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‘It’s the best decision I ever made’: Freshman safety Cole Bishop explains why he chose to play for Utah

During the recruiting process, Bishop, a Georgia native, didn’t know much about the Utes. But when Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley made contact with him, things changed. 

Cole Bishop, center, has made an early impact for the Utah Utes as a freshman.
Cole Bishop, center, has made an early impact for the Utah Utes as a freshman.
Utah Athletics

Early in the recruiting process, Utah freshman safety Cole Bishop admits he didn’t know much about the Utes.

That makes sense, because the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder hails from the opposite side of the country — Peachtree City, Georgia.

But when Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley made contact with Bishop, things changed.

“I didn’t know much about Utah football beforehand,” he said. “After I started talking to (Scalley), I did some research and I liked it.”

Bishop wasn’t able to take a recruiting visit to the Utah campus due to the pandemic. He signed with the Utes anyway.

“It was kind of spontaneous and risky coming out (to Utah),” he said. “But it’s the best decision I ever made.”

Bishop originally committed to Duke in March of 2020. But by October, he changed his mind and decided to play for the Utes.

Bishop arrived in Utah in January and participated in spring drills. Listed as a backup on the depth chart to senior Brandon McKinney at strong safety, Bishop has certainly made an impression on coach Kyle Whittingham, who has seen a lot of productive and talented safeties roll through the program over the past 20 years.

When asked about Bishop, Whittingham compared him to Nate Ritchie, who started last season before departing on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Cole Bishop is Nate Ritchie, Part 2. That’s what Cole Bishop is,” Whittingham said. “He’s a freshman that’s mature beyond his years. His readiness to play is beyond a freshman. You’ll see him play this year.”

Bishop, who enrolled last January and participated in spring practices with the Utes, said he’s eager to contribute.

“I’m just trying to work my hardest, whether I’m starting or on the scout team or second string,” Bishop said. “I just want to help the team as best as I can.”

Bishop said he never got to meet Ritchie before he left on his mission, but he’s learned from him.

“I watched every game from last year while trying to learn the defense. He was a pretty good player. He came in and started as a freshman. He had a really good understanding of the defense,” he added. “I’ve watched a lot of him and Terrell Burgess, and the strong safeties from the past two years, trying to get a feel for things.”

Does safety Vonte Davis, who played with Ritchie last season see similarities between Ritchie and Bishop?

“I can see the similarities a lot, actually,” Davis said.

The decision to play at Utah surprised a lot of people close to Bishop. It even surprised him.

“Honestly, yes, because it was so random,” Bishop said. “Coming from Georgia, going all the way to Utah was spontaneous. I was worried about leaving so far from home but (family and friends) were really supportive of it.”

Now, Bishop is looking forward to being a contributor to Utah’s defense.