Hoge, 21, battled senior Tanner Mangum for the starting quarterback job before last season. But Mangum won the starting job. However, Mangum went down with a high-ankle sprain and Hoge earned his starting nod for the BYU Cougars against the then 10th-ranked and Big 10 power Wisconsin Badgers in front of 62,143 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Hoge completed 11-of-20 passes for 111 yards and two interceptions in a 40-6 loss. Hoge also carried the ball six times for 22 yards. Hoge started again two weeks later against the rival Utah State Aggies. Hoge completed 5-of-9 passes for 95 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. BYU led Utah State, 21-7 before Hoge had to come out. Utah State rallied for a 40-24 win.
"Obviously, it was my first start. I was getting the feel for things at that point," Hoge said of his first career start against Wisconsin. "I played a couple times my freshman year, but it was in games at the end where we were winning by a lot. I was obviously pumped. (Wisconsin) had a really good defense. I didn't play as well as I would have liked. But at the end of the day, it was a positive experience. I feel like I was able to learn from it. I kind of felt like I was able to in a short amount of time apply that level of comfort and trust that my teammates had in me. I was able to apply that two weeks later against Utah State. We were playing fairly well that game. Obviously, I got injured (with a toe injury and concussion), which was a bummer."
Hoge came back to play in the 20-13 loss at Fresno State on Nov. 4. He finished the season completing 19-of-39 passes for 257 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Hoge also rushed for 26 yards on 12 carries for an average of just under 2.2 per carry.
"I didn't really feel like it was faster or anything like that. I think it also comes into play that I'd been around for two years already practicing with our team and everything like that," Hoge said. "It wasn't too big of an adjustment. Obviously, it was faster in practice. That's kind of a natural thing. Practices were helpful in making me feel like I could see everything as it was happening. Nothing felt like it was too fast."
Hoge is again battling for the starting quarterback job against three other players including Mangum. The other two are sophomore Joe Critchlow and freshman Zach Wilson. Hoge, Wilson and Mangum spent a lot of time working with Dustin Smith of QB Elite in the winter. QB Elite is a reciever and quarterback development program in Utah.
"I think it just takes every day with competition building that body of work. It's not about just one day or one practice," Hoge said. "But that's probably about as much as I can expand on the quarterback competition. That's all up to the coaches. I think it's just our job to compete and be the best that we can be individually."
BYU went 4-9 last season after going 9-4 in both 2015 and 2016. BYU lost 35-28 to the University of Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2015. But the Cougars came back to win the Poinsettia Bowl, 24-21 over the University of Wyoming. Kalani Sitake took over as head coach of the Cougars after the 2015 season when Bronco Mendenhall left to take the same job at the University of Virginia.
Hoge has spent the off-season learning the new pro-style and spread offensive formations of new Offensive Coordinator Jeff Grimes, who came over after four years as Offensive line Coach and Running Game Coordinator at Louisiana State University. This marks the third offensive coordinator in Hoge's four years on campus. Grimes took over for the fired Ty Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at BYU, who served for two years as Offensive Coordinator. The Cougars ran a West Coast offense under Detmer. But both coordinators emphasized balanced offenses.
"They all have kind of trends to them and eventually when you're around football long enough, things start to overlap. Coach Grimes uses different techniques and different lingo of presenting it," Hoge said. "But at the end of the day, football is football. Things kind of start to repeat themselves and it's not too hard to pick up on it anymore. He caters to the players he has, but he also has his own schemes and styles that he's bringing along from LSU. Whatever works best is what we're going to role with and in spring (practice), we did a various amount of things and we're just trying to build on that going forward."
Hoge does not need to be reminded how vital trust in his offensive linemen to hold blocks long enough for the quarterback and skill position players to make plays. He credited his teammates and coaches for sticking together through the tough season last year.
"That comes from just the experiences we've had together," Hoge said. "Obviously in four years even though I haven't gotten to play as much as I would have liked, we've had plenty of good experiences together both on and off the field. It's definitely a pillar to being a good football team. If you don't have trust then you're going to struggle with a lot of things not just on the field performance."
Hoge made a difference as a dual threat in his senior year at Highlands. Against Paducah Tilghman, Hoge rolled to his right, but quickly bounced back to his left once he saw that side of the field open up. He ran for about 15 yards then cut back toward the middle for another 10. But Hoge said he realizes he has to be smart about when to take off as opposed to staying in the pocket and try to make a play with his arm.
"You never quite get openings like that in college like you did in high school," Hoge said. "Everybody is a lot faster and a lot stronger and I certainly am not the big guy on the field anymore. I definitely try to avoid any unnecessary hits and contact."
The Cougars have two big in-state rivalries in the Holy War with Utah and the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel against Utah State. The Cougars are 0-3 against the Utes since Hoge's arrival on campus, but have gone 2-1 against Utah State. BYU has been an independent in football since the start of the 2011 season. Hoge said there are some similarities to the high school battles with Covington Catholic.
"The schools don't like each other very much. Obviously, there's a lot of respect between both schools, but we're on the losing end of that, especially recently," Hoge said of the Utah rivalry. "We're looking to right that ship this year."
Hoge is majoring in Sociology. He said he's earned all As and Bs. BYU has a big fall and winter semester where students take 12 to 18 credits. Then BYU has six week semesters in the spring and summer. Hoge said he took two classes in the spring.
"It's been a really good academic experience. I'm taking a variety of classes," Hoge said. "I feel like I've learned a lot and kind of expanded my horizons with everything. The classroom experience is certainly tough. It certainly requires a lot of hard work and a lot of studying. But it's been positive none the less. I think Highlands high school does a good job of preparing people for college. I certainly took tough (Advanced Placement) courses at Highlands that have mapped similarities to what a college course is like. I've never felt overwhelmed with the load at BYU or anything like that."
BYU opens the season Sept. 1 at the University of Arizona. The Cougars face four Pac-12 teams this fall.