As he considered the possibility of leaving Vanderbilt after his junior season as a grad transfer, Devin Cochran took note of what he heard from his close friend and fellow offensive lineman Jared Southers. After all, he had made the same choice to leave Vanderbilt after his junior season as a grad transfer. He had landed at Georgia Tech, playing the 2019 season for Yellow Jackets offensive-line coach Brent Key.
“It wasn’t until he got to Tech that he really was able to play with the confidence that he needed to really play well, and part of that was due to coach Key enabling him and putting love on him and helping him out,” Cochran recently told the AJC recently.
Cochran also recalled Southers visiting him at Vanderbilt for a game last season when the Jackets were off – the Commodores’ Nov. 23 win over East Tennessee State, two days after Tech’s Thursday-night win over N.C. State – and sharing what he called “really good coaching points” with him afterwards.
“He kind of used the same things he’d heard from coach Key while watching me play,” Cochran said.
For multiple reasons, Cochran didn’t have to wrestle much with his decision. A graduate of the Greater Atlanta Christian School and a resident of Lilburn, Tech was close to home. It was also what he called a “dream school” in high school. He wanted to be coached by Key. And it certainly didn’t hurt that his inside knowledge came from a trustworthy source.
Anytime he had a question, Cochran said that Southers “was able to have a quick answer and a truthful answer, from a player’s perspective.”
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
‘A great fit’
Perhaps more than any incoming Jacket, Cochran validates the work being done by coach Geoff Collins and his staff. Most high school recruits base their decisions in no small part on relationships with coaches who have a vested interest in winning their favor. Cochran chose Tech with information supplied by a close friend who had his best interest at heart and knew firsthand what it was like to play for Collins and Key.
“He could have gone anywhere in the country, but I feel like this is really a great fit for him in terms of being with coach Key and being back in Atlanta,” Southers said. “I think he’ll do extremely well here.”
Whenever Tech’s season begins, Key likely can count on Cochran to hold down one of the two offensive tackle spots. At Vanderbilt, Cochran started 32 games in three seasons, playing right tackle in his first two seasons and left tackle in 2019. At 6-foot-7 and 308 pounds, Cochran has the size and frame that Key wants at the position.
He can deliver a strong initial jolt in the run game and with his size, swallows up edge rushers on pass plays with his large frame and reach. He also moves well for someone his size. He can improve at finishing plays, but Key has plenty to work with.
“He’s a massive kid, massive frame,” Southers said. “He’s about 6-8, extremely athletic, plays with a mean streak. He’s a very solid player.”
For his final season, Cochran said that he was looking for a different experience than he had had to that point, and a coach who could get the best out of him.
“And coach Key coached at Alabama, a lot of guys who are in the (NFL),” Cochran said. “I felt like he was somebody who could develop my game.”
Southers felt the same. After arriving from Vanderbilt last January, Southers said he began pitching Tech to him as soon as last spring.
“I’ve been working on that for awhile,” Southers said back at Tech’s pro day March 11. “That was my best friend in the world. He’s been able to see my experience coming here and just how I embraced it and how happy I was in terms of making that move. And he said he wanted to leave Vanderbilt, and I told him this is the place to be.”
‘This is it’
Aside from Southers’ input, Cochran saw it on a visit to Tech after deciding to transfer.
“I felt like it’s a place where you’re driven,” he said. “There were a lot of guys doing extra work, a lot of guys constantly with coaches getting extra work, which is something you don’t really see a lot, or something I got to see a lot.”
It is perhaps worth mention that Cochran saw this effort in December, when the Jackets’ season was already complete. He said it reminded him of the energetic atmosphere he experienced at GAC.
“I was like, this is it,” Cochran said.
With the start of voluntary workouts for Atlanta-area players set for June 15, Cochran plans to be there. Cochran, who has been doing his weightlifting with equipment such as water bottles and backpacks, will stand to benefit from training with actual weights.
“Good to get back into it,” he said.
Cochran, who will be enrolled in the Tech’s school of building construction, can now unabashedly display the Tech key chain that he used all through his time at Vanderbilt. At GAC, Cochran aspired to play at Tech, but didn’t see an offensive lineman his size as a fit for the spread-option offense of former coach Paul Johnson.
“I never really got asked about (the keychain),” Cochran said. “But I’m sure it makes sense now, though.”
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