Scott Cochran sidelined as Georgia’s special teams coach, Will Muschamp to fill in

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

ATHENS — Scott Cochran has stepped down as a Georgia football assistant coach, at least temporarily. It appears that Will Muschamp is going to fill in during Cochran’s absence.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart confirmed Sunday evening that Cochran, the Bulldogs’ second-year special teams coordinator, is not currently with the program. In a statement released by UGA sports communications office, Smart said the 42-year-old Cochran is dealing with some “health issues.”

“(Cochran) is taking time to prioritize his mental health and well-being,” Smart said. “We fully support him as he takes this time to focus on his well-being.”

Cochran did not answer messages seeking comment.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have a ready-made fill-in in Muschamp. While Smart did not confirm that Muschamp will take over as special teams coordinator in the release, persons with knowledge of the situation say that Muschamp will assume Cochran’s recruiting duties. Tight ends coach Todd Hartley, who already plays a big role with special teams, is expected to handle the on-field role.

Smart brought in Muschamp in January to serve the Bulldogs in a defensive analyst. With an annual salary of $300,000, Muschamp was the highest paid member of Georgia’s considerable football support staff. But that was miniscule compensation compared to the $12.9 million contract settlement Muschamp accepted in December from South Carolina after being fired as the Gamecocks’ head coach last year.

Special teams is not a position Muschamp has held in his 26 years as a college coach. However, it’s certainly an area he’s exceptionally versed in between two head coaching stints and four tenures as a Power 5 defensive coordinator. So he could take over full time if needed.

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

However, it appears that Cochran could return to coaching and Muschamp’s assignment could be temporary.

Cochran has been at Georgia only since February 2020. That’s when Smart plucked away Alabama’s famous strength and conditioning coach away and brought him to UGA as an on-field assistant. Cochran was hired on a two-year contract that paid him $550,000 last year and is due to pay him $575,000 over the next year.

Cochran apparently had been working in his recruiting role up until very recently. On July 30, he retweeted a post by junior Lewis Cine about a recruiting prospect who the Bulldogs are pursuing (Joenel Aguero). However, Cochran reportedly has not been with the team since it opened preseason camp Friday with the first of 25 practices. Georgia also practiced Saturday and will again Monday.

How this 11th-hour coaching change will affect the Bulldogs is unknown. Georgia is expected to be a Top 10 team and national championship contender this season. That’s due in part to having a tremendously strong special teams unit. The Bulldogs feature an All-America punter in senior Jake Camarda and got an all-star season out of former walk-on place kicker Jack Podlesny, who ended last season with a 53-yard game-winning field goal against No. 8 Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Georgia opens the season against a Top 5 Clemson team on Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C., in the Dukes Mayo Classic (7:30 p.m., Channel 2 Action News).