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


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ½, 313 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Kraemer and classmate Liam Eichenberg engaged in a back-and-forth competition at the right tackle spot throughout spring practice. Kraemer appears to have an edge for the starting honor, albeit a slight edge.
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 Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand early in a recruitment devoid of drama.

Kraemer preserved a year of eligibility in 2016. So, instead, here is the highlight video Notre Dame propagated upon Kraemer’s signing in February of 2016.

As Kraemer and Eichenberg alternated practices with the first unit, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly spent much of spring comparing and contrasting the two. When Eichenberg’s requisite 99-to-2 post comes Monday, many of these same quotes will be repeated. Simply put, when it comes to pertinent bits about either of the young linemen, progress was measured as much in its relation to the other as it was in overall growth.

“Those two are the guys we have mapped out at right tackle and they’re going to battle,” Kelly said in March. “… They’re going to keep battling and splitting the action out there.”

Kelly was asked multiple times throughout the two months of spring practices if senior Alex Bars was an option at right tackle. Kelly insisted Bars would remain at right guard, even though he spent 2016 at the position in question, and one of the sophomores would need to step forward as the outside protector.

“I think it’s firmly established at the right guard position,” Kelly said. “Alex Bars is going to be the right guard. I don’t see that there’s going to be any real change there. He was a starter for us last year.

“It’s the right tackle position that continues to be a competitive situation with Kraemer and Eichenberg still working and splitting reps there. Each one of them is a little different. Kraemer at times a little bit more physical. Liam a little bit longer, maybe. Longer translates itself into pass [protection]. Both of them still are on that learning curve but both of them are really good players.”

If Notre Dame can redshirt Kraemer, they’d be wise to do so. That’d mean they survived at tackle with Mike McGlinchey and Alex Bars, and also found a starter at right guard from a collection of talent that range from young (Tristen Hoge) to old (Hunter Bivin).

“But Kraemer may be too good not to redshirt. If that’s the case, he’ll likely start out on the inside while backing up both tackle spots, knowing that the depth chart on the outside is shakier than it should be after the early departure of Ronnie Stanley.

“The value of a redshirt (Martin, Stanley, McGlinchey, Nelson) shouldn’t be lost. Especially if someone else can ascend and play good football at right guard. But Kraemer is a building block for the future. The timing is still just TBD.”

Kraemer’s slight lead over Eichenberg for the starting right tackle position has some uneasy. The Irish coaches would have undoubtedly preferred to see one of the two — or, certainly ideally, both — emerge as a bona fide seal on the outside. Instead, both delivered an up-and-down spring, leaving the eventual starter open to ready second-guessing.

Kraemer will likely start against Temple (in 92 days, if you’re counting). He will need to earn that gig all over again in fall practice (tentatively, about 65 days away).

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 left tackle 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, Hiestand and Kelly will need to know they can rely on their right tackle.

However Kraemer’s 2017 pans out, his future at Notre Dame is bright. Hiestand’s track record with top-tier talent is too impressive to assume anything but gradual and thorough development from Kraemer. The spring of his freshman season is understandably early in that process.

Hiestand’s success has been so great, it makes comparing any current offensive linemen to their predecessors an exercise in futility. The likes of Ronnie Stanley and Zack Martin were seemingly so unique, asking anyone to match their production is unfair. If understanding that realistic nature of expectations, Kraemer should continue Hiestand’s roll in due time.

He will have plenty of opportunity moving forward, beginning in 2018 when the Irish will be without McGlinchey, Nelson and fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin, the utility knife providing support across Hiestand’s line.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80 Durham Smythe, tight end