Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6 ⅛, 305 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A senior, Eichenberg has two years of eligibility remaining, including the 2019 season.Depth chart: Eichenberg will start at left tackle for a second year.Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect turned down offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State to commit to Notre Dame. Rivals.com ranked the Under Armour All-American as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country.
CAREER TO DATE
After preserving a year of eligibility in 2016, many expected Eichenberg to compete with classmate Tommy Kraemer to become the starting right tackle. Instead, Kraemer split those duties with Robert Hainsey, a year behind the anticipated duo. That led to Eichenberg seeing only mop-up duty in five blowouts in 2017.
Eichenberg then stepped into the gaping hole left by Mike McGlinchey (who stepped in for Ronnie Stanley, who stepped in for Zack Martin …), starting all 13 games in last season’s Playoff run.
A first-year starter following McGlinchey and the rest of that line of left tackles, Eichenberg’s uneasiness at the position at times in 2018 was understandable. Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long expects no such apprehension in 2019.
“Just tentativeness, like every young player going out there for the first time,” Long said in early March. “(I want) more consistency, as a coach, in his ability to execute at a high level game-in and game-out.”
Long is not usually one prone to that much coach-speak. In keeping with his typical responses, he certainly had a blunter description of what he wants from Eichenberg moving forward.
“Just his confidence to come off the ball and absolutely destroy somebody. He was too tentative at times last year, because he’s another conscientious kid who doesn’t want to make a mistake. You have to go. This is your second year to start, let’s have a legit, big-time left tackle with your size and ability.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Looking forward now starts with looking back at the spring and considering the circuitous route needed to get Eichenberg to starting at left tackle.
“The expectation entering spring was for Hainsey to end up at left tackle, with either Kraemer or Eichenberg taking over right tackle duties. That alignment was seen frequently in March, but then Eichenberg apparently inspired enough confidence in the coaching staff to place him at left tackle and keep Hainsey — with a season already spent at right tackle, not to mention shorter arm reach — at his initial position.
“Eichenberg’s strong performance also allowed Kraemer to move inward to guard, where his skillset fits better, rather than have to keep working at tackle while Eichenberg found his groove.
“Thus, if Eichenberg can be successful at left tackle when it counts, even if he is not stellar, just sustainably good, then he will have also improved two other offensive line positions. There is no statistic to track that kind of domino effect, but it illustrates how much may actually hinge on Eichenberg holding his own in the fall.”
Consider Eichenberg’s progression: Entering 2018’s spring, he was under consideration for the right tackle gig, but that was far from a sure thing. His mental progression pushed him to the top of the pile at left tackle by the end of that spring.
Then he supplied quality work in 13 games, not slipping when he lost the trusty mentorship of a fifth-year All-American candidate in Alex Bars at left guard. That quality work is underscored when realizing Eichenberg faced three top-16 draft picks in his debut season.
Now, Long wants a dominant left tackle. If Eichenberg’s development is linear, Long may get his wish. Frankly, that would fit with Eichenberg’s recruiting profile and literal size (not to mention what should be an easier schedule, at least for the left tackle’s concerns). Deferring to those metrics is often a risky gambit, but Notre Dame’s track record at left tackle and last season’s overall offensive line play make that faith well-founded.
DOWN THE ROAD
If Eichenberg genuinely dominates in 2019, he should consider the NFL draft. Some of that decision may hinge on the rest of the tackle class, much as it did for Stanley in 2015. Stanley might have been the first tackle off the board in 2015; there was no doubt about in 2016, the difference between going No. 6 as Stanley did in the latter year and No. 13 or No. 21, the third and fourth offensive tackles drafted in 2015.
If Eichenberg simply plays well this season, the Irish will not be displeased. A solid left tackle is not a commodity to be taken for granted, and the job would be his again in 2020 to attempt to raise his draft stock.
NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman