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January 3, 2012

Cochran picks Cal



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California's offensive line just got a little bit bigger.

Three-star 6-foot-4, 340-pound Atwater (Calif.) Buhach Colony interior lineman Matt Cochran committed today at halftime of the inaugural Semper Fidelis Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., choosing the Bears over Auburn and Tennessee on national television, alongside fellow Semper Fidelis All-American Cal commits Bryce Treggs, Freddie Tagaloa, Hardy Nickerson, Jr., Zach Hoffpauir and Michael Barton, and his younger brother, a 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American.

BearTerritory spoke with Cochran's coach -- former Cal football and rugby player Sam Parker after his official visit, which saw "little" brother Aaron Cochran -- a 6-foot-7, 330-pound offensive tackle -- tag along, as well. Matt Cochran told Parker and Bears coaches Jeff Tedford, Jim Michalczik, Marcus Arroyo and Tosh Lupoi that he wanted to save his announcement for a postseason all-star game.

"As he's played for us the last three years, there's been no question that Alabama was his No. 1 school," Parker said. "He wanted to go to school there. His family has a lot of tradition [there]. His dad went to Alabama-Birmingham, and so that was kind of entrenched in him. What took place over three years was, he saw so many great things that take place out on the West Coast, that all of the sudden, he looked at himself as being a West Coast-type guy.

"In the recruiting process, between Tosh, between Marcus, Jeff and Jim, he just felt very comfortable with the Cal staff and the Cal program. He got to know all the guys that are going to Cal -- the quarterback, Zach Kline, and Michael Barton, the linebacker, and Shaq Thompson -- and all of the sudden, it just felt like home to him."

Cochran became the first of the so-called "dominoes" to fall during All-American season, and some of the big reasons he decided on the Bears were the players he'd be coming in with, and the way the program is run.

"I think that's a huge part of it, because that's what we talk about within our program," Parker said. "Even though I'm a Cal guy, my coaching roots are actually through UC Davis, with Bob Foster and Jim Sochor, and we have a motto there -- and Tony Franks uses the same motto at St. Mary's in Stockton -- it's trust, unity and togetherness, done with integrity. That really is what Matt saw within the Cal program. If you give your word, if you give your honor, it's there, 24 hours a day. Everything is going to be there. When they offered, the question that Matt had, was, 'If I don't accept it, is it going to be there on signing day?' They said, 'Absolutely. Our word is our bond.'"

That sense of honor and loyalty is very important for Cochran, who has had other programs issue one-time-only offers -- programs he has since pushed aside.

"When we got eliminated by Vacaville, on that Tuesday, Marcus came for the home visit. The Cochrans called me and they asked Kevin Swartwood, the head coach, if we would go and be a part of the visit," Parker said. "What came out in the visit was, if your offer is there now, is it going to be there later? Marcus said, 'Absolutely. If you decide that you want to commit the day of signing day or before, we have no problem with that.' That's when Reverend Cochran stepped up and said, 'Here's the deal: My son wants to go to Cal, and he wants to commit to you, but what we would like to do, is, we'd like to be able to make it public and announce at the all-star game.' Marcus said, 'What we'll do, that's between us. That's our bond. We'll take that commitment, and you can inform the other coaches on the Cal staff.' I know that this weekend, Matt informed Jim, so I'm fairly sure Jeff knows, but they're honoring him wanting to announce at the all-star game."

And so he did. The roly-poly center is a classic mauler, but off the field, he's about as well-spoken and polite as you'd expect the son of a pastor to be.

"With Matt, Matt's a very interesting young man. He came to our school as a freshman, but it was after the football season, and you could just see in his demeanor that his future was to be a great student and a great football player. He will do anything and everything to make sure that takes place," Parker said. "This year is the first year that we asked Matt to come over and play defense. I told him, one, it's going to make him very marketable at the next level, and two, it's going to show athleticism. We only were able to coach him maybe 10 minutes a day on defense, but he took our principles -- which are strike through guys and run to the ball -- and he did that as well as anybody we have on the defensive line, with the exception of Aziz, who's just a special guy -- but offensively, what Matt did, was the thing that he asked me about back in April. He asked me, 'What makes a good offensive lineman?' I said, 'It's starting the play and finishing the play,' and that's what he did better than anybody we'd had in a number of years. When he latches on to guys, that block wasn't done until he'd finished it, and he's a tremendous finisher."

With the Bears intent on bringing in six offensive linemen in the 2012 class, and with Cochran's pledge, they're more than halfway there, thanks to the recent commitments of tackles Christian Okafor, Steven Moore and Tagaloa. Cochran is the only interior lineman in the group, and is most at-home playing center.

"One of the interesting aspects, because I've spent a number of years as a college coach, I've coached 58 people that have gone into the NFL. Matt has a lot of the quality that a number of the players had," Parker said. "The thing that he has, and I hate to say this, because he's an 'SC guy, but I coached Tony Sladen. The first time I was a high school coach, I coached Tony Sladen, and Tony went on to 'SC and became an All-American there and then went into the NFL. Matt and Tony have exactly the same will to win, and just that quiet, burning desire to be the very best, without drawing any attention to themselves. They're tremendous team guys. They're guys that, literally, what they want is, they want the success of the football team and their teammates, even though they have as much or more talent than anybody."

With Cochran's commitment to Cal, his brother is likely not very far behind, which should be a big relief for Kline, who will have some very sizeable bodyguards once he starts taking snaps from the elder Cochran.

"I know that mom and dad are going to want him to go to the same school, or the school in the red and white, because they want to keep both of them in Northern California, because they want to be able to watch them play," Parker said. "I think, from talking to Matt a little bit earlier, that Aaron had a great time, and I think Aaron is far more comfortable with Cal now than he's been in some time, and the fact that Jim has personally said, 'Hey, I'm offering you a scholarship.' I think that's going to weigh very heavy for Aaron."




 

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