Former Alabama Safety, National Freshman of the Year Caleb Downs Transferring to Ohio State

By Dan Hope on January 19, 2024 at 8:35 pm
Caleb Downs
Dale Zanine – USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Downs is a Buckeye.

The former Alabama safety, who won the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award as the best freshman in all of college football this past season, committed to Ohio State on Friday after entering the transfer portal on Wednesday.

The Downs File

  • Year: Sophomore
  • Size: 6-0/203
  • Pos: S
  • Previous School: Alabama (2023)
  • Stats: 107 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR; 4 PR, 87 yards, 1 TD

Downs, who has three remaining seasons of collegiate eligibility, is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 player to enter the transfer portal this offseason.

Downs was one of the best safeties in the entire country as a true freshman, earning second-team AP All-American honors. He led the Crimson Tide with 107 tackles, made two interceptions and four pass breakups, recorded 3.5 tackles for loss with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and even returned a punt for a touchdown in his first collegiate season.

He projects as an immediate starter for Ohio State at free safety, joining a secondary that returns starting strong safety Lathan Ransom and cornerbacks Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun and Jordan Hancock. With Downs joining the starting lineup in the secondary, Sonny Styles is likely in line for a move to Will linebacker, filling out a defensive lineup that should be college football’s best in 2024.

Downs is the first defensive player to join the Buckeyes via the transfer portal this offseason. He becomes the second Alabama player to transfer to Ohio State this month, joining center Seth McLaughlin. The Buckeyes could potentially still add another Alabama player or two as well, as they have been linked to quarterback Julian Sayin since he entered the transfer portal on Friday and are also pursuing former Crimson Tide offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor.

He’s the fifth overall player to transfer to Ohio State since the end of the 2023 season, joining former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard, former Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins and former Ohio tight end Will Kacmarek.

Ohio State recruited Downs heavily as a high school prospect, but the Buckeyes lost that battle to Alabama. This time around, the Buckeyes were able to land Downs despite initial rumors that Georgia was the frontrunner to land him after hiring Travaris Robinson, Alabama’s secondary coach in 2023, as its co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

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