Scott Cochran nearing return to Georgia coaching staff after leave of absence

Georgia special-teams coordinator Scott Cochran during a video press conference at the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
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Georgia special-teams coordinator Scott Cochran during a video press conference at the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

ATHENS — Georgia might have a vital piece of its coaching staff returning soon.

Scott Cochran, the Bulldogs’ high-profile special-teams coach, took a leave of absence Aug. 8 because of health reasons. Georgia coach Kirby Smart revealed during Wednesday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference that Cochran is in the facility on a part-time basis.

“He’s back in town now, as we speak,” Smart said. “He’s home and visiting with his family. He’s with us temporarily and seeing some friends.”

Cochran came to Georgia ahead of the 2020 season after working with Smart for nearly a decade at Alabama. He brought a fiery personality as a former strength-and-conditioning coach and brought experience that benefited the Bulldogs despite taking on a different role of working with the special-teams units.

After Cochran took his leave of absence, Georgia tabbed Will Muschamp as an on-field coach. Muschamp, a former head coach at South Carolina, came to the Bulldogs as an off-the-field analyst after his dismissal from the Gamecocks. Smart saw his old friend and colleague as an ideal fit to fill Cochran’s role, and Muschamp worked with the defense and special teams.

Georgia also made use of Muschamp’s recruiting prowess and had him pursuing prospects for the 2022 class. Muschamp recently visited Buford High School for a recruiting stop as it played out-of-state power Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.).

The roles of Cochran and Muschamp are to be determined as the primary special-teams coach makes his return.

“We haven’t defined all of that yet,” Smart said on the teleconference. “We’re worried about (Cochran’s) family, his safety and all of that. That’s not even a concern of ours right now.”

Smart said throughout the preseason that Cochran has been a “tremendous asset” to Georgia because of his expertise with defensive backs. Georgia had another set of eyes on the secondary, while Muschamp worked with tight-ends coach Todd Hartley on special-teams units.

When Cochran stepped away from the program, Georgia didn’t hesitate to make the move and put a contingency plan in place. Along with prioritizing the mental health of its staff, Smart implements exercises and “skull sessions” to focus on the well-being of his players.

“I think that we all deal with issues and problems within our own households and our own families,” Smart said of Cochran. “Those are personal things. We are a family here, and our players have really embraced that. Our players have really embraced the love, the affection and the struggles that he is going through. We love him. We love his family. We love his kids.

“We are going to be there to support him and them just like they are one of us. That does not change.”

Before long, though, Cochran could be back with the Bulldogs on an everyday basis.

“We’re hoping to get him back in the next couple of weeks,” Smart said.