While the Alabama Football team has dealt with fallout from Nick Saban's retirement, and the transfers that have come along with it, none of the transfers have been as big a loss as Caleb Downs. Coming off of an incredible freshman season where he led the team in tackles with 107 while adding three pass defenses, two interceptions, and a forced fumble Downs had a major argument that he deserved to be an All-American. Despite being an All-American snub, Downs had a decorated freshman season winning the Shaun Alexander Award, SEC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-SEC honors, and First-team All-SEC Freshman team honors.
Heading into 2024, Downs was set to be one of the focal points of the defense. The hiring of Kane Wommack seemingly was focused on maximizing the potential of players like Downs. Wommack's defense has seen many safeties excel with South Alabama's duo of Jaden Voisin and Yam Banks both making All Sun Belt teams. NFL Safety Jeremy Reaves who played Safety in Wommack's defense even pointed out how a player like Downs would excel in the defense:
The departure of Downs is most likely due to the retirement of Nick Saban and the departure of defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson. Losing Downs is by far the biggest loss for the Alabama Football team to the transfer portal with Downs looking at All-American seasons in the next two years.
The departure of Downs also means we'll likely see either a younger player or a true freshman step in at safety in 2024. Peyton Woodyard is a four-star recruit at safety who plays well in both the pass and run game and could easily step in to fill the role for Kalen DeBoer. Another option is four-star recruit and Alabama native Rydarrius Morgan who's played well in the box as well as in deep safety roles. Returning options include Jahlil Hurley who's publicly announced he's returning, DeVonta Smith who's returning from injury and has shown versatility, and Malachi Moore, if Kane Wommack decides to do away with the star position.
Alabama Football: Playing the freshmen can lead to future success
It hurts losing talented players in the secondary like Caleb Downs, Trey Amos, Earl Little II, Dezz Ricks, and Jake Pope, but this could also be a positive. Playing incoming freshmen like Zavier Mincey, Jaylen Mbakwe, Rydarrius Morgan, Peyton Woodyard, Zabien Brown, Jameer Grimsley, and Dre Kirkpatrick Jr could be a massive positive in the years to come. Allowing the young guys to take their bumps and gain valuable experience can only make the defense stronger in the years to come. It's not often you'll see a secondary as young as Alabama's will be in 2024, but playing the young guys can prevent further portal exits while building for the future.
Note: Stats via ESPN