OT Liam Eichenberg first Notre Dame player selected in NFL Draft as Dolphins trade up

Michael Wanbaugh
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s impressive run of putting offensive linemen into the NFL continued Friday night when Liam Eichenberg was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the 42nd overall pick of the second round.

The Dolphins traded up with New York Giants in order to select Eichenberg, who became the first Irish player selected in this year's NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-6, 302-pound left tackle is the seventh Irish offensive lineman to be drafted since 2014, with none falling below the third round. Four of those went in the first round, including Notre Dame’s three previous full-time starting left tackles — Zack Martin (2014), Ronnie Stanley (2016) and Mike McGlinchey (2018).

“I’m a guy you can plug in and play right now,” Eichenberg said before Notre Dame’s Pro Day in March. “I’m not a guy that needs a lot of development. I’ve been coached well. I use my technique and my fundamentals very well.”

Eichenberg, a Cleveland native, was the seventh offensive lineman picked in the draft behind Oregon’s Penei Sewell at No. 7 to the Detroit Lions, Northwestern's Rashawn Slater at No. 13 to the L.A. Chargers, USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker at No. 14 to the New York Jets, Alabama's Alex Leatherwood at No. 17 to Las Vegas and Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw at No. 23 to Minnesota.

Alabama center Landon Dickerson and Oklahoma's State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins went ahead of him in Round 2.

While repeatedly lauded for his technique and strength, analysts had speculated that Eichenberg’s lack of speed and relatively shorter arms for the position (32 3/8 inches) may push him into the second round.

“A lot of people knock me for athleticism,” he said. “On the offensive line, I’m not running a route or anything. So, I guess it’s a little bit different.”

Eichenberg came to Notre Dame as a four-star recruit out of Cleveland St. Ignatius High School rated by 247Sports as the No. 7 offensive tackle in the 2016 class. After spending his freshman year on the scout team with O-line classmate Tommy Kraemer, Eichenberg was beat out at right tackle his sophomore year by Kraemer and freshman Robert Hainsey.

He settled in as McGlinchey’s backup at left tackle and played in five games, mostly in mop-up relief of the eventual ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

At the end of that season Eichenberg vowed to do what it took to improve and earn a starting spot on the line. By the end of spring practice that’s exactly where he was headed.

Notre Dame left tackle Liam Eichenberg (74) celebrates following ND’s win at Louisville in the 2019 season opener.

His first start was in a 24-17 Irish win over No. 7 Michigan in the 2018 home opener, starting his three-year run at left tackle. He allowed just three sacks his first year as a starter in 939 snaps. He would not allow a sack in either of the next two seasons on his way to consensus All-American honors in 2020.

What they were saying …

  • “(Eichenberg) can get better in some areas, but he plays like a short-armed guy and that concerns me if he’s going to be a tackle. He will start and probably early on.” — NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein
  • “He has great feet and packs a punch in the run game.” — ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
Golden Notre Dame moment

Eichenberg was consistent throughout his career and dominant his graduate season, earning consensus All-American honors and the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the conference’s best offensive lineman. He was also a finalist for the Joe Moore Award and Outland Trophy given to the nation’s best offensive lineman.

He might be most famous for returning to play against Florida State in 2020 despite a severely bruised left eye.

Five things to know about Liam Eichenberg

1 — Was twice named ACC offensive lineman of the week during the 2020 season. First after a 45-3 victory at Pittsburgh, in which the Irish accumulated 434 yards of total offense, and next after a 31-17 win at North Carolina.

Notre Dame left tackle Liam Eichenberg realizes the huge expectations that come with the position created by the success of his predecessors.

2 — During his Notre Dame career Eichenberg started 38 games at left tackle over the past three seasons.

3 — Eichenberg went the last 30 games of his career without allowing a sack, a streak that dates back to September 2018.

4 — Ohio State offered Eichenberg a scholarship when he was just 15 years old.

5 — During his Pro Day workout, Eichenberg produced 33 bench press reps of 225 pounds and recorded a vertical jump of 26½ inches.

Former Notre Dame left tackle Liam Eichenberg (74) wants those who doubt his athleticism to turn on his film to evaluate his play.