Darryl Cato-Bishop was one of the most versatile performers on the scout team last year as a true freshman defensive lineman. He earned scout team MVP honors for the year while lining up at defensive tackle, defensive end, and even playing some outside linebacker. This season, the big man has continued to show his versatility while performing at defensive end and tackle on game day for the Pack.
He claims to have no preference between the two, saying he simply wants to line up wherever the coaches stick him. He does admit that the two positions are very different, and that playing both is demanding, but he thinks the balancing act only helps him improve as a football player.
"The toughest part is knowing the mindset that you have to have to play both positions," he said. "At defensive tackle, you've got two or three people on you. At defensive end, you're a little more free to do what you want.
"At defensive end, I have [to pay attention to] quarterbacks, I have to use a little bit more of my speed. At defensive tackle, I have to be strong and very instinctive. I think [playing both] helps. Being able to play more than one position will always help in the long run."
The 6-foot-4 and 280-pounder was recruited by NC State as a defensive end and tight end out of Groton (Mass.) Lawrence Academy. He had the same mindset during the recruiting process that he has now, saying that he wanted to play at whatever position earned him the most playing time. One year after being named the defensive scout team standout, Cato-Bishop is earning some playing time in defensive line coach Keith Willis' rotation.
"[Being named as Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year] was a big accomplishment because I showed coaches that I was working hard, trying to get better each and every day," Cato-Bishop said.
The versatile performer was also the beneficiary of strong performances in the spring scrimmages, leading the team with five sacks in preseason play. His stand out performance was not limited to the classroom as a rookie, he also recorded a 3.0 GPA in his first semester. While Cato-Bishop was only a two-star recruit according to Rivals.com, many considered him as a sleeper because he had focused on basketball early in his prep career. He is just beginning to develop into the type of player he can become on the gridiron.
When he made his college choice in late November of his senior year, Rivals' No. 5 player in Massachusetts decided to run with the Pack over a basketball offer from Stony Brook University and a football offer from Boston College, who the Pack hosts on Saturday. However, Cato-Bishop doesn't feel the upcoming game holds any more meaning than other fall contests, just because the opponent is close to where he is from.
"It's a big game for us because we lost last week," he said. "We've got to bounce back and show that we are fighting team, we aren't going to give up. Although I am from Boston, it's just another game to me."
Cato-Bishop's game plan for beating his hometown school is simple: stick to the basics. He said the focus this week for the defensive line has been to be physical and fast, while keeping their extension from the monstrous Boston College offensive line. The play up front will likely have a huge role in what kind of game the Eagles' Montel Harris has after a record-setting performance against the Pack last year.
"We just have to win the battle up front and be more physical with their line," he said. "I think if we're more physical and discipline, we'll be able to win."
Starting defensive end Jeff Rieskamp missed the Virginia Tech game due to injury, which allowed Cato-Bishop to see 23 snaps at defensive end. He also was in the game for 21 plays against Western Carolina, and played a season-best 26 snaps against Georgia Tech. He also played on defense against Central Florida and has tallied four tackles and three quarterback hurries on the year.
Rieskamp's status won't be released until Thursday, but Cato-Bishop prepares the same every week and insists that he'll be ready to go at defensive end and tackle for however long he is asked to be on the field Saturday. He has appeared on defense in four of the five games this year, and has recorded a quarterback pressure in each of the last two weeks.
"Things happen, Coach put me at defensive end [last week]," he said. "Wherever they want me to play, I'll play."
Western Carolina was the first game action of Cato-Bishop's college career. He said nothing compares to playing in front of 60,000 fans. While it made him uneasy at first, he is becoming more comfortable on the big stage.
"When redshirting, you learn a lot, but it's nothing like running in front of 60,000 people," he said. "Western Carolina was my first game, I was real nervous, but now, since I've been in the rotation and playing, I have kind of calmed down and am focused on my assignments."
While he already ranks as one of the team's most versatile competitors, Cato-Bishop's role could expand even more in the future. This season, defensive coordinator Mike Archer has moved into a 3-4 look on occasion, with ends David Akinniyi and Audi Augustin picking their hands up and moving back to linebacker, like Cato-Bishop did on occasion during his redshirt season.
While he is the heaviest of all defensive ends who have seen significant action this year, the prep basketball standout enjoys the chance to show his athleticism and hopes to take over than role when Akinniyi and Augustin, who are both seniors, graduate.
"It's always fun to be able to stand up once in a while, to not have your hand on the ground and run around a little bit," he said. "Those are all the coaches' decisions, wherever they want me to play, I'll play. But I hope to [stand up some], I'd love to do that."