By: Zac Ellis
– Devin Cochran
keeps his goals simple during fall camp.
"I'm trying to be dirty," Cochran said. "I'm trying to be nasty, man. Last year was about knowing what to do. This year, it's about knowing what to do and taking it to 'em."
That aggressive mentality looks to be a staple of Cochran's game as he heads into his second season as a starter along Vanderbilt's offensive line. The 6-7, 318-pound Cochran started 10 games as a redshirt freshman right tackle in 2017, quickly becoming a key cog in the trenches for the Dores. But Vanderbilt's offensive line struggled in moments last season, all while Cochran learned the ropes of surviving in the SEC.
This fall, all five starters are back on the Commodores' offensive line. That includes a more veteran Cochran, who sees a much more improved unit in 2018.
"It was sort of like being thrown into the fire," Cochran said of 2017. "You never knew what you were going to get. Sometimes last year I felt like a novice, and I had to lean on older guys. But it helped me a ton. We struggled at times, but now we see it as a building experience. We pushed each other, and now we understand where our strengths lie."
Cochran is just one piece to a more seasoned line that will suit up for Vanderbilt this season. Two seniors, Bruno Reagan
and Justin Skule
, headline a group coached by assistant Cameron Norcross
. Skule has started 27 games and should man the left tackle spot, with Reagan sliding over to guard after playing center last fall. Junior Saige Young
and sophomore Cole Clemons expect to compete at the other guard spot, with senior Edigio DellaRipa holding court at center.
But the 6-7 Cochran has perhaps evolved into Vanderbilt's most athletic lineman after just one season as a starter. Now head coach Derek Mason
said he hopes Cochran can carry his newfound edge from fall camp over into the season.
"I like Dev, he needs to be dirty," Mason said. "He's gotten better because of games played and because of experience, but that's what I was talking about with this group, you have to bring an edge. This is a big-boy conference, so you have to own the line of scrimmage. That's an everyday mentality. You can't own one play and not own another, that's all about playing with an edge. I think Devin's done that this camp, but like anything, you have to take it out of camp and into the season.
With more continuity, Vanderbilt's line could pave the way for an exciting offense in 2018. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur
returns for his fourth year in coordinator Andy Ludwig
's offense with 28 career starts under his belt. Though the Dores lost Ralph Webb
at running back, that group boasts potential in returnee Khari Blasingame
and former Illinois transfer Ke'Shawn Vaughn
, among others. Mason has also praised his receiving corps during fall camp, a crew spotlighted by junior Kalija Lipscomb
The bond between Shurmur and his offensive line, in particular, is stronger than ever, Cochran said. Last week, the linemen joined their quarterback for a teambuilding venture to Buffalo Wild Wings. (Cochran's wing sauce of choice: teriyaki with bleu cheese.) Such outings are not out of the ordinary for the Commodores, who seek the same seamless chemistry on the field.
"As an offensive lineman, you want to keep your quarterback on his feet," Cochran said. "My main goal during fall camp has been to give up zero sacks, and I think I've done it so far."
Vanderbilt's offensive line could set the tone for the offense in 2018. If Cochran has any say in the manner, that group will play with a decided edge for the Dores.
"We have a lot of guys that can play," Cochran said. "We help each other get better. If you slack off one day, you very well could be moved to second team or third team. You have a lot of guys who are pushing you to get better, and because of that, we're better as a unit."
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.