PROVO — Former BYU quarterback Beau Hoge was sporting a blue jersey during Thursday's first open football practice of the season, playing running back, specifically. He saw a lot of work finding open holes, picking up blitzes and running pass patterns, much like he's been planning since April when he decided to ditch the green practice jersey reserved for quarterbacks and put a blue one on.
It was a move that came as a surprise to most, but something the team has been prepping for all offseason.
"I think he looked really good. I think he has the genes for it," noted BYU coach Kalani Sitake said of his new running back. "I thought he fit really comfortable and did some really good things, even on his pass routes and his protection. So we're excited about him being at that position."
For Hoge, he hasn't played at running back since the fifth grade, but opted for the switch at the conclusion of this past spring practice session, despite coaches staying mum about it throughout media day.
Hoge's father, Merril Hoge, played running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was happy with his son's change of position.
"Whatever I want to do, and whatever makes me happy, my dad is there, fully supporting it, Beau said. "He just wants me to get on the field in any way, shape or form."
Also supportive have been teammates, including some of the running backs he'll be competing for time for in an already crowded Cougar backfield. Beau singled out senior Squally Canada as a player who he's perhaps learned the most from in the offseason.
It's a position Beau wanted to play since he was a kid, hoping to emulate his father, although Merril convinced him to play at quarterback. What his father will impart to him about playing the position is certain to come and perhaps intensify as the season goes on.
"I'm sure he'll come out with some pointers once he comes out and sees me practice, and I'll welcome it," Beau said.
For Sitake, he believes the move will work to ultimately benefit the offense this season.
"He has great instincts for the run game," Sitake said. "We just wanted to give him a shot there and I think it suits what we're trying to do with him. Even with his health, I think it will work better for him and what we're trying to accomplish for this offense."
— Reps at quarterback were evenly split between Tanner Mangum, Joe Critchlow and Zach Wilson, according to coaches.
— The biggest offensive play during the open portion of practice was Wilson hitting a streaking Micah Simon down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown pass.
— The biggest defensive play was made by defensive back Sawyer Powell intercepting an attempted pass over the middle.
— The catch of the day belonged to receiver Talon Shumway, who leaped high to snare a pass on an out pattern.
— Running back Trey Dye wasn't on the roster and has opted for a medical retirement according to coaches.
Mustaches? Maybe not
A few coaches showed up to practices sporting mustaches, most notably quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick and receivers coach Fesi Sitake. Whether Kalani Sitake will follow suit, don't bet on it.
"I'm ugly already, so the last thing I need to do is add to the ugliness," Sitake said. "So those guys are a lot better looking than I am and can get away with it. I've sported the mustache before, and it didn't help me much back then."