We’re less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Cato-Bishop has always had the makings of a great pass-rusher at NC State, but he’s only just shown glimmers of that promise during his career thus far. Now as a senior, perhaps this is the year he finally puts it all together.
And that’s not to discredit the work he’s done to this point either. Last year, despite missing two games, he still posted 10.5 tackles for loss (6.5 sacks) as the primary cog in NC State’s underrated defensive line. At 6’4″ and 278 pounds, it’s easy to understand how he’s become such a force, though some may bring up questions on production. While he certainly possesses a hulking frame, he’s not the quickest end (4.89 40-yard dash time) and doesn’t have any significant moves to get past blockers. But take a look at this game tape from last year’s matchup against Boston College. Time after time, he’s double covered, either initially or on delay, which frees up the right side of the line or his fellow left side defensive tackle. Last season, he also did some work lining up in a nose tackle spot on occasion (which you’ll also see in that video), and right away you’ll notice the benefits: sucking in the line to address Cato-Bishop, thus freeing up the cornerback blitz. So, as can regularly be the case with elite defensive linemen, the tale of their production can’t always be captured in the box score alone. Again, see the tape, this time below:
As addressed above, where Cato-Bishop should improve this season, however, is in terms of run-stopping production, as well as using his long frame to get into passing lanes. One pass deflection is not enough from a player of his height, and for his size and ability to get after the passer, failing to force any fumbles is not an ideal situation. Putting in the right amount of work this offseason, he can shed his “non-athletic” label and make a much bigger impact for the Wolfpack, who will need the defensive line to step up as a fairly green secondary figures things out in the season’s early-goings. In terms of stopping the run, it’s going to take similar efforts in terms of athleticism to become a bigger factor there. Last year, he had just 36 tackles in all — a key reason why NC State allowed over four yards per carry in 2012.
With new coach Dave Doeren, State will maintain a 4-3 scheme, which should put Cato-Bishop in a similar position to succeed as last year; now he just needs to deliver more results. Playing a full season this time around should help, and as long as he’s progressed this offseason. He’s also being challenged by rising star Mike Rose this spring, which could also provide some additional motivation for him as the starting job sorts out prior to the fall.