Ryan Day is mainly looking forward to the contributions Caleb Downs will make with the Buckeye defense this fall. However, it sounds like it is too early to rule out Downs seeing time on the offensive side of the ball.

A major playmaker for Alabama as a true freshman, Downs hit the portal and exited Tuscaloosa after Nick Saban’s retirement. He found his way to Ohio State, a program and coaching staff that heavily recruited him out of high school.

His presence in the secondary for Jim Knowles’ defense could be a game-changer, but Day admitted on Tuesday the coaching staff has been working with Downs on learning the running back position as well. According to Day, it’s something Downs wanted to do during the recruiting process.

“We have started having conversations with Caleb Downs, that was part of the recruiting process about possibly playing a little RB as well. That was something he wanted to do,” said Day. “We’ve been having him in some of the meetings, some of the individual drills as a possibility there if we needed to down the road to kind of build depth at that position.”

Day said the Buckeyes will simply see where the plan takes Downs moving forward, but it is also something the head coach believes will help Downs prepare for his defensive assignments as well. There is no current plan to use Downs, but Day is keeping “contingency plans” in mind with the potential for a longer season with the new College Football Playoff.

“You never know and we’re just trying to put some contingency plans in place because it could be a long season,” Day explained.

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Analyzing the plan

It’s unlikely fans will be able to realistically look forward to Downs running the football with the offense any time soon. However, it’s not surprising to hear the plan being utilized.

Though he arrived in Columbus with far less fanfare, Chip Trayanum was also training on both sides of the ball before eventually settling back into his traditional running back role.

Cade Stover, a star tight end to finish his Buckeye career, also spent time at linebacker, and Steele Chambers was another running back/linebacker hybrid early in his career.

Simply put, there can be a benefit to training players on both sides of the ball. And if anyone is going to be worried about running out of ball carriers, it should be Ryan Day.

During the 2022 season, the Buckeyes watched as Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson both struggled to stay healthy after losing Evan Pryor to the season. It led to the emergency usage of Trayanum an Xavier Johnson in the backfield and a depleted group in a Playoff loss to Georgia.

Henderson and Williams similarly battled injuries again in 2023, so the Buckeyes have every reason to be cautious, even after adding Quinshon Judkins from Ole Miss. And, if Day is right that cross-training helps Downs be a better safety, that is a scary prospect for opposing teams this fall.

Downs was one of the best freshmen contributors in the country a season ago with 107 tackles, 2 interceptions and 4 pass breakups for Alabama. He’s already penciled in as a likely top-10 2026 NFL Draft pick, and he’ll get a chance to shine with the Buckeyes.