The Utah coaching staff couldn’t say enough good things about safety Cole Bishop during the spring.

A 6-foot-2 freshman safety, Utah couldn’t keep him off the field last season. He played in 10 games and started the final six contests. Sure, Utah dealt with injury issues in the secondary and that played a part, but Bishop put himself on the field by his practice and play.

Three of his four best game grades from Pro Football Focus came in the last four weeks of the season, with his best being saved for the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. As he enters into the new year expected to hold down a safety spot in the Utes’ starting 11, he’s a prime breakout candidate.

PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote the following in naming him a player to watch in 2022:

Placing expectations on true freshmen is always risky, especially for an incoming three-star recruit like Bishop was a season ago. Needless to say, it was quite the surprise to see him take over a starting spot down the stretch of 2021 and look like a senior. His run fits, overall play recognition and ability to take on blocks were impressive in that short time on the field as a freshman. Bishop finished with a 90.7 run-defense grade and 14.5% positively graded run play rate — both of which were the highest among Power Five safeties. He also tallied up three sacks as a blitzer from Week 10 on — the most at the position nationwide. The next step is to round out his coverage play. Maybe he has already broken out, but I’d argue that he can take his play to another level and become a household name outside of the state of Utah.

Utah won its first Pac-12 title last season behind a bruising ground game and a characteristically stout defense. Karene Reid shared earlier this summer he thinks the Utes can field an even better defense in 2022.

“I think we have the potential to be better than last year,” he said on a podcast. “I know that’s a bold statement to make but with the people we have coming back and the pieces we’re adding, we shouldn’t have a weak spot… we’ll be nasty.”

Bishop’s continued development figures to play a role in just how much.