Last Chance For Tommy Kraemer To Finally Become A Dominant Player
Notre Dame is expected to have one of the nation’s best offensive lines in 2020, but for that to happen the line must play a lot better than it did in 2019. That requires the unit as a whole to improve, which cannot happen if the individual parts don’t improve.
Even if they play at the same level they did last season, veterans Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey will form one of the best tackle tandems in the country this fall. Where Notre Dame’s line needs to make the biggest leaps is inside, and the player who needs to anchor the big boys inside is fifth-year senior Tommy Kraemer.
Kraemer came to Notre Dame as a five-star recruit, and 247Sports ranked him as the eighth best player in the entire country. Expectations were high for Kraemer, and despite being a three-year starter he has yet to live up to that standard. He’s been solid, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, and it’s needed in his final season.
CAN HE FINALLY BE DOMINANT?
Kraemer was actually a consistently solid player in 2019, which was a jump from what he was in 2018, when wildly erratic performances led to him losing his starting role for a short time. Last fall, however, Kraemer limited penalties, was mostly assignment sound and he looked far more comfortable in his second season playing inside.
What we didn’t see, however, was the physicality and brute force that made him such a highly touted recruit. In fact, we haven’t seen that version of Kraemer since the 2017 season, when he started nine games at right tackle for the nation’s best offensive line.
In 2020, Notre Dame needs Kraemer to become a more dominant force, especially in the run game.
RUN GAME TECHNIQUE NEEDS WORK
Kraemer was a physical player in 2017, showing the ability to drive defenders off the ball. Despite being just a redshirt freshman, his technique that season was better than what he’s shown in each of the last two seasons, and it was still his best season in the lineup. If Kraemer is going to dominate in the run game to the level he’s capable of the first need will be shoring up his footwork and overall technique.
Like the rest of the interior players last season, far too often Kraemer would step in place, fail to get a vertical push off the line and then catch defenders instead of initiating the contact. He and the rest of the interior players struggled to get movement throughout the season, and it was far more of a technique problem than it was a lack of skill or power.
We need to see Kraemer playing with more force and power, and that won’t happen without technical improvements. Kraemer needs to step with power and initial contact, and the next step is then driving his feet through contact, which was another area where he struggled.
If Kraemer’s technique in the run game improves and he maintains his assignment sound play from 2019 he will have a chance to become the quality run blocker he is capable of being.
MAINTAIN PASS PRO IMPROVEMENTS
One of the benefits of moving inside was Kraemer improving as a pass blocker. He is far more comfortable inside than he was on the edge. His technique issues in 2018 caused him to give up 15 pressures, but he showed tremendous improvement last season, giving up just four pressures - and zero sacks - on 220 pas snaps (according to Pro Football Focus).
The question now is can he maintain his high-level pass protection that we saw last season while also being more physical and aggressive in the run game. That isn’t always an easy task, and that is often what separates good players from great players.
Kraemer has the tools to be an outstanding guard, of that I have no doubt, but now it’s time that he puts it all together.
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