The situation began after Nick Saban’s retirement and subsequent decimation of the Crimson Tide’s coaching staff. The move also gave players a 30-day window to transfer. 2024 signees can also back out of their letters of intent if they have not started classes.
Washington’s Kalen DeBoer was named head coach on Friday with a monumental task ahead of him: Keep Alabama’s talented roster intact following the departure of one of the best college football coaches in history.
Kirby Smart immediately jumped at the opportunity to poach a premier coaching talent: defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, who is now Georgia’s co-defensive coordinator.
Below I breakdown why Downs would choose Georgia and the effect his addition would have on an already loaded defense:
Nick Saban domino effect
Saban’s exit leads to a great many unknowns for Alabama’s 2024 roster. We’ve already seen massive turnover beyond the coaching staff itself.
Since Saban’s retirement was announced last week, eight Alabama players have entered the transfer portal, most notably Downs and freshman All-American offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor.
Downs reportedly waited for the new Alabama staff to be finalized before making his decision. The Crimson Tide’s addition of South Alabama’s Kane Wommack (defensive coordinator) and Buffalo’s Maurice Linguistand (defensive backs) didn’t seem to sit well with Downs.
Travaris Robinson to UGA
Georgia’s addition of Robinson should be a focal point here. He provides a unique relationship with Downs that no other program has.
After Robinson accepted the new role at UGA, DeBoer called him back in to interview for the Alabama defensive coordinator position, but Robinson ultimately decided to remain at Georgia for 2024.
Beyond Robinson’s recruiting prowess and his SEC ties, he gives UGA more continuity to the defensive staff in Athens. He served on Will Muschamp’s staffs at Auburn (2015) and South Carolina (2016-2020).
It’s a full circle move for both Robinson and Muschamp, whose transition to an analyst role opened the door for his former assistant.
Downs (6 feet, 203 pounds) was rated a five-star recruit, the No. 1 safety and the No. 1 overall player coming out of Mill Creek High School (Georgia) in the 2023 class.
The Bulldogs were close to landing Downs out of high school, but he ultimately chose the Crimson Tide. An opportunity to represent his home state is on the table.
Kirby Smart-Caleb Downs relationship
Kirby Smart congratulates Caleb Downs after 2023 SEC Championship pic.twitter.com/1fIUXihNDx
— Touchdown Alabama (@TDAlabamaMag) December 5, 2023
Smart’s relationship with Downs has been well reported, and it was on full display after Alabama’s win over Georgia in the SEC Championship. Smart and his staff make a point to maintain their relationships they build during years of recruiting.
We got a glimpse into how importantly Smart takes those connections when he congratulated Downs after the game. Also captured above is a quick handshake with Robinson.
Downs is already widely projected as a future first-round NFL draft pick and his freshman season solidified the caliber of player he was coming out of Mill Creek.
Downs totaled a team-leading 107 tackles, 40 more than the closest Crimson Tide defender in 2023. He also racked up three pass breakups, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Downs was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Year in 2023, along with being selected to the freshman All-American, first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman teams.
Put simply, Downs doesn’t need help to become the best player he can be. What Georgia can provide is an unparalleled staff in terms of instilling professional work ethic and mentality in its players.
Smart, Robinson and Muschamp have that pedigree, which is at a level that is no longer in place at Alabama, or anywhere else in the country right now.
What Downs would mean to UGA secondary
Georgia’s secondary took some hits this offseason with the departures of All-SEC defensive backs Javon Bullard and Tykee Smith.
While the Bulldogs return two-time All-American safety Malaki Starks, who will start opposite of Starks is uncertain. Downs fits immediately in that role if he makes the move to Athens. A Starks-Downs combination would strike fear into opposing offenses.
Former four-star recruit David Daniel-Sisavanh returns as a senior and former five-star safety Joenel Aguero is waiting in the wings. Georgia also signed the nation’s No. 1 safety in the 2024 class, K.J. Bolden, plus the No. 5 safety, Demello Jones. This could be one of the most talented secondaries ever put together if Downs becomes a Bulldog.