Tua Tagovailoa on Scott Cochran: ‘He’s been the backbone for the organization’

Tua Tagovailoa raved about new Georgia coach Scott Cochran.

INDIANAPOLIS — Jalen Hurts hadn’t started a game all year. He spent the 2018 season watching Tua Tagovailoa tear up opposing defenses on his way to a historic season. It was hard to argue that even as good as a player as Hurts was, that he should be the starter over Tagovailoa.

But Scott Cochran knew that Hurts needed to be ready. He knew that Hurts might be needed heading into the 2018 SEC Championship Game.

So Cochran told Hurts prior to the game that he was Superman and that Alabama was going to need him to be ready.

“Going into that game, he says its time to put the cape on. And I guess the rest is history,” Hurts said at the NFL combine. “We have a great relationship to say the least.”

The history Hurts is referring to is the fourth-quarter comeback he led the Crimson Tide on to win the SEC and lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff at the expense of the Georgia Bulldogs. Hurts ran for a touchdown and threw for one as well to turn a 28-21 deficit into a 35-28 win.

But Georgia now has Cochran on its side, as the Bulldogs hired the legendary Alabama strength and conditioning coach to serve as the Special Teams Coordinator for the Bulldogs.

The move is seen as a seismic one around the college football landscape, given the importance Cochran had to the Alabama program. And if you’re questioning how important a strength coach — or special teams coordinator — could be to a football program, then you haven’t heard what just about every Alabama has had to say about Cochran.

“He was a special guy. He doesn’t get as much credit as people give him,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s been the backbone for the organization at Alabama.

“It’s going to be hard. Alabama is definitely going to miss him.”

Cochran had been at Alabama since Saban and Smart first arrived at Alabama back in 2007. Smart had tried to hire Cochran when the former first came to Georgia, but Alabama gave Cochran a significant raise to make him one of the highest-paid strength coaches in the country.

The move to Georgia allows Cochran to work in an on-field role as well as serve as a recruiter for the Georgia program on the road. He should thrive as a recruiter for the program if what the likes of Tagovailoa, Hurts and Henry Ruggs is to be believed about Cochran’s ability to form and build relationships.

“He was somebody that you knew you could go to talk to about anything,” Ruggs said. “He found a way to get the best out of each and every player in the program.”

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Working with the special teams units will also allow Cochran to work with just about every member of the program, given the importance of special teams to the University of Georgia.

This is something that Kirby Smart — who had a long-standing relationship with Cochran dating back to their time at Alabama together — identified as a key reason in bringing him into the Georgia program.

“Special Teams Coordinator is a great fit as he’ll be working with all position groups,” Smart said. “His knowledge and experience elevate our entire program, and we’re excited to welcome the Cochran family to Athens.”

Cochran’s relationships with players also doesn’t just end on the football field.

He often made it a point to help them work through some of the rigors of navigating college, especially those who would travel a great distance to play at Alabama.

“Off the field, he’s someone who develops relationships with guys,” Tagovailoa said. “Brings guy over and cooks meals for guys who aren’t able to go home for Christmas.”

The hiring of Cochran was significant for a number of reasons, beyond just the Kirby Smart and Nick Saban dynamics. It sounds like with the addition of Cochran, the biggest wins of it all might be the Georgia players that now get to interact with the legendary coach.

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