Notre Dame OL Tommy Kraemer tackling move to guard

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Tommy Kraemer admitted that he didn't see himself as a guard.

Top offensive line recruits rarely do. Tackle is the glamour position, and typically the best offensive lineman finds himself at left tackle.

That's what Kraemer played at Cincinnati Elder High School. So did most of his fellow offensive linemen at Notre Dame, though Kraemer was the only one to receive a five-star rating as an offensive tackle from 247Sports.

"I think everyone here came in as a left tackle in high school," Kraemer said. "Wherever they move us, it's up to the coaches."

Kraemer, who started 12 games at right tackle in a rotation with Robert Hainsey last season, has been moved around a bit this spring as new offensive line coach Jeff Quinn tries to find his best lineup. The latest shuffle has Kraemer, a junior this coming season, working at right guard alongside Hainsey at right tackle.

Accepting a move to guard should be a little bit easier for Kraemer when Quenton Nelson recently paved a path to relative stardom with a similar move. Nelson, who was rated as a five-star offensive tackle by Rivals, may become one of the highest-selected guards in NFL Draft history later this month.

"When I'm trying to learn guard, I still watch Q's film every day," Kraemer said. "Just watching him play is insane."

Kraemer hadn't practiced at guard since his redshirt season as a true freshman. He did take some snaps at right guard against North Carolina last season when Alex Bars was temporarily sidelined with an ankle issue.

Bars, who has flipped over to left guard to work alongside an inexperienced left tackle in Liam Eichenberg, also has helped Kraemer through the transition.

"We'll talk back and forth on the line. I was texting him (recently) some stuff," Kraemer said. "I text Q and call Q. Watch film with him. Just to pick it up. It's a difference. You have to learn the techniques. Those guys have been helping out a lot."

At 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, Kraemer should be physically prepared for the demands of the guard position. In his mind, physicality was the reason he was able to crack the starting lineup at right tackle last season.

"(It was) my power influence in the run game," Kraemer said. "Coming off the rock, I'm pretty powerful."

Working in pass protection has come natural for Kraemer at guard too.

"The guy's (defender) closer, and I'm more of a physical guy," he said. "It's easier. It's right there."

Kraemer hasn't been asked to completely abandon his tackle skill set. There's still a chance he could be needed to play there in case of an injury or other players not meeting expectations. He said he feels like he's still moving well at the tackle position.

If Kraemer's asked to play guard, he won't consider it a demotion. He proved to himself last year that he belonged and has taken a lot of confidence from the experience.

"The first game, you never know. It's a big-time college program. You don't know if you can really do it," Kraemer said. "You practiced the whole offseason, but you don't really know until you go onto the field. Going on the field and doing pretty well, it definitely boosts my confidence knowing that this spring's big and the offseason and the season is going to be great."

Playing in a rotation allowed Kraemer and Hainsey — both are seeing the field simultaneously for the first time in college — to ease into the position, Kraemer said. Now the two have the chance to play side by side.

"It keeps Tommy in a right-handed stance that he played with all last year," said offensive coordinator Chip Long. "Those two have been with each other and attached at the hip for a long time."

If they work as well together as they did in a rotation, the Irish should have some confidence in the right side of their line. There's no position envy coming from Kraemer.

"Rob's probably my best friend. I don't think anything really changed," Kraemer said. "We're still great buddies. Nothing's really changed at all." 

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Tommy Kraemer during Notre Dame football practice Tuesday, March 20, 2018, inside the Loftus Center at Notre Dame in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN