August 18, 2011

Brandan Bishop building on last two years

When Brandan Bishop first arrived on campus, he was practicing at linebacker. It was a completely new position for the prep safety and although he had a tough time adjusting, he was going to do what the coaches asked.

"Getting used to linebacker was a totally different position for me, I never played it in high school," he remembered. "I just had to get used to the physical nature of the game because, not only was I transitioning to college, I was transitioning closer to the line of scrimmage where you're taking on guys that are 100 pounds heavier than you. That was different and it took some adjusting.

"To say that I was relieved to go back [to safety] is definitely an understatement. I knew I wanted to be in the secondary, I was definitely happy that I was fortunate enough to move back."

Bishop burst onto the scene as a true freshman after he moved back to his natural position. The rookie started eight times and collected 41 tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups en route to a spot on The Sporting News' ACC All-Freshman team. No other member in the recruiting class of 2009 saw as many starts as Bishop and he racked up 30 stops over the final five contests. He made two crucial plays late in the victory over Pittsburgh - he stopped a ball carrier for loss on second-and-goal as the Panthers tried to tie and then swatted away a pass on the next play.

He was even better last fall - starting 12 times and seeing action in every game while he recorded 64 tackles, a tackle for loss, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a team-best four interceptions. That was the highest interception total for an NC State athlete since 2005 and he continued to showcase his ability to come up big at the most opportune times.

Bishop forced a fumble against UCF with the Pack clinging to a seven-point lead and the Knights threatening to score in the game's waning moments. He also earned ACC Defensive Back of the Week laurels after he posted a pair of picks against Boston College. Then, he had one of the season's greatest highlights with an incredible interception against West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Despite his previous accomplishments, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is not satisfied and he is using the past two years as a solid foundation to build on for this fall.

"Those were explosive plays that helped us win ballgames," he said. "Those are real important on defense, creating turnovers is the key. I'm just looking forward to being more consistent and making many more of those big plays this year."

Bishop is not only expecting a lot out of himself in 2011, he is expecting a lot out of the other seven returning starters on defense.

"I think our defense is going to be a strong point for us this year, no doubt about it," he said. "We'll have experience. We lost Nate [Irving], he was a great player, but we've got Terrell [Manning], Audie [Cole], we've got all kind of guys in the secondary back. We've all got starts under our belt, we've all got playing experience. We're just going to be fast, we're going to be aggressive, we're going to bring pressure and hopefully the front four can get there, force a couple of bad throws. We'll capitalize on [those] and take advantage."

All four starters return to the secondary, which is led by Bishop and fellow safety Earl Wolff, a redshirt junior. While the group went through growing pains two years ago as they were pushed into action early in their careers, perhaps too early, they were better last year and Bishop expects improvements to continue.

"We're coming together as a unit, we're all a little bit older and I think we're coming together pretty well," he said. "Some guys have two years of experience now. We've been in the fire, we've seen what it takes and we know how to practice now. We're communicating pretty well as a unit. We have a comradery and kind of a comfort level with each other we've built throughout these past couple of offseasons and spring practices. It's about to show.

"From when I came in, it's a complete turnaround. It's night and day from where we were. That's how you build a program and we're going to keep laying the foundation. We all came in, we were young and we've built experience together. Now it's starting to pay off and I think this year, especially, the dividends will show."

The secondary will also be aided on the field by how close they are off the field, from the back-ups to the starters.

"I feel like we're more than teammates, we're real close in the secondary," Bishop noted. "Not just the first-team guys, the second guys, too - we're all close. It really is like a brotherhood back there. We lean on each other, we all have our input that we put together. There's not just one leader, we all collectively try to come together and to make each other better."

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