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Player to Watch: Tommy Eichenberg eyeing historic season at linebacker

Especially after getting snubbed for the Butkus Award...

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Semifinal Game Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every day from now until the start of the season, Land-Grant Holy Land is highlighting Ohio State football players that you should be watching this season. Check out all of our ”Player to Watch” articles to get ready for the season opener against Indiana.

While Tommy Eichenberg may not be much of a vocal leader, he certainly lets his play on the field do the talking. The fifth-year senior had a monstrous season leading the linebacker group last year, and is looking to dominate alongside Steele Chambers again this year. How high should the expectations be for him?

In my opinion, pretty dang high. In 2022, he was First Team Big Ten, Second Team All-American and a Butkus Award semifinalist. He was snubbed from winning the dang award for the nation’s best linebacker, much less not even being named a finalist! Iowa’s Jack Campbell took it home, but he had only eight more total tackles on the season than Eichenberg.

The Buckeye LB had 120 total tackles in 2022, with 77 solo tackles (Campbell had 60, but whatever), 12 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. In fact, the 77 solo stops are the most in nine seasons by a Buckeye since Ryan Shazier had 101 in 2013, and the second-most in the last 20 years. He is the heart and soul of this defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Eichenberg really broke out in 2021, when he was second on the team in tackles with 64. He actually set a Rose Bowl-record 17 tackles versus Utah, which included 11 solo stops. After looking at how much he improved last season, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be even better this year.

With an experienced defensive line and Jack Sawyer back at defensive end full-time, this should allow Eichenberg and Chambers to make a ton of stops. Additionally, with a year under Jim Knowles’ system, Eichenberg should be completely confident out there.

The linebacker also had the entire offseason to get healthy, as he played most of the 2022 season with two broken hands — yet he STILL managed to put up these kind of numbers. Imagine what kind of dominance he can inflict if he is 100 percent and not in pain on every single play he makes.

At the very least, my goals for Eichenberg this year are as follows...

One, he should be First Team All-Big Ten again (duh). I also believe he should be a First Team All-American, as his main competition in Campbell is now a Detriot Lion. My biggest hope for Eichenberg is that he wins the Butkus Award, not even just a finalist. He deserved it last season, and if he builds upon that, then there is no reason why he can’t be the best linebacker in America.