Caleb Downs Chose Ohio State Amid Flurry of Interest Because “I Believe in Coach Day and I Believe In This Team”

By Dan Hope on January 30, 2024 at 12:25 pm
Caleb Downs

The interest in Caleb Downs was fast and furious from the moment the former Alabama safety entered the transfer portal.

In his first interview session as a Buckeye on Tuesday, Downs estimated that he received 102 calls within the first seven to eight hours after he entered the portal. Downs, who described the transfer process as “recruiting on steroids,” said he picked up about 80 of those calls because he wanted to be respectful to all the coaches who were interested in him.

That said, Downs went into the portal with a few specific potential transfer destinations in mind. As a result, Downs was in the portal for only two days before he committed to Ohio State.

Downs also strongly considered transferring to Georgia, his home-state school. But the national freshman of the year award winner ultimately decided that Ohio State was the best place for him.

“I just love the program here,” Downs said. “I love Coach Walton and love what the people had to say around here. I believe in Coach Day, and I believe in this team.”

Ohio State immediately made its interest in Downs clear as Ryan Day, secondary coach Tim Walton, safeties coach Matt Guerrieri and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles traveled to Georgia to make an in-home visit with Downs the day after he entered the portal. All four of them made a positive impression on Downs, who already knew Day well from his high school recruitment. Walton, meanwhile, has a longstanding connection to Downs’ father as they grew up together in Columbus, Georgia.

  • Downs on Day: “He was very genuine when I was getting recruited in high school, and he was very genuine when I talked to him two weeks ago … He believes in the people that he's around, he believes in the people that he believes in.”
  • On Walton: “Very genuine person. He always keeps it straight with you. Everything that he says has come to fruition, so I can't knock him on anything. He's very close to my pops, too. They grew up together. So just knowing that relationship with him and our relationship together, I trust in him.”
  • On Guerrieri: “Great guy. Very intelligent. A lot to learn from him. He knows this defense very well. Just being able to learn from him and see how he sees the game, I think that'll very progress my development.”
  • On Knowles: “Very intelligent, for sure. He sees a lot, and he has an answer for everything in terms of what teams can bring him. So I just feel like the different ways that he plays defenses, that will allow me to develop in different ways.”

While NIL was also a factor in bringing Downs to Columbus, he said his primary motivation in becoming a Buckeye was what he believes Ohio State can help him become as a football player.

“At the end of the day, I love playing football. And that's what I'm here to do,” Downs said. “I'm not here to make money or do anything like that. I know there's a lot of opportunities here in terms of the city of Columbus, but at the end of the day, I'm here to help this team win football games and I'm here to do my best to try to develop.”

Asked why he chose to leave Alabama, Downs said simply that he “felt like it was the best decision for me.” Downs said he was caught by surprise when Nick Saban announced his retirement as Alabama’s head coach.

“It was a huge surprise walking into that meeting and him saying that. My heart dropped, for sure,” Downs said. “But at the end of the day, if that's what he felt was best for him, I love him for it and that's what he needed to do.”

Downs, who has been told by coaches that he will likely play the adjuster (free safety) position in Ohio State’s defense, was impressed by what he saw from the Buckeyes’ defense from afar last season as Ohio State ranked first nationally in passing yards allowed per game, second in the FBS in points allowed per game and third in the country in total yards allowed per game.

That played a part in his decision to become a Buckeye, and he believes Ohio State’s defense can be even better this year.

“I expect us to be one of the best,” Downs said when asked if he thought Ohio State would have the best defense in the country in 2024. “I expect us to excel and be better than they were last year. I expect us to be elite.”

“I just love the program here. I love Coach Walton and love what the people had to say around here. I believe in Coach Day, and I believe in this team.”– Caleb Downs on choosing Ohio State

He says he’s coming to Ohio State with the same expectations he had at Alabama and that he’s had his whole life.

“To win games and dominate every game and go win a championship,” Downs said.

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