"I was ecstatic to start playing," Bishop said. "People use the term thrown in the fire and that's pretty much what happened early. But when you're a freshman that's what you want to happen."
While it might have been exhilarating to get on the field as a true freshman, Bishop admits that it was also frustrating at times. He started eight games for the Pack but the team lost seven of those matchups, failed to make a bowl, and had one of the worst passing defenses in the league.
"The first year we had some tough times, some bumps in the road but I learned from it and I gathered a lot of experience starting eight games," he said. "Then I used that last year. I built off what I learned my first year. I thought I did better last year but obviously still made some mistakes and had some rough patches in the season."
A big part of the Wolfpack's defensive transformation is due to the development of Bishop and fellow safety Earl Wolff. Both were thrown onto the field as freshmen – Wolff redshirted in 2008 – and received more on-the-job training than O'Brien might have liked. Both have made tremendous strides, and have also become close friends.
"Me and Earl have grown up together a little bit – we are pretty tight," Bishop said. "I consider him my brother on-and-off the field so when you have a relationship like that with a guy you have to depend on every down... it just makes it a lot easier as far as being comfortable and being able to talk to him."
Playing together has become second nature for the two safeties, who started together at the end of the 2009 season and throughout the 2010 campaign. Bishop said the relationship between the two was something that has grown over time to the point where they've become part of a highly-regarded Wolfpack secondary.
"Let's just say it's a lot easier than it was in the beginning." Bishop said. "We've gotten used to each other, we've become accustom to playing with each other, and I think we have a pretty good thing going."
The secondary has also improved by cutting down on the mental mistakes. Bishop said those errors plagued the defense in the past – whether it was a failure to recognize a play or be in the appropriate spot. Both learning the playbook and offseason conditioning have helped reduce those mental breakdowns.
"Sometimes you are out there on a long drive and you're a little winded, you're out of breath," said Bishop. "That's when you have to be mentally strong. That's where the offseason conditioning and the workouts we do without the coaches come into play."
The junior safety spent this last offseason working on all parts of his game. Bishop was happy with the progress he made last season but believes he's a long way from becoming a complete player – rolling off a laundry list of areas where he things he can improve.
"Being a more solid tackler... playing in the open field," he said. "Playing in space better... breaking on more balls. I'm trying to get my hands on more balls."
This is the season he hopes that the defense takes yet another step forward and becomes one of the top units in the ACC. Bishop says that so far in fall camp, the defense is having a lot of fun on the field.
"When I first came in it was the complete opposite," he said. "Now I feel we are definitely going to be a strength for our team, and it's fun to play with those guys – Audie, Terrell.
"We are flying around; we're having fun out there. It's a lot different."