LOGAN — In his five years as a member of the Utah State football program, offensive tackle Derek Hoke has seen a lot more negatives than positives: losses (many big, some close), coaching changes, lack of respect and personnel moves, just to mention a few.

"It's been frustrating at times, and a lot of that frustration has made me stronger," he said. "A lot of that frustration made me angry and made me work to succeed."

Lately, the positives are starting to mount: two consecutive wins to end the season last year, and added depth.

As he enters his senior season, he's hoping to add to them.

"It's been a tough road — tougher than I thought it would be," said Hoke, who started his career in 2001 as a walk-on. "But we want to finish strong and go out with some wins and be remembered for the year that got things turned around and got things going in the right place."

Now, Hoke (6-foot-9, 315 pounds) will be counted on to be an anchor on the offensive line.

"I have high expectations for myself and I ask a lot of myself, and hopefully I can deliver," he said.

His teammates are expecting him to deliver.

"One of the main things for me to do to accept that role is to try and have the hardest work ethic on the team," he said. "I'm trying to be in the weight room way more than is required and then come out here and work hard — fight more for me and my team and motivate them to pick it up when needed, and try to be a leader verbally and by example."

Hoke, who prepped at Pleasant Grove High School, is one of three starters returning on the offensive line. The Aggies lost two key players on the O-line in Shawn Murphy and Pace Jorgensen, but Hoke feels the Aggies won't miss a step without them.

"We lost some with Murph and Pace, but honestly, I think we will be better," he said. "I'm not saying we won't miss them, but we have a lot of depth now in a lot of places and a lot of younger people that weren't ready last year that are really ready to step in."

Hoke, Ryan Tonnemacher — who is sitting out spring drills with injury — and Spencer Johnson made every start last year.

The first item of business for the offensive line will be to bolster the Aggies' running game, which averaged just 124.9 yards a game last season.

"It does start with us. We didn't run the ball as well as we needed to last year, and that's a flat fact. So we have to change that, and this year I think we're making steps to do that," he said.

"We're going to go out there and punish and get the running game going, which we need, which will help the passing game and (help us) be a balanced team."

The Aggies have today off before finishing up spring drills with a practice Thursday and a Blue-White scrimmage on Friday at Romney Stadium. The scrimmage kicks off at approximately 4 p.m.

Utah State opens the season Aug. 30 at UNLV. Its home opener is slated for Sept. 13 when the Aggies host Utah.


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