Senior Ben Cochran would have punted some balls during Wednesday’s practice, but the drill was for the punt block unit, and Cochran was needed to rush the punter.
Good thing for Cochran there’s no third unit. If there was, he would probably be on that, too.
Cochran is the jack of all trades for Air Force. Coach Troy Calhoun said if the punting race was close at the end of camp, Cochran might be his punter this season, never mind that Cochran’s listed position is safety. Or that Cochran hasn’t punted since high school.
Cochran is used to filling in wherever needed. He started his career as a quarterback and moved to safety as a junior, but when Falcons quarterbacks were hit with injuries, he was the one who filled in. Against BYU, he played his first significant snaps at quarterback since two seasons before, when he was on the junior varsity, and he led Air Force to three scores.
“He’s never waffled about anything,” secondary coach Charlton Warren said. “If you went to him and said ‘I need you to be a fullback tomorrow,’ he’d say ‘All right coach, anything I can do to help the team.’”
Cochran is a backup at both safety positions and the fifth member of the Falcons’ nickel defense when it uses a third safety. He could be the primary holder for field goals, he’s a candidate at punter, he’s a member of other special teams units, and if called upon as an emergency quarterback, he said he would be ready for that, as well.
“I feel like I could go out tomorrow at quarterback and execute, just because I’ve done it so long,” Cochran said.
Cochran moves around because he wants to play. Versatility gets noticed by coaches, and his attitude about assuming any role is an endearing trait to the staff.
“I just want to get on the field anywhere I can and compete,” Cochran said.
Asking Cochran to punt might be a bit of a stretch, but Cochran said he could do it. Whether Calhoun would follow through on that or is just trying to keep the heat on the team’s full-time punters will be seen. Cochran said punting would just take a little bit of extra practice time.
“You can make it work,” Cochran said.
Cochran is able to function at many positions because of his intelligence, part of which can be credited to his background at quarterback.
Warren said not everyone can handle so many assignments. But Cochran said playing multiple spots helps his overall understanding of the game.
Perhaps Cochran’s unselfishness has kept him from becoming a full-time starter at one position. But Cochran has no issue with that, and his versatility means he will be a “significant contributor,” in the words of Calhoun.
“We’ve at times pulled him in different spots that were best for the team, even though it might not have given him the best chance to play,” Calhoun said. “I want to try to do everything I can to give him the best chance to play.”