PROVO — Tristen Hoge hasn’t disclosed the exact nature of his injury to this day, and certainly doesn’t want to use it as an excuse.

Rather he’s worked hard to put whatever injury he sustained behind him, along with his subpar play last season to finish out strong for his final season at BYU.

“I’ve talked with Mark Schlereth. He’s a good friend of my uncle, Merrill (Hoge). I’ve talked to him on the phone and he has some great pointers and taught me some little things that really helped him a lot to excel in the NFL.” — BYU’s Tristen Hoge

Hoge entered the 2019 as one of the leaders on the offensive line, and indeed for the entire BYU team before apparent deficiencies in his ability to pass block effectively left him on the bench for the latter half of the season. In total, the Notre Dame transfer played in just five games due to his insufficient play, which could easily be chalked up to injury, although the 6-foot-5, 320 pound lineman refuses to lean on that excuse.

“I can make an excuse all day about having an injury, but at the end of the day poor play is a reflection of me, and I’m not going to blame any injury for that,” Hoge said. “Did it inhibit me? Yeah, but it’s me who needs to power through that.”

Fortunately, for Hoge, he had several apt individuals available to help him both assess and work through his apparent weaknesses. First is his position coach, Eric Mateos, but also his father, Marty Hoge, and a national figure whose knowledge of line play is immense.

“I’ve talked with Mark Schlereth. He’s a good friend of my uncle, Merril (Hoge),” Hoge said. “I’ve talked to him on the phone and he has some great pointers and taught me some little things that really helped him a lot to excel in the NFL.”

Schlereth has worked as an analyst for both ESPN and Fox Sports prior after spending 11 years playing in the NFL while winning three Super Bowls and being named to two Pro-Bowls.

For Hoge, he went about assessing every single aspect of his game that needed improvement, and then went to work on each specific area — tackling his most glaring weaknesses first.

“The first thing I worked on was my pass (blocking),” Hoge said. “I was giving up way too many unnecessary sacks, and that should never happen. So it was to just clean up that part of my game. That was the first thing I focused on. I’ve made a lot of progress, I feel, but I still have work to do.”

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The specific focus is to keep aggressive and have active feet, according to Hoge, as passive play too often wrecks passing plays.

Even though his run-blocking appeared to be in good form, for the most part, a lot of focus has gone into that aspect, as well.

“I don’t want to have just a few dominant run blocks in a row, but rather focus on being dominant on every run play,” Hoge said. “It’s about being more consistent with my effort on every single play out there.”

All the work has been readily noticed by Mateos, who raved about his assumed starter at one of the offensive guard positions.

“He’s taken so many great steps,” Mateos said. “He’s put on an incredible amount of good weight in the offseason — he’s up to 320 pounds now of solid muscle. His feet are better, his balance is better, and his football IQ is great.”

BYU offensive lineman Tristen Hoge (69) brings the American flag onto the field before an NCAA college football game against Utah, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Provo, Utah. | George Frey, Associated Press

Of course the fact this season will be Hoge’s last before moving on has perhaps refined his focus and overall work ethic.

“He’s really taking things that he struggled with last season and really attacked those weaknesses,” Mateos said. “He really took advantage of the quarantine — him and his father worked extremely hard back home. So he’s playing like a guy on a mission — A guy who wants to put (an NFL) signing bonus in his pocket, and I can appreciate that.”

Beyond preparing himself for a hopeful NFL career is helping forge a dominant offensive front which is stocked with a load of returning talent from last year’s product. Subsequently, Hoge and his position group is putting a lot on themselves with regards to leadership and setting the tone.

“Coach Mateos stresses to us every day that we have to be the unit that leads the offense,” Hoge said. “The offense rolls how we roll. Everything follows our lead and so we need to be on it every single day. We’re confident and we’re leading the best we can. We’ve all made strides in the offseason and you can see it.”