Kirby Smart’s got a reputation for being fairly ruthless on the recruiting trail, which makes for a great story about one of Georgia’s 2017 signees, Tray Bishop.
Bishop actually was committed to the Tigers for a long time. He pledged his services to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn in July of 2016 with the intention of heading to the Plains as Auburn’s next great quarterback. It’s the position he played most of his four years at Terrell County and the one he planned on playing in college.
Nevertheless, while telling Bishop he was their quarterback of the future, the Tigers still listed him as an athlete on their recruiting board and continued to recruit other quarterbacks. Auburn told him playing other positions would be an option if signal caller did not work out, but the school’s continued pursuit of other QB targets began to ring disingenuous to Bishop and others in his circle of trust.
“The [Auburn] coaches told me from the get-go they wanted me as a quarterback, but if I signed it was going to be as a quarterback/athlete,” Bishop said. “If I didn’t like quarterback I could go to any other position, receiver or defensive back. After a while, though, my whole mentality changed. I decided I didn’t want to play offense.”
Georgia had a lot to do with that. From the jump, the Bulldogs were saying they liked Bishop as a defensive back. They told him they felt he had the speed to play cornerback and the size to play cornerback or safety. They also spent a lot of time citing NFL data about the number of players that get drafted as a quarterback versus those that get their names called as defensive backs. The Florida Gators were giving Bishop the same spiel, and it quickly started to make sense to him.
Meanwhile, Bishop continued to get knocked around as the Greenwaves’ quarterback. While he enjoyed playing the position for his school, and did it quite well, he never experienced much in the way of team success and stayed beat up most of the time. The only time they made the state playoffs was Bishop’s senior year, and he couldn’t play because of a fractured ankle and torn ligaments. Terrell County went 20-20 while competing in Region 1-A during Bishop’s four years in the program.
“I always told the coaches recruiting me, ‘Tell me what you think, not what you think I want to hear. Tell me the truth. If I can’t do it, I can’t,’” Bishop said. “When Coach Tucker [Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker] came to see me play, he’d tell me that he thought I had the potential to play corner. He said, ‘There’s a few things I can teach you and it’ll be on from there.’ I always appreciated that.”
Toombs admits she wanted her son to go to Auburn. Bishop’s grandparents also “were enamored with the idea of him playing quarterback at Auburn,” according to Huff. But Huff was advising against it.
“Basically what I told him was, in two or three years you’re going to have to learn to play defensive back or receiver for the NFL,” Huff said. “In the meantime, Auburn started signing these other quarterbacks. I think Tray saw the writing on the wall. They were just trying to recruit an athlete and they were going to move him anyway.”
No doubt the recent game of musical chairs at Auburn’s quarterback position helped, but you can almost hear the “so, where’s Marshall playing today?” singing in the background. Well played, Mr. Smart.