Tommy Eichenberg is now officially considered the best linebacker in the Big Ten.
Amid the announcement of the conference's end-of-season defensive awards, Eichenberg was named the conference’s Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year on Tuesday.
Despite missing two games with an injury he sustained at Rutgers, Eichenberg racked up 80 tackles, 40 of them solo, with 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble during the regular season.
Eichenberg collected 10 or more tackles in three Ohio State games this year, including 10 against Western Kentucky, 12 in the above-mentioned game against the Scarlet Knights and a season-high 13 against Maryland.
He is the first Buckeye ever to win the honor, which was created in 2011 and named after former Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus and former Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, who later served as head coach of the Wildcats for 17 seasons from 2006 through 2022. Fitzgerald was fired earlier this season after allegations of hazing within his program.
Eichenberg is the latest in a long line of accolade-earning Buckeye linebackers. Ohio State has seen two of its players win the Butkus Award, given annually to the best linebacker in all of college football. Andy Katzenmoyer took home the trophy in 1997 and James Laurinaitis, now a graduate assistant with OSU, won it in 2007. Ohio State has also had 21 consensus first-team All-American selections at the position spread across 13 players.
Last year was arguably Eichenberg's best season at Ohio State, when he collected 120 tackles with 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception he returned for a touchdown.
A two-time captain for the Buckeyes, Eichenberg still has one remaining year of eligibility thanks to his COVID-19 waiver, though Ryan Day indicated that Ohio State’s Senior Day game against Minnesota would be his final home game as a Buckeye. Eichenberg is projected as a middle-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft.