Alabama football has become a perennial powerhouse. After a largely disappointing stretch between 1995 and 2007, Bama has ripped off eight straight seasons of 10-plus wins, four national titles and multiple Heisman Trophy winners.
Although Nick Saban, now in his ninth season as head coach of the Crimson Tide, gets most of the credit for the team's turnaround, another man deserves a significant share of that credit—Scott Cochran, the team's Director of Strength and Conditioning. While the cameras are trained on Saban during game day, it is Cochran who spends thousands of hours developing the players into finely-tuned football machines.
Cochran came in when Saban took over. Here's what you need to know about the man behind the athletic monsters of Alabama football.
He's Totally Nuts
Cochran is as intense as they come. He constantly barks orders and encouragement to his players, so much that his voice has become permanently hoarse. Most of Alabama's players tower over Cochran, but no one can match his energy. Although the instruction he offers is critical, the enthusiasm he brings every single day cannot be overvalued.
He Trains to Dominate the Fourth Quarter
Alabama's philosophy is simple—train to physically dominate opponents. That means they aim to be bigger, stronger, faster and better conditioned than any of the guys who line up across from them.
"There is no rocket science behind it, it's just hard work. Coach Saban wants us to be a fast, physical, dominant team. He wants us to be in better shape than the opposition in the fourth quarter. That's the way he coaches—intensely focusing on being perfect in every way—so we have to get the [players] ready for that," Cochran told STACK.
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Cochran places heavy emphasis on winning the fourth quarter and being mentally tough during crunch time. "You do heavy legs, and then you go try and run. We start off light, and the program builds, so the guys have to become tougher. So when it comes to the game, they are climbing the mountain; and as they go, they get better and better," he says.
So far this season, Alabama has outscored opponents 114-64 in the fourth quarter, so it's safe to say the philosophy is working. "[The fourth quarter] is what we take pride in. Our conditioning, our weight training, our whole program is built around winning in the fourth quarter," linebacker Dillon Lee recently told AL.com.
He Emphasizes Technique Over Strength
Alabama's hardcore approach might lead you to believe they value crushing heavy weight over everything else, but you'd be sorely mistaken. Cochran believes proper technique lays the crucial foundation for meaningful progress, so he has every player re-train the basics on a regular basis.
"Everyone who walks in the door, even Mark Ingram, starts the same way. We start everybody off super light when introducing the weight room," Cochran says. "For example, look at one of the first lifts we do, Clean Pulls. All they are doing is 100 to 135 pounds. Now that is the entire team, not just the freshmen. You can be a fifth-year senior, and we are still going to start back with technique, because to me, if you can concentrate on and use proper technique, the amount of weight you are going to be able to move is going to be higher."
Every single Alabama football player has a strong foundation of technique, which allows him to progress further and faster than their competition.
He Believes More Muscle Mass Equals More Speed
Some athletes worry that gaining muscle mass might ultimately cost them speed. Doesn't it make sense that a 200-pound person would move faster than a 225-pound person? That sounds right in theory, but it is not the case. Cochran knows that if his players gain good lean muscle mass, they'll have no problem getting faster as they get bigger.
"If you weigh 185 pounds now, don't worry about being 200 pounds and putting fat on your body. Muscle will gain you weight. If you are gaining weight properly, you will be able to move faster, be more explosive and be able to knock people around," Cochran says.
Cochran's players are living proof that his theory works. Take Amari Cooper, for example.
Now an NFL Rookie of the Year candidate with the Oakland Raiders, Cooper came to Alabama in 2012 as a lanky 6-foot-1, 175-pound prospect. For the next three seasons, he trained under Cochran, blossoming into college football's top receiver. By the end of his college career, he had gained nearly 40 pounds of muscle. At the 2015 NFL Combine, Cooper ran a 4.42 40-Yard Dash at 211 pounds.
Alabama Realizes Exactly How Valuable He Is
Cochran is not yet be a household name like Saban, but Alabama knows how valuable he is to their success. In response to recent attempts by Georgia to woo Cochran away, Alabama significantly increased his salary. According to ESPN, he now earns in excess of $600,000 a year, which makes him the highest-paid strength coach in college football.
It might make him one of the highest paid coaches in college football period. Cochran now earns more than most head coaches in the Mid-American, Sun Belt and C-USA conferences.
"He's an important part of our program and does an outstanding job. The players really respond to him, and his role has been a big part of what we have been able to accomplish in terms of our success here both on and off the field," Saban said of Cochran in a recent press release.
With Cochran sticking around for the foreseeable future, don't expect the Crimson Tide to recede any time soon.
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