He not only won a starting safety job on head coach Nick Saban’s defense but ended up becoming the first true freshman to lead Alabama in tackles.
He was the SEC Freshman of the Year, All-SEC first team and a second-team All-American after tallying 107 tackles and intercepting two passes.
He appeared set to be the centerpiece of Alabama’s defense for two more years but instead entered the transfer portal after Saban’s surprise retirement last week.
The Ohio State defense was already shaping up to be one of the best in the country next season after finishing No. 2 in points allowed per game and No. 3 in total defense in 2023.
Six starters return, including standout ends Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau and cornerbacks Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and Davison Igbinosun.
Lathan Ransom, who missed the last third of the season with a foot injury, is also due back at one deep safety, but the other was one of the biggest question marks heading into spring practice following the graduation of Josh Proctor.
Replacing Proctor with Downs might also prompt a position change for Sonny Styles, a mammoth safety who started in Ransom’s spot late in the season but might be more suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage at a listed 6-4, 230.
Ohio State had already added another All-SEC player in Quinshon Judkins, a running back from Mississippi, and another player from Alabama (center Seth McLaughlin) via the transfer portal as well as Kansas State quarterback Will Howard and Ohio tight end Will Kacmarek.
Also this week the school announced the hiring of former Alabama (among many other posts) offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.