Prep Football

Jack Cochrane makes impact for South Dakota football

Former Mount Vernon prep is third on team with tackles a year after shedding redshirt as a freshman

South Dakota sophomore linebacker Jack Cochrane is a former Mount Vernon High School standout.  (Aaron Packard/University of South Dakota).
South Dakota sophomore linebacker Jack Cochrane is a former Mount Vernon High School standout. (Aaron Packard/University of South Dakota).

Jack Cochrane arrived at the University of South Dakota with open mind and a lunch pail.

He was not sure what awaited him, but he was ready for anything and everything. The former Mount Vernon standout went right to work.

Not even Cochrane imagined that it would produce a chance to take the field as a true freshman and develop into one of the Coyotes’ top tacklers a year later.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” Cochrane said. “I just tried to focus on coming in each day and doing what I could to get better.

“I had no idea where that would take me. So far, things have gone pretty well and hopefully keep headed in that direction.”

About a year removed from shedding his redshirt in his first season, Cochrane has advanced from primarily a special-teams player to a stalwart of the Coyotes defense, ranking third on the team in tackles this season. South Dakota (3-3, 2-1 MVFC) plays at Youngstown State on Saturday.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” the 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker said. “There are a lot of great people around here that have really helped me pick things up quickly, so that has been helpful.”

Cochrane was thrust into action in Week 7 of the 2018 season. Coaches encouraged him to continue his hard work because injuries could be a factor. When they impacted the lineup and depth, Cochrane had prepared himself to step into the fold.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“It was definitely a rush,” Cochrane said. “I was trying to learn things as quickly as I could, so if I had the opportunity to go out there I’d be ready to go. I was just soaking in everything I could from the older guys and all my coaches.

“When the opportunity came, I just relied on my teammates and tried to do the best I could.”

Cochrane made an immediate impact and positioned himself among the young leaders on a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores.

“Anytime you play as a true freshman it’s pretty unique, particularly in our league and at our level,” South Dakota Coach Bob Nielson said. ”In a very short period of time, he has become a leader in our defensive unit.”

Nielson said he knew Cochrane possessed the athleticism and work ethic to contribute, playing multiple positions for the Mustangs in high school. He also knew Cochrane was an accomplished student, but was even more impressed with the way he grasped the Coyotes defense.

“He’s really a smart football player,” Nielson said. “He learned our system really rapidly and in a short period of time.

“As he progressed in the preseason and through the first weeks, it became obvious he was a guy that was at a point where he could play and play successfully. He took advantage of that opportunity and did that last fall.”

Cochrane finished last season with 11 total tackles, including four solo and 2 1/2 for loss. He was able to become more confident and comfortable with the college routine, schemes and teammates through spring practice and the rest of the offseason.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

The biggest transition was adapting to the speed and physical style of FBS play, according to Cochrane. So, he devoted much of that offseason time to weights and conditioning, attempting to match the speed and strength of men in their early 20s.

“The strength staff has been great,” Cochrane said. “I really love it. They have helped me develop my weight and speed. That has been a big part of growing here.”

Mount Vernon actually has two representatives on the South Dakota roster. Connor Herrmann is a sophomore tight end. He played in 10 of 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season. Herrmann has 82 receiving yards on nine catches.

Reuniting and contributing with his old friend has been enjoyable for Cochrane.

“It’s awesome,” Cochrane said. “I’ve known Connor, shoot we went to elementary school together. I’ve known Connor what seems like my whole life. It’s awesome to still get to be around him to this day and still get to be teammates with him.”

Cochrane has 41 total stops this season, including 25 solo. He has ranked among the team’s top three in tackles in all but one game this season. Cochrane was second on the team with nine tackles in consecutive games against Missouri State and Southern Illinois.

The Coyotes opened the season against Kansas State at Manhattan, Kan. Cochrane had seven tackles and five were solo. Not even that stands out above his team-first approach and drive to improve.

“I don’t know if I can pinpoint one game,” Cochrane said. “Really, each week goes on and you start to get more confident in your ability and start to feel more comfortable with your teammates.

“That is one thing I think is really awesome about our group. The defense has been around each other for a little bit now and we’re starting to get used to each other. I think that feeds into individual confidence for everyone and helps get better each week.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Cochrane was involved in a key play against Southern Illinois, forcing a fumble that helped South Dakota secure the victory. Nielson said he keeps getting better each week and expects more plays like that from him in the future.

“He’s had some big plays for us,” Nielson said. “I think he’s still probably just scratching the surface on how good he can be. I’m excited for him to have another two years to have physical development as well as development as a football player.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.