ATHENS — Scott Cochran is working for a man who believes in him at Georgia.
Kirby Smart explained why he gave Cochran an opportunity to become an assistant coach with the Bulldogs.
Fans and analysts have taken note, it’s an opportunity Nick Saban would not provide Cochran at Alabama, even after his years of hard work and dedication and several staff openings.
Smart didn’t have anything to say about the Saban part of the equation, but he knows what he believes about Cochran’s ability to transition.
“Scott and I have had a relationship for a long time, and when I think of good coaches, I think of guys that can relate to players,” Smart said on his Tuesday teleconference.
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Cochran had long been considered one of the top, if not the very best, strength and conditioning coaches in the nation while working at Alabama since Saban took over the Tide program in 2007.
Smart spent nine years helping Saban and Cochran build Alabama into a championship program, too, before taking over as Georgia head coach prior to the 2016 season.
Cochran had made it known to Saban that he wanted to become a position coach but was rebuffed.
According to one report, Saban was ‘riding Cochran mercilessly’ prior to his departure from Alabama this past offseason.
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Smart, having worked beside Cochran, had his own opinions on his new special team coordinator’s abilities.
Publicly, Saban said he understood Cochran leaving.
“He wanted to get on to the field coaching and would like one day, I think, to be a head coach,” Saban said in an interview with ESPN. “We didn’t really have anything here to offer him along those lines, and Georgia did.”
“I’ve always judged a coach by two qualities,” said Smart, who hired Cochran on Feb. 24.
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“What is his ability to make players want to play for him? His relationship, do players want to run through the brick wall for their coach, do they respect their coach, do they want to play for their coach, can he relate to them in a personal way and get them to do something that maybe another coach can’t. Does that separate him?”
According to several who played at Alabama, Cochran definitely made a difference for them in their development.
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Smart said the other area he judges a coach is “their ability to recruit, and both of those two things in my nine years at Alabama, (Cochran) was outstanding at.”
Some have suggested Smart is taking a chance by hiring Cochran to become a special teams coordinator when he has not previously held that position.
But Smart had an answer for those critics and doubters, as well.
“He was always involved in some way, shape or form with special teams (at Alabama),” Smart said. “That’s always been something, even dating back to my days at LSU, that he was kind of the quality control guy at LSU that worked with special teams. So his background has been around that.”
Furthermore, Smart said he’ll remain involved in special teams himself, and UGA keeps its entire staff involved in that area of the game.
“We’ve certainly had a staff full of guys, Glenn Schumann, Dan Lanning, Todd Hartley, Cortez, Dell, Charlton, have all had special teams duties in their career,” Smart said.
“So this is not like Scott Cochran is the only special teams guy on our staff. We have an immense amount of knowledge and experience on special teams. They’ll draw on that. Scott will be the special teams coordinator. But we’ll use the entire staff to help with that.”
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Bottom line, as Smart said when Cochran was hired, he believes his long-time friend will provide a lift across the board at Georgia.
“The big part was hiring Scott,” Smart said, “because we felt like he brought a lot to the table in terms of the entire organization.”
Smart is standing behind the statement he made about Cochran when he hired him.
“Ask anyone who’s been around him, Scott’s passion and energy is contagious,” said Smart. “Special Teams Coordinator is a great fit as he’ll be working with all position groups. ”
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