Ohio State football linebacker Tommy Eichenberg returning for fifth season

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg is returning to Ohio State for a fifth season, an announcement that marks a significant boost for the Buckeyes’ defense. 

"After a lot of consideration and thought, I've decided to return for a final season at Ohio State," Eichenberg wrote in a post on Instagram on Thursday. "Back to work. Go Bucks."

As a breakout star last fall, Eichenberg was the centerpiece of the improvement the Buckeyes showed on that side of the ball in their first season under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

He made 120 tackles, a total that ranked among the most of all players within the Football Bowl Subdivision. In the Big Ten, only Iowa's Jack Campbell, who was the recipient of the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, finished with more tackles.

The last player from Ohio State to have as many tackles as Eichenberg in a season was Joshua Perry, who had 124 as a junior in 2014.

Eichenberg, who also selected as one of six team captains, was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media. He figures to also be a preseason All-American and leading candidate for the Butkus Award entering the fall and could help the Buckeyes take another leap forward on defense. In their first season led by Knowles, they ranked No. 14 in the FBS in total defense, moving up 45 spots from the previous year.

Dec 31, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Cameron Brown (26) and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) stop Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (1) during the first half of the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

The emergence of Eichenberg began in last year’s Rose Bowl win over Utah when he posted a career-high 17 tackles, helping the Buckeyes to come back after trailing the Utes by two touchdowns at halftime.

Eichenberg had started only three games during the regular season in 2021, but stepped up in place of Cody Simon, who underwent shoulder surgery, and has remained in the starting lineup ever since.

A native of Cleveland, Eichenberg joined Ohio State as a member of the 2019 recruiting class. He was the first to publicly announce his commitment to the program after Ryan Day was named the successor to Urban Meyer, flipping a commitment from Boston College.

With Eichenberg returning to school and putting off the NFL draft, the Buckeyes have both of their starting linebackers back for next season.

Steele Chambers, who began his career playing running back before switching positions to start alongside Eichenberg, is also returning to school. His 77 tackles were the second-most among all of OSU's players.

With starters along the defensive line and in the secondary turning pro, either a result of early entry as underclassmen or expiring eligibility, Ohio State will at least have continuity at the second level of its defense in 2023.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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