Notre Dame football recruiting: Hoge a picture of patience
No one can argue with Tristen Hoge’s patience.
Sure, the junior offensive lineman from Pocatello, Idaho verbally committed to Notre Dame 14 months before signing day for 2015 prospects, but he also waited more than a month after knowing he wanted to be Irish.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound prospect visited South Bend in October for Notre Dame’s 14-10 victory over USC. By the end of the visit, he had his heart set on Notre Dame.
“My parents were actually surprised I didn't commit there,” Hoge said. “But then again they knew I had the visit to Florida coming up a couple weeks from then. I didn't want that to be that awkward situation being committed while at Florida. I just waited it out. I knew it was time. I told my parents, ‘As soon as we can, I want to get back to South Bend to tie this up.’”
Hoge and his parents arrived at Notre Dame last Friday with the plan to commit. Only he had to wait one more day until a meeting with head coach Brian Kelly on Saturday afternoon. Then he was able to extend his pledge to Notre Dame with Kelly, safeties coach Bob Elliott and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.
"I would have been great doing it Friday, but I knew they had it planned for me to meet with him on Saturday,” Hoge said. “The anticipation was building until then. I wanted to get my recruiting coordinator, coach Elliott, and coach Hiestand in there. I wanted to get those three that have meant so much to this recruiting process to be there to experience it. It was a good day."
Instead of having to compare his visit to other schools, Hoge was able to enjoy spending a couple days on campus with his future teammates.
"It's always different when you're there just visiting,” Hoge said. “But you know this is the place where I'm going to be in a year. This is where I'm going to live for four years. It's such a better feeling. You can start to familiarize with everything."
Hoge has enjoyed being able to get to know the players at Notre Dame, specifically naming freshman offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Hunter Bivin as two he knows best. The atmosphere around the team was the main factor that swayed Hoge’s mind back in October.
“It's so much different from every school I visited,” Hoge said. “There are competitors on the team, but it's not a competition. They're not looking at me as if you're going to take my spot. It's 'you’re going to make this program better, so we need you.' That's emitting from the teammates. It also speaks volumes to me when a player heads over just to take some time and say hello to introduce themselves. That's what meant so much to me."
Multiple recruiting rankings have Hoge as the No. 1 center prospect in the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him at No. 92 regardless of position. Rivals ranks him No. 129 overall.
Earlier this month, Hoge was named the Gatorade Idaho Football Player of the Year. He was just one of 10 junior football players to win the award for his respective state and the only offensive lineman.
"Back here in Idaho, it's a huge honor, especially being a junior,” Hoge said. “It's an opportunity to repeat it next year. Among all the skilled athletes across this country, to be among those elite athletes, it's definitely an honor. It's humbling as well."
Now Hoge hopes to enjoy the next year-plus without the stress of recruiting, and helping Notre Dame build an elite class for 2015. Alongside quarterback Blake Barnett and offensive lineman Jerry Tillery, the Irish appear off to a strong start.
"It was definitely a breath of fresh air for me,” Hoge said. “I'm done. This is the end of the road for this one. It was a great experience and definitely a great weekend for me."
Last visits of 2013
In the last recruiting week of the calendar year, head coach Brian Kelly scheduled in-home visits with two of Notre Dame’s biggest remaining targets.
On Wednesday, Kelly visited defensive tackle Matt Elam in Elizabethtown, Ky. The 6-6, 340-pound Elam ranks as a five-star prospect, the No. 2 defensive tackle in the 2014 and the No. 7 prospect overall according to 247Sports. Rivals rates Elam as a three-star prospect.
The Irish are competing with Alabama and Kentucky for Elam’s commitment, which he plans to announce at U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4.
An in-home visit with linebacker Nyles Morgan of Crete, Ill., remains scheduled for Thursday. The 6-2, 225-pound prospect ranks as one of the top five inside linebackers in the 2014 class on both Rivals and 247Sports as a four-star prospect.
The Irish appear to be competing with Florida, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt for Morgan’s commitment. He also plans to announce his decision at the Army Bowl. Morgan tweeted on Tuesday that he won’t be doing any interviews until the week of the All-American game.
An NCAA recruiting dead period, which prohibits in-person contact with recruits, starts on Dec. 16 and runs through Jan. 15. The Irish will host a number of visitors this weekend including linebacker targets Kolin Hill and Nile Sykes and athlete Charles Nelson, along with a handful of committed prospects.
Another pot of gold
The Notre Dame staff has planned another mailbox explosion for at least one more 2014 Irish recruiting target. Recruiting staffer JR Sandlin previewed the new mailings, referred to as the #PotOfGold, with a collection of photos on Twitter.
The staff started the #PotOfGold campaign earlier in November when they sent 270 letters to Elam. Elam’s area code is 270.
The newest wave of mail promises to be bigger than the last. Irish cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks took to Twitter to add to the hype.
“ND Nation will go nuts after the #PotOfGold lands,” Cooks tweeted.