...in a game that West Palm Beach was losing...and his penalties were of the boneheaded personal foul variety. Ouch
The dismissal resulted in Cowan’s senior campaign being cut short, and ultimately meant that the Army All-American could not participate in the post-season all-star circuits, despite being a 4- or 5-star recruit according to every service. Saban never publicly backed off of Cowan, but it is clear that the staff did their due diligence, while still keeping channels open to Cowan and monitoring his progress.
“We did a significant amount of investigating in terms of what his character issues might have been relative to his team,” Saban said. “We interviewed a lot of people in the school. We interviewed his coaches. We spent a significant amount of time with him. We evaluated how he’s improved academically to try to make the choice and decision as to whether he was someone that we wanted to have involved in our program.
“I think a lot of the players in this class really like him in terms of their relationship with him. We’re looking forward to helping him be successful here.”
Shorter version: The staff and his teammates will correct that behavior and make sure he does what needs to do to stay eligible and follow team rules.
There have been a few players that came in with discipline issues, or that spent time in the doghouse early in their career: Tim Williams and Kenyan Drake being just the most prominent, and Tony Brown being the most consistent. So, the track record is there for team pressure and coaching to improve player attitudes and induce smarter play. But, Vandarius’ career and success is in his own hands, and, more importantly, between his ears. Because athletically speaking, there is little lacking that he could not be coached to improve upon or in which he does not already excel.
There are conflicting reports as to whether Cowan will enroll in Spring Session Two or will arrive in Summer when Freshmen report. He has already qualified and is eligible, so that is the important part.