Downs settling in nicely at Ohio State


COLUMBUS — Less than two weeks after Ohio State pulled off the biggest coup of the offseason with the addition of Caleb Downs, the former Alabama safety met with the media for the first time to discuss how he’s acclimating to life in Columbus and why he chose the Buckeyes as his transfer portal destination.

Downs, who led Alabama in tackles last season en route to SEC Freshman of the Year honors, was widely considered the hottest commodity in a jam-packed transfer portal the moment rumors of his departure began to swirl following legendary Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s retirement. A five-star recruit in the 2023 class, Downs nearly chose Ohio State out of high school, and the Buckeyes were immediately expected to reach out to Downs once his services became available.

Ohio State was far from the only program to contact him once he entered the portal, though. In fact, the calls began to roll in in such a staggering flurry that on Jan. 30, Downs best described the brief transfer process as “recruiting on steroids.”

“I got, like, 102 calls in one day,” Downs said. “Not even one day. It was, like, seven or eight hours. Just being able to minimize what my mind was going through was a big thing for me in being able to make a sound decision off of what I knew.”

As a Georgia native, and with former Alabama defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson being hired by Kirby Smart earlier this month, the path to Athens seemed natural for Downs. However, it was the established relationships with the Ohio State coaching staff that ultimately won out.

“I just love the program here,” Downs said of choosing Ohio State. “I love (secondary) coach (Tim) Walton and love what the people have to say around here. I believe in coach (Ryan) Day and I believe in this team.”

The standing relationship with Walton can’t be overstated as a pivotal component in Downs’ decision. Walton grew up with Downs’ father in Columbus, Georgia, and Downs spoke glowingly of Walton on Jan. 30.

“He’s a very genuine person,” Downs said of Walton. “He always keeps it straight with you. Everything 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.”

Now that he is on campus and going through winter workouts with his new teammates, Downs is back to doing what he does best. And although the portal process may have been a whirlwind, Downs said the transition to Columbus has been made much easier given the support staff he’s inherited at Ohio State.

“I feel like everybody around here, around the building, has made it a really smooth transition,” he said. “It’s definitely a change just because of the location moving, but it’s been a smooth transition because everybody around here is such good people.”

Downs said he expects to slot into the adjustor safety position in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ system, although he noted he’ll play wherever necessary to get on the field this season. Regardless of how he fits into the defense, Downs noted his goals for the upcoming season remain unchanged despite the change of scenery.

Asked what he expects to do at Ohio State, Downs said, “The expectations I’ve had my whole life, the same expectations we had at ‘bama —to win games and dominate every game and go win a championship.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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