His broken hands healed, OSU linebacker Eichenberg returns as Buckeyes training camp opens

Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg is a prime example of someone who lets his play do his talking.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles joked last year that he seldom gets more than a grunt out of Eichenberg. But on rare occasions, Eichenberg will raise his voice at Knowles, who loves when he does it.
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
“He’s the type of guy that I can yell at, and he’ll yell back at me,” Knowles said Thursday as Ohio State opened training camp. “That’s the kind of relationship you want. You know if they believe something, you can have an exchange, and that’s Tommy because he’s passionate. He cares. He never wants to make a mistake.”
However quiet Eichenberg might be off the field, he said it’s crucial for him to be able to question his coach on it.
“Because he knows how the defense should work,” Eichenberg said. “As a player, you kind of think you know, but you really don't know, so it's nice to bounce off ideas back and forth.”
The fifth-year senior from Cleveland is acknowledged by coaches and teammates to be the leader among the leaders on Ohio State’s defense.
Eichenberg has achieved that status through his play and his toughness. His 120 tackles last year led the team. That total was 43 more than any other Buckeye. Twelve were tackles for losses, also most on the team. He was first-team All-Big Ten and a consensus second-team All-American.
He did all that despite playing with two broken hands late in the season.
“He was like racking up 15 tackles a game with two broken hands,” fellow linebacker Steele Chambers said. “That's just insane.”
Added senior linebacker Cody Simon, “I called him ‘Tommy Two Thumbs because he barely had two thumbs. He’s so tough, and he inspires everyone else in the room. He's playing with broken hands? I can get through it, bruises and cuts, so anything he does, we'll follow.”
Eichenberg said he didn’t consider not playing because of the injuries.
“Honestly, I didn't really think about it much,” he said. “When you've got a purpose to play for – you play for the team – you don't think about yourself. You can do anything. You go out there no matter what because you love playing with those guys.”
The 6-2, 239-pound Eichenberg looks like a linebacker from a generation ago. He might not dazzle in a 40-yard dash, but he doesn’t play slow.
“Tommy is exceptional at learning and diagnosing and putting those two things together,” Knowles said. “That's not something everybody can do. Some guys just run around and make plays. Other guys can quote you everything about the defense, but when it comes to actually fitting it with the play, they get hamstrung.
“Tommy is exceptional at blending that learning and diagnosing, and that's what helps you play fast. That's the key to playing fast. Some guys are just fast. But playing fast means you have to know where the ball is going to go.”
Knowles said he’s watched plenty of video in which the play looks impossible to diagnose right away, but Eichenberg reacts as if he knows exactly where he needs to be.
“You’re like, ‘That’s pretty good,’” Knowles said.
Eichenberg missed spring practice because of his hand injuries but was back at the center of the Buckeyes’ defense Thursday.
"I feel good," he said. "I'm just excited to be back out there."
It was a practice with no pads or tackling, but he still made his presence felt.
“He's like a barbarian out there commanding the troops,” Chambers said. “It's great being able to see him back out there doing what he loves to do.”

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