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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 5/8, 315 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Junior with three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2018.
Depth chart: After moving all around the offensive line this spring, Kraemer has settled in at right guard, where he will start with one of a trio of sophomores (Josh Lugg, Aaron Banks, Dillan Gibbons) as his backup.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, listed Kraemer as the No. 4 tackle in the country and the top recruit in Ohio, where he was named Gatorade Player of the Year. The Under Armour All-American spurned Big Ten offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin to commit to Notre Dame early in a recruitment devoid of drama.

Kraemer played in all 13 games last season, listed as the starter in 12 of those according to Irish stats, but throughout the year Kraemer split time with then-freshman Robert Hainsey at right tackle.

Kraemer did see action at right guard against North Carolina when Alex Bars suffered a second-half injury. Rather than find a seventh offensive lineman, Notre Dame moved Kraemer inward one spot and he clicked well playing alongside Hainsey.

Before he settled in at right guard, Kraemer had springtime chances at both tackle spots — always opposite Hainsey — and at left guard, next to both Hainsey and junior Liam Eichenberg. When Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn opted to move fifth-year guard Alex Bars to left guard from right, placing him next to first-year starter Eichenberg, that meant Kraemer’s slid to right guard, at least for the coming season.

“[Kraemer] was out at tackle in the beginning and then I wanted to see him down inside and just give him enough reps to give him a fair evaluation,” Quinn said in mid-April. “He’s a big powerful kid inside there. He takes up some space. It’s hard for those three-technique [tackles] and those nose guards to maneuver with that size inside.

“With his experience and to be able to do it next to [Hainsey], they can see things together. Certainly that’s a big bonus from that standpoint. We’re putting two very good players next to each other on that side.”

“Kraemer will likely start [at right tackle] against Temple. He will need to earn that gig all over again in fall practice.

“From there, if Kraemer can deliver 99 percent of the time, it will be a good sign. That one blown play a game will upset Notre Dame fans, but such the plight of an offensive lineman. Kraemer’s workload will not be too steep as the Irish will likely favor running to the left side of the line behind stalwarts fifth-year senior Mike McGlinchey and senior left guard Quenton Nelson, both potential NFL draft first-rounders come the spring of 2018.

“That could give Kraemer a chance to ease into the season. At some point, however, offensive coordinator Chip Long, [former Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry] Hiestand and [Irish head coach Brian] Kelly will need to know they can rely on their right tackle.”

Moving Kraemer to guard solidifies his career trajectory. The hole in Kraemer’s game at right tackle was as a pass protector and edge setter. While he will still need to slow the defensive line, the tasks at guard hinge more on power than on length and immediate quickness. Of course, length and quickness help, in which case Kraemer’s time and habits developed at tackle only aid the hopes of the position switch.

The season will be considered a success at right guard if Kraemer starts every game he is healthy for, rather than getting bypassed by one of the sophomores, and manages to keep most defensive tackles at bay. At some point, he will get beat for a tackle or two for loss. Such is the nature of a 13-game season, particularly one beginning against Michigan and its touted defense.

Looking at the season as a whole, though, Kraemer should excel as an interior run blocker. Forming a dominant interior trio with Bars and fifth-year center Sam Mustipher would set up the Irish in any short-yardage situations, as well as force defensive coordinators to adjust their blitzes toward the outside, allowing junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush space to step forward to evade pressure without immediately tucking the ball and running.

Notre Dame’s offensive line future hinges more on Eichenberg digging his feet in at left tackle than on Kraemer’s development at right guard. The latter is much more of a known commodity than the former. If Eichenberg struggles, it remains possible Kraemer gets another shot at tackle, but the likes of Lugg and Banks make that less likely.

That stability should only aid Kraemer. Focusing on one position for a few years will give him a chance to best capitalize on his natural power in the running game. If Eichenberg progresses at left tackle, then Kraemer, Hainsey and Eichenberg will be well-situated to take over the Irish offensive line tradition from Mustipher and Bars. Kraemer and Hainsey could essentially become four-year starters, while Eichenberg has three years of potential starting duties ahead of him.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 79 (theoretically) Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

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