Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2015.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we look at the pride and joy of the Potato State.
C, Tristen Hoge
Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho
Height: 6-4 1/2
247 Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 1 C, No. 1 ID, No. 89, USA, 0.956 Score
Need at Position: High
Expected Spot on 2016 Depth Chart: Starter
Most of the redshirt freshmen that we profile at this time year aren't in a position to play a lot in their second year on campus. Especially at Notre Dame where #YouCanNeverHaveEnoughLinemen there's an expectation by many that recruits are going to be 2 to 3 years away from starting. That may not be the case for Tristen Hoge, but first a look back at my comments from our last National Signing Day review:
He reminds me a lot of Matt Hegarty from the 2011 class in the sense of coming from a low population football state but remaining among the elite rankings for the entirety of his junior and senior season. In Hoge's case I think he has a little bit of a higher ceiling because he's likely to stick at center and has the prototypical everything you're looking for at the position, whereas Hegarty was initially a tackle prospect who moved inside and had a hard time adding size following his heart surgery. His level of competition in Idaho is a red flag concern but he held his own during the U.S. Army All-American game so it's all good.
We've known for a long time that Notre Dame would have to break in a new center for 2016. The career of Nick Martin has finally come to an end after starting 37 games, thus leaving a big hole in the middle of the Irish offensive line.
This time last year then rising redshirt freshman Sam Mustipher had his own RtR post and in it we mentioned he would find an easier path to playing time at center if he was able to hold off Tristen Hoge for 2016. Mustipher was recruited as a guard but during December 2014 in the lead up to the Music City Bowl he began cross-training at center before making the full-time switch as Martin's backup last spring.
So, Mustipher hasn't been playing center very long and remember Hoge enrolled early, too. Very early in fall camp Hoge drew a lot of praise for being physically ready--size was somewhat of an issue for early playing time but he was up to 300 already--and was being inserted on to the second-team offense for some work.
However, once the season rolled around Hoge went down to scout team in order to preserve his redshirt. On the year, Mustipher took 40 snaps from scrimmage and played reasonably well...except for this one play.
What's intriguing is what happened once Alex Bars broke his ankle in mid-October in the win over USC. The staff immediately moved Hoge up to varsity and began giving Mustipher some reps at guard. With Bars out long-term and Nelson (he gutted out the rest of the USC game) nursing his own ankle injury this may not look great for other players on the rosters chances but it does signal that Heistand & Co. think Mustipher is worthy enough to see the field at either position.
For his part, Tristen Hoge impressed enough with the JV squad to earn the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year Award at Notre Dame's annual football banquet.
So who will win the Mustipher vs. Hoge battle this off-season? I think it'll be Hoge. He's been playing center for years and is already coming into his second spring with the program. Surely he is not that far behind Mustipher in his development at the position. Mustipher could have a nice career at the position but I just don't see the No. 1 center from the 2015 class remaining a backup when 13 months before his redshirt freshman season he's getting great reviews for his physical ability.
Hoge becoming the starting center with Mustipher morphing into a backup at multiple spots on the interior feels like that's where this battle is going in the off-season.