With Caleb Downs’ drama over, Georgia Bulldogs focus on off-season workouts

6 hours ago
ATHENS – As of Monday morning, there remained much shock and awe within the Bulldog Nation about losing Caleb Downs for a second time to another team. There shouldn’t be.
The Downs Saga, which saw the former 5-star safety from Hoschton transfer from Alabama to Ohio State this past weekend, really isn’t a very complicated of a transaction. Let’s review:
Downs, who earned All-America honors as a freshman, officially enters the NCAA’s transfer portal last Wednesday. Georgia and Ohio State are reported to be likely destinations;
Early Thursday, the entire Ohio State coaching staff came to Georgia for an in-home visit with Downs’ family and his representation;
Thursday evening, Downs and his family come to Athens to dine with the Bulldogs’ coaching staff, including former Alabama cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson;
Friday, Downs announces through Ohio State’s NIL organization, “THE Foundation,” that he has committed to play for the Buckeyes.
The conclusion here seems obvious: When Ohio State met with Downs on Thursday, the overture was whatever Georgia offers, we’ll pay more. The Downs then went to UGA, got a verbal offer, shared that information with Ohio State and now Downs is a Buckeye.
The details of Downs’ deal are unknown.
Published reports have it as $1.5 million to $3 million, but those figures are unsubstantiated. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin reported via social media that Ohio State spent upward of $13 million to secure its 2024 roster. Again, no way to verify.
One of the problems with NIL is that lack of transparency. Even though these athletes are accepting money from third parties representing state-funded universities, the “collectives” that broker the deals claim to be non-profit entities whose financials are protected by Federal privacy laws designed for students. That distinction is being challenged legally across the nation.
Of course, Georgia is a part of the same system. The Bulldogs, winners of two of the last three national championships, are major players when it comes to acquiring football talent by every means available. You hear their calls for contributions to the Classic City Collective over the public-address system at football and basketball games, as well as other athletic association events.
The difference is, under the direction of coach Kirby Smart, UGA utilizes a tiered system of financial reward based on the roles within the team (ie: starters, backups and scout-team), according to persons with knowledge of the process. Players’ earnings over and above that are based on their unique ability to command it via the free market.
Generally, the Bulldogs haven’t appeared willing to enter into bidding wars for players either in the portal or via recruiting. But between their long-term relationship with Downs and his extraordinary abilities, they were willing to enter the sweepstakes in this case – to a point.
Life after Downs
Georgia definitely could have used Downs in a secondary that is being partially rebuilt in 2024. The Bulldogs are having to replace starters Javon Bullard and Tykee Smith at safety and Kamari Lassiter at cornerback. But they are certainly willing and able to go to battle with the pieces currently in place.
That includes All-American junior Malaki Starks at one safety and junior Daylen Everette at one cornerback. In addition to returning 10 other lettermen to fill out the five secondary positions, the Bulldogs signed four more in the 2024 winter recruiting period, including 5-stars KJ Bolden and Ellis Robinson IV, as well as 4-stars Ondre Evans and Demello Jones. All of them are early enrollees and currently participating in offseason workouts.
Georgia should be OK.
Coaches’ pay
The biggest surprise in losing Downs was Robinson’s inability to broker it. One of Smart’s most celebrated off-season moves was acquiring Robinson off the Alabama coaching staff left abandoned by Nick Saban’s retirement as head coach.
Though Robinson was listed as cornerbacks coach for the Crimson Tide, he reportedly oversaw the entire defensive backfield for Saban and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. He was also thought to be a reason Bama won Downs’ initial recruitment over Georgia out of Mill Creek High. Robinson had been in Tuscaloosa two years while the Bulldogs recently had cycled through two defensive backfield coaches.
UGA, complying to open records requests for salary information, revealed Friday that it will pay the 42-year-old Robinson $1.3 million over the next year to coach DBs and serve as co-defensive coordinator. That represents a $500,000 raise over his compensation from Alabama.
In order to hire Robinson, Smart had to demote Will Muschamp back into a defensive analyst role. That meant an $800,000 cut in pay to $50,000 annually for Muschamp, according to salary-action information provided by UGA.
It is unlikely Muschamp is fretting this. He received a lump-sum settlement of $12.1 million from South Carolina after being dismissed as head coach in December of 2020 and reportedly wants to spend more time watching his two sons play college football. His oldest son Jackson Muschamp is a walk-on quarterback and rising senior at UGA. His youngest son Whit just signed a scholarship at Vanderbilt.
Unclear at this point is the specific positional roles of Robinson and Donte Williams within Georgia’s defensive staff. Williams replaced Fran Brown in December after Brown left to become the head coach at Syracuse. Brown was coaching the Bulldogs’ cornerbacks, while Muschamp handled the safeties.
Williams will be paid $825,000 in 2024, according to UGA records.
Hitting the mats
The Bulldogs officially began offseason workouts this past Friday under the supervision of strength and conditioning director Scott Sinclair. Though Georgia was well known for its mat drills under former head coach Mark Richt, the Bulldogs have continued to do something very similar under Sinclair in his nine years at UGA.
In addition to the mat work, Georgia also conducts early-morning runs to Sanford Stadium, where they run up and down the stadium steps. It’s a grueling weekly exercise that will continue until spring practice begins in mid-March.
Of Georgia’s 28 winter-period signees, 24 are early-enrollees who are participating in these workouts. With the exception of those with injuries, they’re joining 56 returning lettermen and six transfers in these exercises. Cornerback Julian Humphrey (shoulder), inside linebacker Smael Mondon (foot) and split end Rara Thomas (foot) are among players in various stages of recovery.
As it stands now, that gives the Bulldogs at least 90 football players on scholarship. With another signing period set to start on Feb. 7 and a 15-day portal window opening on May 15, Georgia have to be down to 85 for the opening of preseason camp the first week of August.

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