Jake Rowe hands out the resumes of Kirby’s assistants, and it’s pretty clear one of those is unlike the others.
Cochran’s hired at Georgia came seemingly out of nowhere on Monday. Cochran arrives at UGA with zero years of on-field coaching experience. He spent the past 13 years at Alabama as the head strength and conditioning coach, helping the Crimson Tide to five National Championships. He was an assistant strength coach for the New Orleans Pelicans before that and was on LSU’s strength staff from 2001 to 2004. The first three years at his alma mater were as a graduate assistant and the fourth was as an assistant strength coach. According to Nick Saban and former Alabama players, Cochran has been aiming for an on-field job for awhile and he was reportedly pursued for such a role by Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen earlier in 2020. [Emphasis added.]
It may not be a fatal flaw, but it’s certainly a gamble. Although Seth Emerson indicates ($$) it may not be as big a gamble as it appears on its face. For one thing, he’ll have plenty of help.
One former SEC coach told The Athletic that he thinks Cochran will be fine, having not only spent enough time around special teams units, but also because Georgia will give him staff resources to assist: Quality control coaches, graduate and/or student assistants, etc. (Greg Meyer is currently listed as a special teams analyst and Adam Ray as a quality control coach for special teams.) Georgia tight ends coach Todd Hartley was Miami’s special teams coordinator from 2016-18, so he can also assist.
For another, he apparently coached the special teams scout team at Alabama. Obviously, that’s no substitute for real game experience, but it’s not nothing, either.
A couple of other notes about the coaches — one, note how every one of them who’s been in Athens for a couple of years at this point has notched some big wins on the recruiting trail. Cochran will be expected to make an impact there, as well.
Two, look at the experience Luke and Monken bring to the table, not just as position coaches, but as head coaches, too. If Smart wants to give his key assistants some autonomous space, they’ve certainly got the chops to know what to do with it.
All in all, it’s the most intriguing mix of assistants Smart’s assembled.