|Beau Hoge in action last week. Video via DeseretNews.|
“My dad did most of the driving,” Beau recalled last week about the long trek across the country. “I did a lot of sleeping.”
Suffice it to say that Beau Hoge is wide awake these days.
With starting freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum listed as “probable” this week due to a hamstring injury, Hoge is spending more of his time in practice with the first-team offense.
Since Taysom Hill went down with a season-ending injury in the season-opener, Mangum had been getting most of the reps in practice. Now Hoge is taking on more of the workload just in case he is called upon Friday when BYU hosts Cincinnati.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Hoge hails from a town, Fort Thomas, located five miles from Cincinnati. Last week, when asked if there was any special meaning attached to playing the hometown Bearcats, he said, “No, it’s just another game.”
But he might feel differently now, with the prospect he could play, and possibly earn his first career start, against Cincinnati.
When asked last week what he has learned from Mangum, Hoge replied, “That you have to be ready for whatever. It’s something I knew, but it becomes a reality when it happens.”
That reality happened for him last Saturday in BYU's 45-38 win over East Carolina.
Hoge was summoned from the bench to replace the injured Mangum, and it was a bumpy debut, as he completed 1 of 5 passes for nine yards and an interception in four series in the second half. With four minutes left, Mangum returned and led a game-winning drive.
"He’s a true freshman and he probably didn’t expect to have this type of a role this soon,” offensive lineman Ryker Mathews said of Hoge. “But he’s a good player, a good athlete. If he had a little bit more preparation, he would have done a lot better on Saturday than he was hoping he would have done. Knowing that he might have an opportunity to go in the game (Friday), he’ll probably prepare a little bit different and will expect himself to be a contributor.”
Wide receiver Mitch Mathews said that part of the process of getting Hoge ready to play is “building him up. He’s got a lot of ability. He has a great arm. To be thrown in the fire like that is tough … He’s just young. I sent him a text last night, just building him up. Little things like that will keep him going. Beau will have to do a lot for us this week.”
At the same time, Mitch Mathews expects Mangum to play Friday.
“If it was that bad, he wouldn’t have come back into the game. I mean, it was a bad injury," he said. "To see him limp that bad, it must have been something. But he’s a super-tough kid. He’s not going to be held back, in my opinion.”
But if the Cougars have to rely on Hoge, they are confident he can produce.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Hoge’s strengths include “an ability to create. He runs really well. And he throws it well as well. More of Taysom-type offense if Beau is in. Maybe less Tanner. But again, we have to customize the offense for Tanner predominantly. There’s a limited package we could do with Beau. It just has to be with enough complements to be able to move the ball successfully. He’s a different style of quarterback, but really effective. We like him a lot.”
Because his dad, Merril, was an NFL running back for eight seasons and has been an ESPN analyst since 1996, Beau Hoge has grown up around the game. While he was born a few years after Merril’s playing days, “you definitely get some neat experiences, going to some big stadiums and cool games. Stuff like that was something I didn’t take for granted.”
Beau said he’s accustomed to being in the spotlight.
“Growing up with my dad, I’m used to big stadiums,” he said. “I don’t feel overwhelmed when I’m out there.”
In early October, Merril Hoge underwent a scheduled heart surgery. “Everything went well,” Beau said. “He has a lot of pain from the surgery but his heart is normal and he should make a full recovery.”
Merril spent considerable time in Provo during fall camp to watch his son and he also attended the Nebraska, Boise State and Michigan games.
“He got to work it out with ESPN so he could come to all that,” Beau said. “It meant a lot. Like any kid, they want their family around. It was exciting to have him there as well as other family that lives in the area.”
What advice did his dad have for him as he began his college career?
“He told me that the main thing is to be a sponge, absorbing everything and learning from the guys, listening to the coaches and doing whatever I can to fix mistakes,” he said.
As a senior, Beau Hoge led Highlands High School to a 13-2 record and the Kentucky Class 4A state championship. He threw for 3,459 yards and 35 touchdowns and he rushed for 865 yards and 26 TDs.
In addition to BYU, he was recruited by Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio. Beau attended some Cincinnati football camps when he was a kid.
“BYU was the first offer. I wanted to come here,” he said. “It made sense, being LDS. It was the right place for me.”
Just a couple of months after arriving in Provo, Beau Hoge's nascent journey as a Cougar quarterback has become even more intriguing.