RECRUITING

One more look at Notre Dame before OL recruit Liam Eichenberg commits

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

With a commitment decision coming soon, Liam Eichenberg wants to make sure he has all the information he needs.

That’s why the offensive tackle recruit scheduled visits to Notre Dame and Ohio State for the next two weekends. He will choose between the Irish and Buckeyes later this month.

Eichenberg, a junior at Cleveland St. Ignatius, will return to Notre Dame on Friday with a plan.

“I’d like to meet some of the new coaches,” Eichenberg said. “I know they got a new running backs coach and offensive coordinator. I want my parents to meet the coaches too and see how they feel about them.”

Eichenberg will be joined by his younger brother, his parents and both sets of grandparents on the visit this weekend. The group will stay Friday in South Bend to extend the visit into Saturday.

Next on the agenda will be reviewing the depth chart with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. Eichenberg, at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, projects as an offensive tackle. He knows the Irish didn’t recruit a single player at his position in the 2015 class.

“A couple months ago, I got all their names and stuff and put together a list of where they’re at,” Eichenberg said.” It’s definitely something to consider that they didn’t take any tackles.”

Irish offensive line commit Tommy Kraemer, also a 2016 recruit, has helped drive home the difference between the depth charts at Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Buckeyes also pursued Kraemer before he committed to the Irish in October.

Kraemer and Eichenberg communicate often.

“He understands it’s my decision,” Eichenberg said of Kraemer. “What he keeps on saying is Notre Dame took two guys in the year above us. Ohio State took live seven which is true. We think about that stuff.”

Notre Dame offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Jimmy Byrne also keep in touch with Eichenberg. Byrne, like Eichenberg, attended St. Ignatius. The Catholic football powerhouse also sent linebacker Dan Fox, wide receiver Robby Parris and defensive end John Ryan to Notre Dame in the past decade.

The Catholic tie between St. Ignatius and Notre Dame likely won’t play a role in Eichenberg’s decision.

“I didn’t really want to go to Catholic school for high school but it sort of turned out pretty well,” Eichenberg said. “It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Ohio State will continue to win plenty of recruiting battles after winning the national championship in January, but Eichenberg doesn’t want to be blinded by the recent success Ohio State had in the same season Notre Dame struggled to an 8-5 record.

“I want to win, but I understand that playing early is important to me. I’m looking at the future,” Eichenberg said. “I like how Notre Dame is rich in tradition. I see them as a young team. Just because a team won the national championship this past year, doesn’t mean they’re going to win it in the upcoming years.”

The education offered by Notre Dame and the coaching style of Hiestand are working in favor of the Irish.

“Looking at the school, you can’t pass up a Notre Dame education,” Eichenberg said. “I like how coach Hiestand coaches. I like how he’s not really all over me with recruiting. I have to give him a call once every two weeks or so. He’s not like OSU. OSU is like on my back really.”

Ohio State has put on a press on Eichenberg with a slew of current and former players. Offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Pat Elfein are in regular contact with him. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who became a national star with 476 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the College Football Playoff, also reached out to Eichenberg. Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, a former Buckeye, sent the recruit a message this week.

The coaches recruiting Eichenberg to Ohio State are plenty familiar with Notre Dame. Offensive line coach Ed Warinner coached two seasons at Notre Dame. Running backs coach Tony Alford has been Ohio State’s lead recruiter of Eichenberg since leaving Notre Dame in February.

“He doesn’t really want to talk about Notre Dame,” Eichenberg said of Alford. “He just says there are great guys over there, and he cares about them. He said that they have some things better than Ohio State does and Ohio State has some things better than they do.”

Having Alford, who built a strong recruiting reputation at Notre Dame, recruit Eichenberg could be another way the Buckeyes are trying to show him how important they think he is to their recruiting class. Eichenberg said he doesn’t really pay attention to that.

“They consistently tell me that I’m No. 1 on their board,” he said. “But the way I look at it is Kraemer committed to Notre Dame, so I wasn’t No. 1.”

Eichenberg said he thinks Ohio State wanted Kraemer more and only turned to him after Kraemer committed to Notre Dame.  “By them telling me I’m No. 1, I don’t really know,” he said. “I understand that they want me pretty bad.”

Plenty of schools have come calling for Eichenberg, who also claims offers from Florida State and Alabama. CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Eichenberg is among the top four offensive linemen in the Midwest for 2016. He’s joined by Ben Bredeson, a four-star recruit from Wisconsin who will also visit Notre Dame this weekend, Michigan commit Erik Swenson of Illinois and Kraemer.

247Sports slates Eichenberg as a four-star recruit and the No. 5 offensive tackle in the country. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and No. 37 at the position.

“He does a great job as a run and pass blocker,” Lemming said. “He’s the type of guy that Harry Hiestand usually goes after. Quenton Nelson was like that. Jimmy Byrne was like that. They’re athletic, but big and physical. They love to mix it up. You need those kind of guys on the offensive line.”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

2016 offensive line target Liam Eichenberg during Irish Invasion football camp on Friday, June 20, 2014, at Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)