Tristen Hoge was a big deal as a recruit, even if he never acted like it.
The four-star prospect from Pocatello, Idaho, committed to Notre Dame in December of his junior year over offers from Florida, LSU, Penn State, Stanford and Washington. Then he never took other visits, ultimately competing at The Opening and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl before enrolling early with the Irish.
Hoge’s family even bought a home around South Bend.
In terms of stress-free recruitments, Notre Dame couldn’t ask for anything more. Now Harry Hiestand gets to develop Hoge over the next five years, molding the true center into a potential replacement for Nick Martin.
Hoge develops in the background all fall and enters next spring in a true competition with Sam Mustipher for the starting center job. Keeping Hoge on the sidelines should be the priority for the coaching staff, which could have a four-year starter on its hands. The early enrollee worked with the third team during spring practice behind Nick Martin and Mustipher. Where his game goes through his first season and second spring practice is impossible to know, although odds favor the weight room grinder improving strength while soaking up Hiestand’s instruction. The competition at center figures to be one of the main position battles next spring.
Hoge is forced to burn his red shirt due to a plague of injuries on the offensive line. That would require Martin and Mustipher going down, but even then the staff would probably try Mark Harrell in the middle before going to a true freshman. If somehow Hoge makes it onto the field, this season has probably gone sideways in a serious way.
The gold standard of the past 20 years is Jeff Faine, who took a red-shirt before starting 35 straight games and developing into a first round pick. Ideally that’s the career arc Hoge wants to travel. But it’s hard to pick a fair career comparison now considering Notre Dame’s early enrollees on the offensive line haven’t been true centers. Trevor Robinson was a guard. Steve Elmer swung between guard and tackle. That leaves Hoge without a real comparison.
Hoge was a consensus four-star recruit and slotted No. 50 overall on Scout, which listed him as the nation’s No. 2 offensive guard. The other three recruiting services ranked Hoge anywhere from No. 89 to No. 150 overall. ESPN, Rivals and 247 all ranked the Idaho product as the nation’s top center. The U.S. Army All-American’s profile matched all those accolades considering how hard Notre Dame, Florida and Stanford came after him.
To be determined.
“This is a unique player in the sense that he's already been groomed for this position at the offensive center position. Shotgun snapped his entire high school career and really feel like we've got a guy that has got a great upside coming in at the center position.” – Brian Kelly on National Signing Day