Notre Dame’s center of the future is fighting to be the right guard of today. Tristen Hoge was one of the few offensive linemen that Harry Hiestand and Brian Kelly have recruited with positional specificity. A multi-year high school center, that still didn’t stop him from cross-training, with his best chance at a starting job in 2016 coming at right guard.
Hoge spent spring trying his best to make a name for himself at the position. While it might not have been enough to earn a starting job, he came out of his redshirt freshman season in the thick of it as a key reserve at two interior positions, poised to be a contributor in the near future.
6’4.5″, 300 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 66, OL
U.S. Army All-American. First-team Parade All-American. Two-time state player of the year for Idaho and 247Sports’ No. 1 center in the country. Hoge committed early to Notre Dame, turning down offers from Cal, Florida, Stanford, LSU and UCLA (among others) to come to South Bend. He was an early enrollee.
Freshman Season (2015): Did not see action, preserved year of eligibility.
WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR
We were right about the redshirt. Now we’ll see how Hoge does with Mustipher entrenched at center.
Hoge isn’t playing in 2015. Not unless something goes terribly wrong. So anything written or assumed about Hoge’s future at Notre Dame won’t need to be decided until after he’s established himself in the system, giving the coaches a very good look at his capabilities to take over the center job as a first-year contributor.
Right now, that seems like the most likely scenario, especially after seeing Sam Mustipher struggle with the consistency of his snaps. But in a depth chart that’s as competitive as the one that currently exists in South Bend, nobody is handed a job. And next spring is critical for Hoge, a 15-practice try-out for a starting job that many assume is his if he’s capable of taking it.
Hoge is in perfect position to take over come 2016, but he’ll have to earn it.
Hoge has the makings of a multi-year starter on the interior of the offensive line, no small feat in this depth chart. He caught his head coach’s eye last fall—so much so that there was at least talk of potentially taking off his redshirt.
That didn’t happen, and it’s a good thing. Because unless Hoge makes a big rally during camp, he’ll be a key reserve at two positions, with Mustipher able to play a fifth-year at center and other returners slated at both guard positions (depending on who wins the right guard job and how long Quenton Nelson sticks around in South Bend).
Calling a 300-pound guard who’s taller than 6-foot-4 undersized doesn’t make much sense. But Hoge’s work in the weight room is what’s allowing him the chance to play, and he’ll need to keep adding mass before he’s confused for someone like Quenton Nelson and has the ideal bulk for a guard job.
I see Hoge as the key backup at center and guard, called into action only if there’s injury at center or if Hunter Bivin fails to lock down the starting job at guard. There were some in the program who thought Hoge had a chance to win the right guard job outright this spring, so don’t be surprised if he’s one of the young players making noise come camp this August.
2016’s Irish A-to-Z