Georgia special teams coach Scott Cochran was hassled behind closed doors by Nick Saban leading up to his departure from the Alabama staff, according to an AL.com report citing unnamed sources.
Saban was “riding Cochran mercilessly in front of staff,” according to the report published online Thursday. The report did not specify what led to the hounding, but it did say Saban “wanted tweaks made” to the strength and conditioning program.
Georgia hired Cochran on Feb. 24. The news of the long-time Alabama staffer joining forces with Kirby Smart at Georgia sent shockwaves across the SEC.
Cochran had been a long-time assistant to Saban, as far back as LSU (2003) before rejoining him at Alabama in 2007. Many believed Cochran played a key role in Saban’s championship run at Alabama.
Indeed, the AL.com report quoted one unnamed source as saying that “Saban really wanting him out is so not true.”
But the report also suggests Cochran’s desire to advance from strength and conditioning coach to on-field assistant created friction, particularly after he showed interest in openings at Ole Miss, Michigan State and with the New York Giants.
Cochran reportedly told people close to him that “outside forces intervened to squash the hire” with Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss.
Saban does in fact carry a great deal of political clout in the collegiate football ranks.
Several of Saban’s former assistants are now head coaches and share the same agent, including Kiffin, Smart, Jeremy Pruitt and Jimbo Fisher.
According to the AL.com report, Cochran turned down a chance to join Smart at Georgia in 2015.
Smart did manage to hire former UGA defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and current defensive coordinator and co-defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann off that 2015 Alabama staff, however.
Lanning spent two seasons in Memphis after leaving the Alabama staff following the 2015 season and was brought on at Georgia to coach outside linebackers in 2018.
Schumann, who was the Tide’s director of player development in 2015, was provided an on-field role coaching inside linebackers at UGA in 2016.
Lanning and Schumann oversaw the nation’s top defense at Georgia last season. The Bulldogs led the country in scoring defense and rushing defense while finishing third in total defense and eighth in pass efficiency defense.
Tucker left the Georgia staff following the 2018 season to become head coach at Colorado for one season before taking the Michigan State job after Mark Dantonio — another former Saban assistant – abruptly resigned last month.
Cochran, seen attending Wednesday night’s home basketball game against Florida, has arrived in Athens seeking an opportunity to help enhance Georgia football and achieve career goals.
Many weren’t even sure Smart would hire a special teams coordinator after Scott Fountain left the staff on Jan. 4 to join former UGA offensive line coach Sam Pittman at Arkansas.
Georgia assistant Todd Hartley coached tight ends and special teams at Miami from 2016-18, and there was speculation he might do the same for the Bulldogs.
Smart had the staff vacancy since Jan. 24, when former offensive coordinator James Coley left Georgia to join forces with Fisher at Texas A&M as a tight ends coach.
Many thought Smart might hire an on-field quarterbacks coach to work with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the four scholarship QBs the Bulldogs have on campus.
But Smart zigged rather than zagged, looking to pump up the energy for what’s expected to be another run at the SEC championship and College Football Playoffs.
Cochran brings a unique style that Smart says “elevates our entire program.”
Kiffin — on the record — offered his support of the hire: “I know that he will be successful as he moves on the field with Kirby at Georgia and I believe will be a head coach one day.”
Alabama is behind Cochran, for now.
But it’s a safe bet there will be plenty more talk about the new Bulldogs’ special teams coach both behind closed doors and in the national spotlight leading up to the team’s Sept. 19 showdown in Tuscaloosa.
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