Notre Dame OL commit Tristen Hoge signs aid agreement

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Brian Kelly visiting Pocatello, Idaho made for a big enough day for Tristen Hoge.

But Tuesday meant more than just showing his future head coach at Notre Dame his hometown. The Irish offensive line commit signed a grant-in-aid agreement with Notre Dame which binds the school to honor his scholarship offer when he enrolls in January.

It makes Hoge’s future at Notre Dame as official as it can get — as if his parents buying a home in South Bend earlier this year wasn’t enough. Hoge became the first Irish football recruit to take advantage of a rule interpretation made by the NCAA last year that allows a football prospect set to enroll early to sign a grant-in-aid with a school as early as Aug. 1 of his senior year.

“It's mostly to secure my scholarship with them,” Hoge said, “and I want to secure it because I know this is the place I want to be. I'm so firm with my commitment and this is a way to show it.”

Unlike a National Letter of Intent, the grant-in-aid doesn’t prevent Hoge from eventually signing with a different school. But in Hoge’s case, it’s a symbolic gesture to reaffirm his commitment to Notre Dame.

“I know people on social media think Notre Dame is getting a bad rap right now and kids are going to decommit,” Hoge said. “It's almost a thing to give people confidence again. I'm solid and I'm not going anywhere. Notre Dame is the place for me."

Notre Dame has maintained all 21 of its current verbal commitments in the 2015 recruiting class despite a four-game losing streak to end the regular season. The Hoge news, while not surprising, gives the Irish something to celebrate.

Notre Dame can announce the signing of Hoge and any other early enrollees who sign grants-in-aid in the coming month but will likely wait until the three other commits with plans to enroll in January — offensive lineman Jerry Tillery, defensive lineman Micah Dew-Treadway and linebacker Te’von Coney — have opportunities to sign. Tillery said Wednesday night he has signed the aid agreement and plans to fax it to Notre Dame on Thursday. (UPDATE: Dew-Treadway said he signed his papers on Thursday.)

The Irish coaching staff can also publicly comment on a prospect once a recruit has signed. Kelly took the opportunity to do so in a video interview with the Idaho State Journal on Tuesday.

“We’re looking for somebody that understands what Notre Dame is about – wanting to be challenged both in the classroom and on the football field,” Kelly told the newspaper. “From the very beginning, that’s what struck us about Tristen: his want to challenge himself, play for a national championship and get a degree from Notre Dame.”

Hoge, a 6-foot-5, 296-pound graduate of Highland High School, projects as a center for Notre Dame. And according to Rivals and 247Sports, he’s the best center prospect in the country for the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 106 recruit regardless of position in the class. Rivals ranks Hoge No. 150 overall.

“The center position is one which requires a unique skillset,” Kelly told the Idaho State Journal. “You have the football in your hand. You have to be a smart player. You have to understand the game. They’re hard to find, those kind of players, especially on the offensive line where you understand the game, recognize fronts and blocking schemes. It’s a very difficult player to find, somebody that smart and understands the game like he does.”

Kelly joined assistant coach Bob Elliott, who recruited Hoge, to Pocatello on Tuesday. It was a newsworthy moment in the city. A little more than a week prior, Hoge and his teammates at Highland won a state championship.

“He's the biggest coach that's ever been here in Pocatello,” Hoge said of Kelly. “It was huge for us. He's a celebrity here. We have a lot of Irish fans in Pocatello."

But no one was as thrilled as Hoge to host Kelly on an in-home visit on the day he took the next step in securing his dream of playing at Notre Dame.

“It was very enjoyable,” Hoge said. “My parents were very excited and proud of what I've accomplished. I'd say they were as excited as I was, but nobody could be as excited as I was. It was awesome." | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame offensive line commit Tristen Hoge will play in January's U.S. Army All-American Bowl. (Photo provided)
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and assistant coach Bob Elliott visited offensive line commit Tristen Hoge on Tuesday. Hoge signed a grant-in-aid agreement to enroll in January. (Photo provided)