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Kramer comes to IU looking for a challenge

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After 4 seasons at Northern Illinois, grad transfer wants to test his skills against the Big Ten’s best

Northern Illinois v Nebraska
Defensive tackle Weston Kramer #55 of the Northern Illinois Huskies celebrates the win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Weston Kramer has a degree from Northern Illinois. He has a football resume that includes All-Mid-American Conference recognition in back-to-back seasons. And after four years on the field and in the classroom, he could’ve easily walked away and moved on with his life.

But as he reflected on his college career this spring, the defensive lineman realized there was something else he wanted to do before beginning his next chapter, something he couldn’t accomplish at his previous school.

That is, Kramer wanted to test himself against the best college football competition he could find.

“Coming to the Big Ten was something I wanted to do leaving NIU,” Kramer told reporters this week. “I just felt like I could, so why not?”

Kramer is taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility afforded to athletes after the pandemic upended 2020-21 academic calendars across the country, arriving at IU with plans to fortify depth in the middle of the Hoosiers’ defensive line. For the graduate transfer, who says he had only one scholarship offer coming out of high school, Indiana presents an opportunity to not only extend his football career, but also to challenge himself in the high-pressure situations he always hoped to be a part of.

For that, he can’t wait to get started.

“I thought if I had the extra year, why not come try it out?” Kramer said. “It’d be fun.”

Consider the Kramer-IU partnership one that addresses the desires of both sides. Indiana’s depth at the tackle spots took a hit this offseason with the departures of Jerome Johnson (UDFA-Dolphins), Jovan Swann (UDFA-Ravens) and Damarjhe Lewis (transfer-Purdue). So in fall camp, Kramer will work into the mix with Demarcus Elliott, Sio Nofoagatoto’a and C.J. Person with the possibility of seeing time at both the three-tech and nose spots in August.

Wherever Kramer is stationed, it’s IU’s anticipation that the Naperville, Ill. native’s presence will be felt most noticeably in defending the run. Kramer’s track record at NIU feeds that belief. According to Pro Football Focus, Kramer graded out as the MAC’s best defensive tackle against the run during the abbreviated 2020 season. In 2019, he posted the third-highest run defense grade among MAC D-tackles, and in 2018 he ranked eighth in the conference.

What’s more, some of his best performances have come against Power 5 competition. Per PFF, Kramer’s three highest-graded overall defensive efforts in 2019 were on the road against Utah, Nebraska and Vanderbilt, a three-week span that saw him total five tackles and four hurries. In 2018, he picked up six tackles and contributed to seven plays that constituted a failure for the offense across matchups with Iowa, Utah and Florida State.

“I’ve been pretty good in the run game over the past few years,” Kramer said. “My pass rushing game has been improving, too. But my strength (is) in the run game.”

After deciding to transfer from Northern Illinois this spring, Kramer initially verbally committed to Temple before reconsidering. He also reportedly fielded interest from Northwestern and West Virginia. In IU’s case, it helped the Hoosiers that former walk-on Connor Schneider could vouch for head coach Tom Allen’s program. Schneider and Kramer were roommates at NIU in 2017 before the former transferred to Bloomington and joined the football program for the 2018 season.

“Talking to him, he told me how the whole program was,” Kramer said. “I just thought it was a good fit for me.”

And now, Kramer’s test awaits.

“I’d been hearing about how the (IU) defense was and I saw how they played last year,” Kramer said. “To be part of this defense here is going to be pretty exciting.”