Football

Safety Caleb Downs “Has the Capability” to Play on Both Sides of the Ball for Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a standout season at Alabama, Caleb Downs is expected to take on the starting role at free safety for the Buckeyes this year. But the defensive star may see carries on offense this season at running back too — something he did in high school and he has had on his mind ever since.

Ohio State’s current running back room features two conference all stars and top running backs in the country, TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins. But behind Henderson and Judkins, the experience in the room is thin with freshmen James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon and walk-on TC Caffey.

With a potential 17-game season and the need for depth, Downs could provide a contingency plan for the Buckeyes on offense as well.

“We started having conversations with Caleb Downs during the recruiting process of him possibly doing a little bit of running back as well, Day said. “That something he wanted to do so we’ve been having him in the meetings and some of the individual drills as a possibility there if he’s needed down the road, to continue to build depth at the position.”

Ohio State has had to move a linebacker and a receiver to running back for significant carries the past two years, so this is not something new — but a player contributing on both sides of the ball, is not as common.

While traditionally more of a high school theme, elite players have been playing on both sides of the ball in college the past few seasons. Players like Travis Hunter at Colorado have found success playing both offense and defense.

Downs and Day had conversations about him playing both safety and running back in his first recruitment coming out of high school. Now that Downs is at Ohio State and the Buckeyes could use another option, the time is right for Downs to take the step.

Day said his goal is to have four strong running backs ready to go this season, and that will require Peoples and WIlliams-Dixon to step up. So, Downs actually getting carries at running back may likely be only an emergency plan, if it comes down to Ohio State needing another ball carrier.

But while it may be only a few snaps or a worst comes to worst scenario, Downs’ athleticism and his capabilities allow him to be effective both as a starting safety and then contribute if needed on offense. Downs potentially has that ability to not run out of gas and still be an effective safety, while also having the ball in his hands for the Buckeye offense.

“We are going to work on it a little bit,” Day said. “Caleb [Downs] enjoys that part of it and we did agree that that was something we were going to look into. Where it goes, I don’t really know right now, but I know he has the athleticism, he has the capability to do it, and we will see where it goes and see how he does.”

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