OT recruit Liam Eichenberg picks Notre Dame over Ohio State

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Liam Eichenberg knew where he wanted to go but needed some reassurance.

The 2016 offensive line recruit scheduled April visits to Notre Dame and Ohio State for one final reminder. After returning from both campuses, he settled Sunday on the decision he had already made in his mind.

Eichenberg called Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to give his verbal commitment to the Irish.

“I decided on Notre Dame mainly because of the academics,” Eichenberg said Sunday afternoon after announcing his commitment on Twitter. “I could not pass up the academics along with Coach Hiestand. I have a great relationship with him.”

Hiestand’s hot recruiting touch spans the entirety of his three-plus years with the Irish program. His first three recruiting classes included 11 offensive lineman. Nearly all held four-star ratings from at least one recruiting service. With Eichenberg joining offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer in Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class, Hiestand is back at it again.

Eichenberg of Cleveland St. Ignatius and Kraemer of Cincinnati Elder were both top targets of Ohio State.

“Notre Dame has beaten Ohio State for the two best offensive linemen in Ohio,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “When was the last time Notre Dame did that?

“Harry Hiestand is a phenomenal offensive line recruiter. With all the talent they’re bringing in, he could be building what could be a consistently great offensive line.”

In Eichenberg, the Irish landed a 6-foot-5, 285-pound recruit with polished technique, exceptional athletic ability and physical prowess. 247Sports has Eichenberg as a four-star prospect, the No. 5 offensive tackle and No. 17 regardless of position in the 2016 class. Rivals rates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 37 offensive tackle.

“He’s an aggressive, straight-ahead offensive lineman who can play tackle or guard because he has loose hips and really good agility for a big guy,” Lemming said. “Like all of the guys coming in, he’s pretty versatile.”

The depth along Notre Dame’s offensive line was a successful storyline during spring practice for the Irish. Yet Hiestand continues to reel in more top offensive linemen. The position switch of early-enrolled freshman Jerry Tillery from offensive tackle to defensive tackle created a need in the 2016 class.

But what was it about Hiestand that convinced Eichenberg to play for him?

“When talking to him and talking to his players, I just feel like he actually cares about them,” Eichenberg said. “It’s more than football with him. He gave me my space during my recruiting process. He’d only call me once a week. He wasn’t (messaging) me five times a day like some of these guys. I like the way he coaches.”

The powerhouse St. Ignatius program led by head coach Chuck Kyle has sent Notre Dame four scholarship players in the last decade: offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne (2014), linebacker Dan Fox (2009), wide receiver Robby Parris (2006) and defensive end John Ryan (2006). Eichenberg can become No. 5 next year.

In picking Notre Dame, Eichenberg had to decline an offer from the defending national champions. He said earlier this month that he wouldn’t let last year’s success affect his decision.

“I want to win, but I understand that playing early is important to me. I’m looking at the future,” Eichenberg said before visiting Notre Dame on April 10-11. “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.”

Phone calls to Hiestand and Kelly weren’t the only ones Eichenberg made Sunday. He also had to speak with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer to inform him of his decision. A day earlier, Eichenberg was on Ohio State’s campus watching the Buckeyes spring game with a record attendance of 99,391.

Eichenberg said making the call was incredibly hard, but he was confident of his decision.

“It’s tough because they offered me when I was a freshman going into my sophomore year,” Eichenberg said. “They helped me out and everything. It was hard, but I have to do what’s best for me.”

Below are some highlights of Eichenberg's junior season via Hudl. For a detailed analysis of Eichenberg's highlights, check out our ND Insider Film Study ($) here.

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

The following players have given their verbal commitment to play football at Notre Dame. National Signing Day is Feb. 3, 2016.

• OL Tommy Kraemer, 6-5, 310; Cincinnati Elder

• CB Julian Love, 5-11, 175; La Grange (Ill.) Nazareth Academy

• LS John Shannon, 6-2, 225; Wilmette (Ill.) Loyola Academy

• RB Tony Jones Jr., 6-0, 210; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy

• DE Julian Okwara, 6-4, 210; Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell

• OL Liam Eichenberg, 6-5, 287; Cleveland St. Ignatius

For more on Notre Dame's recruits, visit our commits page.