MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia sophomore outside linebacker VanDarius Cowan will be suspended for the first four games of the season, a program source confirmed on Wednesday. It is an NCAA-mandated suspension due to “eligibility issues.”
Cowan has yet to play a game for the Mountaineers. Per NCAA rules, he sat out last season after transferring from Alabama.
Mike Casazza of 247Sports was first to report Cowan’s suspension. Cowan will miss West Virginia’s games against James Madison, Missouri, North Carolina State and Kansas before he is eligible to return against Texas on Oct. 5.
It seems safe to say the suspension did not catch anyone within the West Virginia program by surprise. Dating back to the start of spring football, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning seemed skeptical that he would ever see Cowan on the field.
“He’s got some work to do. He’s got a lot of work to do. We’ll see if he makes the turn,” Koenning said in early March. “There’s still a lot of things. He’s got some natural ability, but there’s still some things he’s got to work through to see if he can use his ability. We’ll see.”
Cowan has practiced at the bandit, which is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end who specializes in pass-rushing.
“That position is vital to what we do,” Koenning said during August camp.
Quondarius Qualls was moved from defensive end to bandit this August, and has replaced Cowan in getting snaps with the first-string defense — perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the Mountaineers would be without Cowan for the start of the season. Zach Sandwisch will be the next man up at bandit, with senior Adam Hensley and true freshman Jared Bartlett waiting in the wings.
Cowan’s talent is unquestionable. He was a five-star prospect in high school and signed with Alabama, where he played in seven games as a true freshman.
Drama and off-field issues have had a penchant for following him around before he’s able to ever fully show off that talent.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is well-known for giving his players second chances, but did not hesitate to kick Cowan off the team after Cowan was arrested for assault after punching a man in the face as the man entered a bar that Cowan was leaving. Prior to that incident, Cowan missed time at spring practice because of academic issues.
Cowan’s trouble started before he ever arrived in Tuscaloosa.
He wasn’t allowed to play in the Army All-American Bowl after getting kicked off his high school team in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Cowan was dismissed for “his behavior on the sidelines” during a crucial late-season game for his team. After his coach removed him in the first quarter following a pair of penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct, Cowan was seen eating on the sideline and talking to fans in the stands.