Ohio State football loses five-star safety Caleb Downs to Alabama, loses steam in 2023

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

Caleb Downs, Ohio State's top safety target for the 2023 recruiting class, on Wednesday chose to commit to coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Downs, a five-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings, is the No. 1 player at his position and No. 13 overall prospect in the class. He also had Notre Dame and Georgia among his finalists. 

"I just felt it was the best fit for me," the Mill Creek (Georgia) high schooler said. "I felt that's where God was leading me, so at the end of the day, I have to trust in it and believe that I can make it there over anyone else. 

"It's my decision. You may not like it, but you will respect it. It is what it is." 

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Ohio State also fell short in a recruiting battle with Alabama when they lost 2023 four-star Olaus Alinen to the Crimson Tide.

As a result, the Buckeyes have so far failed to meet their goal of landing a third offensive tackle to go along with three-star prospect Miles Walker and four-star Luke Montgomery

And four-star running back Justice Haynes chose Alabama over OSU on July 17.

As of Thursday morning, Ohio State still owned the No. 1 2023 recruiting class, while Alabama was lurking at No. 5. 

One key to holding off Alabama, not to mention Notre Dame, Georgia, and Texas – currently ranked second through fourth, respectively – is for Ohio State to receive a commitment from another safety, a position the Buckeyes are still trying to add.

Ohio State's new safeties coach, Perry Eliano has already helped secure four-star Malik Hartford out of Lakota West in West Chester and four-star Cedrick Hawkins out of Cocoa, Florida.

But Downs was at the top of Ohio State's priority list, with commits like  Montgomery and wide receiver Brandon Inniss tweeting at him in the days leading up to his decision, encouraging him to join them in Columbus. 

Now that Downs is out of the mix, Ohio State will focus on four-star safety Jayden Bonsu, who is considering the Buckeyes, Michigan State and Miami. 

Safety is not the only position the Buckeyes are trying to fill on defense. 

All three linebackers that came to Ohio State for an official visit June 24-26 have committed elsewhere: four-star Raul Aguirre to Miami; four-star Troy Bowles to Georgia; and four-star Tackett Curtis, who was defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' top target, to USC. 

The Buckeyes' attention at linebacker has turned to Glenville four-star Arvell Reese, who's down to Ohio State and Kentucky. But Ohio State, which came into the recruiting cycle wanting multiple additions to the middle of its defense, could leave with only one. 

After recruiting wins with Inniss and Carnell Tate secured earlier this summer for the 2023 class, Ohio State could be losing a bit of momentum as fall approaches with spots to fill at offensive tackle, linebacker and on the defensive line. 

cgay@dispach.com 

@_ColinGay