If Ohio State’s defense was to pull off the turnaround that the team was hoping for and that has been debated all of the offseason, the Buckeyes needed to step up players from last year’s team and play better. As it turns out, the Scarlet and Gray have had a number of defenders play better this year, both due to the changes in coaching and scheme, as well as their experience as sophomore contributors.
There is perhaps no better example of this than linebackers Thomas Eichenberg. The soft-spoken senior has let his game do the talking this year, developing into one of the best defensemen in college football in his second season as a starter.
On Tuesday, tThe Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation has named four finalists for 2022 Lott IMPACT Trophy, awarded annually the student-athlete who exhibits the characteristics of best Ronny Lott by making an IMPACT (an acronym for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity) on and off the field. Eichenberg, who was not named a Butkus Prize finalist, prepared this list. The other three finalists are defenders from Alabama Will Anderson Jr.Defense end of the state of Kansas Felix Anudike-Uzomah and USC defenders Tuli Tuipulotu.
After 64 total tackles a year ago, Eichenberg leads Ohio State’s defense with 105 total tackles this season, 39 more than the next nearest Buckeye. He is ranked No. 16 in the country in total tackles and No. 19 in total tackles per game, but Eichenberg is ranked No. 3 in solo tackles nationally with 67. The last Buckeye linebacker to record 100 tackles in a season was Raekwon McMillan in 2016.
Additionally, the Cleveland, Ohio native has 12 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two passes defended and a touchdown, which he returned for a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Eichenberg holds the 10th highest grade of any college football linebacker in the country.
Eichenberg, who was named captain this season, has also championed this Scarlet and Gray defense as a leader. Though he doesn’t say much, teammates have praised how Eichenberg helped build this group into one of the best units in the country.
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The only previous Lott IMPACT Trophy winner in Ohio State’s 18-year history was linebacker James Laurinaitis in 2008. Security Jordan Fullernow with the Los Angeles Rams, was the Buckeyes’ most recent finalist for the award in 2020.
These four Lott IMPACT Trophy finalists will attend the annual Lott IMPACT® Trophy Awards Ceremony on Sunday, December 11, 2022 in Newport Beach, California, where the winner will be announced. The Lott IMPACT Trophy winner’s university will receive $25,000 for their general scholarship fund, while three runners-up will receive $5,000 for each of their schools.