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Analysis: Vols Nab Diamond in the Rough in Chayce Bishop

Brand Martin breaks down Chayce Bishop's game

Much of the attention for college programs has moved on to the players in the 2021 recruiting cycle. Indeed, with National Signing Day passing two months ago, most Power Five programs have been done with their 2020 classes, save for recruiting a few players that have elected to delay their signings for various reasons, or potential transfers. On Sunday, Tennessee surprised many by making a late addition to their class in three-star athlete Chayce Bishop from Independence High school (Thompson Station, TN). Bishop committing to the Vols was a surprise, so much so that it was the way he elected to start his announcement tweet. Questions are surrounding Bishop and his commitment to Tennessee. Why did he wait so long to sign? Was he offered a scholarship or is he a preferred walk-on (PWO)? What position are the Vols recruiting him for? While these are questions that have eluded answering thus far, there are some things about Bishop that are well known.

Bishop is an intriguing athlete for Tennessee. At 5’11” and 185 pounds, he is in the size range of some wide receivers that the Vols added in 2020 in Jimmy Calloway and Jalin Hyatt. He also has the size and rangy build to be a pure corner in the SEC. While Bishop played on both sides of the ball at Independence, and this analysis will look at what he brings to each position, the early feeling is that Tennessee is looking to use Bishop as a corner. The Vols felt that their 2020 wide receiver class, which was a huge position of need for the cycle, was well addressed with the additions of Hyatt, Calloway, Malachi Wideman, Dee Beckwith, and potentially work from Jimmy Calloway and Jabari Smalls. The Vols did leave National Signing Day with the feeling that would have liked to add another pure corner to the class. A few months later than anticipated, and the Vols have done exactly that.

Bishop played both ways at Independence, but at the Blue-Grey All-Star Game, he worked as a defensive back. He also seems to fit with a need the Vols had at corner in this class. Furthermore, if genetics have anything to do with it, Bishop is bound for the secondary. His father, Blaine Bishop, was a long-time star safety with the Tennessee Titans, earning four Pro Bowl births while playing for the two-tone blue. Known as, “The Hitman,” the elder Bishop was a consummate professional through his career, highly regarded by teammates and players alike. He was also one of the most punishing hitters of his era. Chayce is likely to find his future at corner, but he flashes the ability to deliver jarring hits on film when given the chance. What the younger Bishop is most likely to build his play in the secondary around is his excellent speed. He is an impressive athlete that has a sub-4.4 forty-yard dash. That equates to elite speed, even in the SEC. Bishop has a big enough frame, with a rangy build, that he can come up and press receivers. He can be physical and press at the line, then turn and run stride for stride with receivers. Bishop is a much better tackler than his size would indicate, wrapping ball carriers up while also showing the ability for the highlight reel hits. His ball skills show up in coverage, and he can quickly turn from a defender to a receiver. Bishop is still a bit raw, on either side of the ball, and his technique will need to be developed at the next level, but Jeremy Pruitt and Derrick Ansley are two of the best teachers of defensive backs in the nation. Between their teaching, and the insight he can seek from his father, Bishop is a player that the Vols could develop into a real gem.

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On offense, Bishop's game is still built around his speed. His route tree looks limited on film, but you can't argue with the results it produces. Bishop runs by corners playing in the 6A division of Tennessee high school football, some of which have FBS offers. He gets deep on go routes quickly and doesn't let defenders squeeze him to the sideline while working for deep balls. He makes contested grabs, despite being outsized at times by opposing corners. He times his jumps well, shows good, natural hands, and just has a knack for working himself past deep coverage, even when it is rolled to stop him. Bishop also shows the ability to take a quick bubble screen, make a man miss, and get upfield. He sets up his blockers well, more like a running back than a wide receiver. His route tree will need to be further developed if he plays on offense at Tennessee, but that is a skill that can be taught. It is also worth mentioning that whichever side of the ball Bishop finds himself on, he is a threat with the ball in his hands. This should lead to him factoring in on Tennessee's special teams, and into their return specialist battles. 

Chayce Bishop is a quality addition to the 2020 class for Tennessee, especially if he comes in a preferred walk-on role. He had offers from Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Virginia Tech, Tulane, and his father's alma mater, Ball State. This is a young man that had multiple Power Five offers and had multiple SEC offers. Bishop has dangerous speed and was rated as an upper mid-range three-star athlete with a significant upside. His speed cannot be taught, he was extremely productive in high school, and he is part of an NFL family. Bishop was a player that multiple good programs wanted. If he is on scholarship with the Vols, he is still a solid, in-state addition to this class. If he came to Tennessee as a PWO, the Vols have convinced a very good player that could figure into their corner rotation by 2021 and returner discussion before that, to walk on in Knoxville over scholarship offers from two programs the Vols will play every year. Bishop’s film leaves him as an intriguing prospect overall, and though he is a bit raw at corner, working under Pruitt and Ansley means he will have an opportunity to maximize his talent while learning good technique. While this is not the early expectation for Bishop, it is worth noting that the last late addition the Vols had to a class that played both ways, had great speed, and wound up at corner instead of on offense was one Bryce Thompson. It will be interesting to see what Pruitt can develop Bishop into, as he has the track record with this type of player, and Bishop has enormous upside.