[This is the sixth in our annual series where The-Ozone looks back on each member of the previous season’s freshman class and the impact they had as rookies, as well as the impact they could have during the upcoming season. Up next is linebacker Tommy Eichenberg.]
Tommy Eichenberg was originally committed to Boston College before Ohio State came calling. In fact, he didn’t commit to OSU until a week or two before the early signing day in December of 2018.
Eichenberg was a 4-star linebacker at Cleveland St. Ignatius and ranked the No. 19 inside backer in the nation. Nationally, he was the No. 327 player overall and the No. 8 player in the state of Ohio.
He signed with Ohio State over offers from Boston College, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ball State, and more.
The Buckeyes signed three linebackers in the 2019 class. Eichenberg played in four games, but did so sparingly and redshirted. Being an inside linebacker, the position was a bit stocked with upperclassmen in front of him.
With Tuf Borland, Baron Browning, Malik Harrison, and K’Vaughan Pope in the two deep inside, there wasn’t really any need or room for a freshman. Even the other two freshmen linebackers — Craig Young and Cade Stover — didn’t see all that much time last year. Stover was able to maintain his redshirt as well, while Young was mostly active on special teams.
Now What For Tommy Eichenberg
The two inside linebacker positions are still very crowded, but with the departure of Malik Harrison, there is a starting job up for grabs.
In this Ohio State defense, the Will and Mike can be interchangeable, which means they can maneuver guys around to find their best fit. That gives the two-deep some malleability, which is good for a guy like Tommy Eichenberg who is a true inside linebacker.
Still, with Borland and Browning back as seniors in 2020, and Dallas Gant, K’Vaughan Pope, and Teradja Mitchell as juniors, there isn’t a whole lot of room for a redshirt freshman to make his mark on the defense. And that’s not even including Justin Hilliard, who may be back for his sixth year.
Eichenberg’s time on defense may still be a year or two away just due to numbers. But don’t think the expectations still aren’t very high for him.
The staff loves his instincts at the position, calling him smart and tough. Linebackers coach Al Washington labeled him a “contact seeker,” which is one of his highest compliments.
There is every confidence in Eichenberg that he will eventually be a very successful starting linebacker at Ohio State, but the depth chart ahead of him is crowded. What it isn’t, however, is terribly experienced. Even though these are upperclassmen ahead of him, the trio of Gant, Pope, and Mitchell has all of 53 career tackles.
Like Eichenberg, however, they have also had veterans playing in front of them. One of those veterans is now gone, which means a new starting Will linebacker will need to be found. Eichenberg will be one of at least a half-dozen competitors for that spot, and one of the least experienced.
The best will play, however, and this will be his first true shot to prove he belongs.