Several hours after his 2008 football team flew home from the desert following a 27-10 win at Arizona State, former Georgia coach Mark Richt announced the Bulldogs would be wearing black jerseys for the next week's game against visiting Alabama.
Richt's announcement added some spice to the prime-time showdown between the No. 8 Crimson Tide and the No. 3 Bulldogs, but it was nothing compared to the counter from Scott Cochran, who was in his second year as Alabama's strength coach. While walking among his players during practice, Cochran could be heard shouting, "They're wearing black jerseys because they know they're going to a (expletive) funeral!"
The Tide ultimately buried Georgia, building a 31-0 halftime lead on their way to a 41-30 cruise, and Cochran went from Alabama strength coach to a household name in college football. Cochran spent 13 consecutive years working for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, a stretch that yielded five national championships, but he is now several months into a career as Kirby Smart's special teams coordinator at Georgia.
Which means he would love for those "funeral" references to quietly fade into oblivion.
"The great thing about that is nobody who's a player here now remembers, and nobody even knows about it," a smiling Cochran said Friday afternoon on a Zoom call, "so don't tell anybody, and help me out a little bit. I'm trying to gain the respect around here.
"In reality, I wasn't planning on that becoming public at all. At the same time, when it did, I was scared to death. I was 29 years old, and I thought I was going to lose my job."
Cochran was a fan favorite during his time at Alabama, with his energetic shouts for support becoming commonplace on Bryant-Denny Stadium's four massive video boards. His outburst 12 years ago, however, did not gain the approval of Saban or Smart, who was in his first of eight seasons as the Tide's defensive coordinator.
"Everyone said that they didn't need any motivation and that I had just given it to them," Cochran said. "I was like, 'Yeah, thanks.'"
All seems to be forgiven with Smart, who believes Cochran is providing the same intensity that was always on display before.
"Scott's energy has certainly come through," Smart said. "He's an energetic, very demanding coach and has done a very good job in front of the team and the units. I think he's very comfortable doing that, because he was always in front of the team in his past jobs being a strength coach. He's done a good job with that and the players respect him, and a lot of them know him through recruiting."
The Bulldogs travel to Alabama on Oct. 17 in the Southeastern Conference's lone prime-time telecast on CBS, but Cochran has a lot on his plate between now and then. Georgia must replace kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, the program's all-time leading scorer, with 2020 signee Jared Zirkel having the potential to become the program's next four-year starter at that spot.
Punter Jake Camarda returns, but there is also the matter of return specialists, with receiver Dominick Blaylock no longer in that mix due to a second torn left ACL in nine months.
"It's a lot of fun for me with the returners, because you've got (receiver) Kearis Jackson back there, and you've got (running back James) Cook, and you've got (running back) Zamir (White)," Cochran said. "You've got a lot of cool little toys to play with."
That Cochran never got to be a full-time assistant at Alabama is a fact he can't change, but he is thankful for a career path that contained tons of success in Tuscaloosa and now tons of opportunity in Athens.
"I think Coach Saban has my back," Cochran said. "I worked for him for 18 years, and had that position been open there, I probably would have been a possibility. For me, I want to work for Coach Smart and somebody I see eye to eye with on a lot of things.
"I see the same with Coach Saban, and I wouldn't be here today without him, but with Coach Smart, there is a big emphasis on some things that I'm big on."
Dean commits again
Defensive tackle Marlin Dean of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, committed to Georgia again Friday.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Elberton, Georgia, resident committed to the Bulldogs for a first time on March 6 but opened his recruitment July 18. He is the nation's No. 28 defensive tackle prospect and the No. 467 overall recruit in the 247Sports.com composite rankings.