PROVO — While BYU lost three starting offensive linemen from last season's team, one of the newcomers to the O-line, redshirt sophomore Tristen Hoge, has an impressive resume and some experience at Notre Dame.
Hoge was a Parade All-American, a U.S. Army All-American and All-USA Today selection out of high school. Both Rivals and 247Sports ranked him as the No. 1 center nationally in the recruiting class of 2015.
In 2016, Hoge played in six games in a reserve role for the Fighting Irish. He was named Notre Dame’s offensive scout team player of the year as a freshman.
During the summer of 2017, Hoge transferred to BYU, and he sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
After spending a year honing his skills and making an impact on the program off the field, he’s looking forward to being a presence on the field when the Cougars open the season at Arizona on Sept. 1.
His wait is almost over.
“I cherish every day I’m out here,” Hoge said. “Coming into game one, I’m beyond excited.”
The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder from Pocatello, Idaho (he prepped at Highland High, the same school that produced former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill), is expected to be the starter at right guard, but he can also play center.
“I’m more playing guard. They give me some reps at center because I’ve played that position my whole life,” Hoge said. “When it comes down to it, I always say I’ll play whatever puts me on the field — guard, center, cornerback. At this point I don’t even care. Whatever I can do to benefit the team, it’s all good.”
Though he hasn’t played a down for the Cougars in a game, over the course of the past year, Hoge has established a reputation as a leader — not just for the offensive line, but also for the entire offense.
“I think he has the opportunity to provide some leadership for us," said first-year offensive line coach Ryan Pugh. "He can be a good leader on our offense."
"Tristen was one of the guys that came out this summer and was vocal, encouraging others and cheering guys on," said offensive lineman Austin Hoyt.
“Tristen brings a lot of leadership to the offensive line. He’s always been someone who is super-inclusive,” said Hoge’s cousin Beau, a Cougar running back. “I’ve never been an offensive lineman, but having a leader who includes everybody is key. He meshes with every single one of them, and it shows on the football field, their unity, the way they do everything together. It translates to the field.”
Leadership is just one of the qualities that Tristen Hoge brings to BYU's offense.
"He has knowledge and experience at a high level. He’s so versatile with where he can play. I don’t think there’s a position he can’t play," Pugh said. "He knows what to do. The game means a lot to him. He’s passionate about it. When you get guys like that, who are passionate about the game of football and will do whatever it takes to be great, that’s what you’re looking for. I think we have a room full of those guys. We have offensive linemen who love to play the game.”
When Tristen transferred to BYU, joining Beau, some envisioned a future Hoge-Hoge combination at center and quarterback.
Since that time, Beau has been switched from quarterback to running back while Tristen is likely going to start at guard.
Still, the Hoge cousins are eager to play together in whatever capacity it may be — like Tristen opening a hole for Beau to run through.
“As long as we’re on the field together,” Tristen said, “we still have that Hoge-Hoge combo, really.”
“It’s going to be awesome to play together. I’m sure once it happens, I’ll be able to put it into words,” Beau said. “We talk about it a lot. Looking forward and seeing your last name on someone else’s jersey is a special thing.”
While he was sidelined last season after transferring, Tristen Hoge did everything he could to prepare for the 2018 campaign.
“I’ve acclimated very easily here at BYU. I heard horror stories about transferring and all that comes with it. The transition was easy, and I feel like I’ve settled in. These guys on the team are my brothers, and I care a lot about them. It’s been a journey and it’s been a good one," he said. "Once I knew that I had to sit out, I looked at it with all the positivity in the world. I knew right then I had to make the most of it and if I didn’t, then shame on me. I took most of that year and became better as a player. I became stronger, faster and did everything I could to improve."
Hoge said his time at Notre Dame “made me a better person, for sure. Everything I learned at Notre Dame I brought here. The lessons I learned there will influence me throughout the rest of my life.”
At BYU, Hoge enjoys playing for an offensive coordinator, Jeff Grimes, who has been a longtime offensive line coach.
“He emphasizes us on the O-line. He understands that all play starts up front. There’s a lot of pressure put on us to put our jobs well,” Hoge said. “There’s a lot of responsibility we have to take up. But he knows it’s nothing that we can’t handle. He understands that it will begin and end with us. He puts us on the forefront and I can appreciate that.”
Hoge also likes playing for a position coach in Pugh who is “relatable” because he’s not far removed from being a player himself.
“He’s not old-school style because he knows the new-school because that’s how he was taught,” Hoge said of Pugh. “And he was taught under Grimes, so there’s that spillover. We have an abundance of knowledge.”
The BYU offensive line has been working to dominate the line of scrimmage and impose its will on opposing defenses.
“That’s something we’ve stressed every day. Coach Pugh and coach Grimes stress it’s a relentless pursuit to finish. That being said, we want to breed five guys who are relentless and have a notorious reputation of controlled violence. We’re getting there,” Hoge said. “Everyone says it’s a flip-the-switch mindset. But it’s something you always have to carry in your back pocket. You always have to have that aggression with you because once you hit the field, it has to be there. You can’t fake it. There’s no substituting it. It’s got to be there or it isn’t. For the guys up front, we’re trying to find that nastiness that we can play with — controlled violence.”
Despite losing three starters on the O-line from last season, Hoge said, BYU’s depth at that position is better now.16 comments on this story
“We have a lot of depth this year. Coach Pugh is molding us all to have the capability to play at a moment’s notice, to keep us conditioned to where you could interchange anybody,” Hoge said. “A guy goes out, another comes in, and you don’t lose a step.”
What does Hoge want to accomplish before he makes his BYU debut in the season-opener at Arizona?
“There’s no stress. Playing football is something I’ve done my whole life," he said. "Technique-wise, I want to be completely sound. I want to have everything down pat. They say we’re the smart guys but we have everything simplified. It’s a thinking man’s game but we don’t want to think too hard. I want to be able to play freely with full confidence. That’s my goal."