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Auburn finishes recruiting strong with signing day pledges led by DE Byron Cowart

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The Auburn Tigers celebrated, and then they waited.

The Tigers landed one of the nation's top prospects in defensive end Byron Cowart's nationally televised announcement early Wednesday morning. Nearly seven hours later, coach Gus Malzahn said Auburn had received Cowart's letter of intent after speculation and reports that he was wavering on his decision.

Rated the nation's No. 1 prospect by both Rivals and ESPN, Cowart was the biggest of several signing day prizes that pushed Auburn's recruiting class into the top 10.

"We felt very good about it all along," said Malzahn, adding that Auburn coaches had been communicating with Cowart during the day. "I know the media, uncertainty and all that, but we felt good about it the whole time."

Auburn got a recruiting boost from the addition of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp two weeks after he finished his tenure as Florida's coach even beyond Cowart. The Tigers beat the Gators on Cowart, linebacker Jeffery Holland, wide receiver Ryan Davis and offensive lineman Mike Horton on Wednesday.

Other signing day pledges include defensive back Carlton Davis, wide receiver Darius Slayton and cornerback Javarius Davis, plus others who committed a day earlier.

The Tigers were especially in search of defensive backs who can cover and pass rushers, two significant liabilities from last season's defense.

PHOTO: Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart, center, dons an Auburn hat after declaring that he would sign with the Tigers during a ceremony, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, at Armwood High School in Seffner, Fla. Also pictured are Alcorn State commitment Noah Johnson, left, and Vanderbilt commitment Jordan Griffin. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, James Borchuck)
Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart, center, dons an Auburn hat after declaring that he would sign with the Tigers during a ceremony, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, at Armwood High School in Seffner, Fla. Also pictured are Alcorn State commitment Noah Johnson, left, and Vanderbilt commitment Jordan Griffin. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, James Borchuck)

Malzahn also said there were a number of strong contenders to make impacts in their first season.

"This is a class we feel like will help us get in position to win championships," he said.d


Top 25 Class: Yes.

Best in class: Cowart, Seffner, Florida, could instantly strengthen Auburn's pass rush opposite defensive end Carl Lawson, who missed last season with a knee injury.

Best of the rest: Jovon Robinson, RB, Georgia Military College; Kerryon Johnson, RB, Madison, Alabama; Holland, Jacksonville, Florida

Late addition: Auburn had a bunch of them, including DE Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. The 6-foot-8 Nigerian came to the United States to play basketball and has only played football for one season.

One that got away: 5-star OT Martez Ivey signed with Florida over Auburn.

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