DE Alexander Ehrensberger, 6-7, 240; Düsseldorf (Germany) Theodor-Fliedner-Gymnasium
The numbers: In the stats made available by TFG, Ehrensberger finished his final season with seven sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two blocked kicks and a forced safety in nine games. The Typhoons (5-4) ended their season in July. Ehrensberger enrolled a semester early, coming to Notre Dame in January as a projected strongside defensive end.
The rankings: 247Sports — Three stars, No. 120 SDE, No. 2,370 overall. Rivals — Three stars.
First impression: The limited film and information available on Ehrensberger made this comprehensive evaluation more difficult than usual. ND Insider scoured through as much as possible, reviewing Ehrensberger’s film from multiple seasons and learning more about him via his trainer, Brandon Collier of PPI Recruits, and TFG head football coach Phillipp Fritsche. While there’s a lot to like about him from a physical perspective, Ehrensberger looks far from a polished product and will require plenty of development technique-wise before making an impact in college. He has the steepest learning curve among Notre Dame’s 17 signees in the 2020 class.
Strengths: Pairing his explosiveness with a relentless motor, Ehrensberger comes off the edge with a tenacious style. He’s successful as a speed rusher, looping around opposing offensive tackles after lining up wide and outside. He also brings the power required to be an effective bull rusher — pushing opponents backward with his impressive upper body strength. After improving his pliability as a senior, Ehrensberger showed a better knack for tackling from behind or the side. His final season included more glimpses of him displaying the instincts necessary to defend against the run. Ehrensberger holds his own in the weight room and seems to possess solid growth potential to go with elite length.
Proof of prowess: (CH 0:36; SH 2:13; ASGH 0:17) These three plays show the degree of difficulty required to handle Ehrensberger’s speed, power and motor in one-on-one situations. In play No. 1, Ehrensberger lined up inside at the three-technique. The offensive tackle had to approach him at an angle. Ehrensberger’s strength and power overwhelmed him as he swarmed to the football. Ehrensberger displayed his prowess as a bull rusher and speed rusher in play Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. He used his hands well on the former play, extending and locking his arms as he drove his legs. Ehrensberger used his right hand to obtain leverage and speed past the offensive tackle in play No. 3.
(ASGH 0:25; CH 1:26) The moves Ehrensberger made in these two plays are much different in style but were just as effective. He seemed to intentionally fake his opposition outside in play No. 1 with a subtle first step outward. The offensive tackle immediately flipped his hips that direction, creating a path for Ehrensberger to dive inward. Play No. 2 involved a more theatrical move. Ehrensberger used the offensive tackle’s hands as leverage before spinning toward his opposite shoulder and obtaining the advantage inside.
(SH 1:49; 3:10 CH) Ehrensberger’s instincts and discipline helped these inside running plays go nowhere. He appeared responsible for outside containment and waited for the ball carrier’s first move before taking action. Ehrensberger displayed keen anticipation in play No. 2, closing on the running back just as he cut inside. Though Ehrensberger waited a tick late before wrapping up the running back in play No. 1, he still placed himself in position to record the tackle for a minimal gain.
Competition level: None of Notre Dame’s other signees faced high school athletes this inferior. Ehrensberger received minimal challenges from his opposition, who on film seemed small, unathletic and lacking in skills and training. His size and strength alone were enough to overpower offensive linemen in most cases. Because the amount of successful Division I prospects from Europe are few and far between, Ehrensberger rarely squared off against worthy opponents. But in one of those instances, in a European high school all-star game last year, Ehrensberger tallied four sacks.
Fritsche detailed how Ehrensberger handled opponents attempting to adjust to that talent discrepancy in an email exchange with ND Insider.
“Given his physical appearance and the attention he got, not the least by the Notre Dame offer,” Fritsche wrote, “teams, of course, game-planned against him more than in previous years so that he had to fight a lot of double and triple teams. Being primarily a speed-rusher over the edge before, he had to adjust working against those blocks and also take more responsibilities against the run.”
Ehrensberger’s biggest improvements arguably came from working under PPI Recruits, a Europe-based company that trains and promotes international high school prospects. His devotion to the weight room, as seen in the workout video above, resulted in him gaining 26 pounds during a six-month span in 2018. He trained with former and future college football players in his three years under PPI.
Left to prove: The notion that the Irish took a chance on Ehrensberger isn't exactly valid. Notre Dame and Florida International were Ehrensberger’s only reported Division I scholarship offers, but he actually kept about 15 other Power Five offers quiet out of humility. By the looks of Ehrensberger on film and in the workout video, he’s physically gifted with interesting potential. From not knowing about football at 13 years old to starting high school as a 6-5, 190-pound wide receiver and defensive back, Ehrensberger has also proved he’s a quick learner.
The question remains whether Ehrensberger can eventually close that learning gap and master the nuances that come with playing American college football and defensive end. Ehrensberger needs to use his hands better and play lower — a hard task at that size. He plays straight up at times, moving around and tackling like a statue. As Ehrensberger adds weight, he must become more nimble with better bend to alleviate his troubles with changing direction at times. He brings first-step quickness but needs to explode through his tackles. After relying on his superior physical traits against lackluster competition, Ehrensberger could use more polished pass rushing moves to go with improved craftiness and savviness. His instincts and discipline are also far from what’s required against the run.
Ehrensberger will benefit from enrolling early and working under defensive line coach Mike Elston, a keen developer of project types like Julian Okwara. But don’t expect Ehrensberger to see the field until the end of his career. His first few years will be an adjustment.