A little less than four years following former Arkansas Razorbacks safety Jalen Catalon spurning the Texas Longhorns in favor of a football career in Fayetteville, the Mansfield Legacy product committed to the Longhorns on Jan. 9 after a weekend visit to the Forty Acres.
New beginnings… #AGTG pic.twitter.com/y9Hd09HGpB— Jalen Catalon (@jcatalon27) January 9, 2023
On Wednesday, Texas announced Catalon’s addition.
Officially a Longhorn!— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) January 18, 2023
Welcome to the family @jcatalon27 pic.twitter.com/TPydm0YFvQ
Catalon entered the NCAA transfer portal in mid-December.
“I think he just wants a fresh start,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said. “I talked to him about if he was going to leave here, if he wanted my advice, I would just declare for the NFL and give (that) a chance. But he had a different view on it. Whatever he wants to do, we’ll be fine with it.”
A 5’10, 201-pounder, Catalon was a consensus four-star prospect in the 2019 recruiting class and a key target of Texas. The former coaching staff wasn’t able to close with Catalon, however, as he chose Arkansas over Oklahoma, TCU, and Texas in January 2019.
After playing in four games as a freshman, Catalon broke out in 2020, becoming a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist and earning first team All-SEC recognition from the AP after recording 99 total tackles (51 solo), two tackles for loss, three interceptions, four passes broken up, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles in 10 games.
Season-ending injuries derailed Catalon’s ascent to becoming an NFL Draft prospect. In 2021, Catalon played in six games due to a shoulder injury before opting to return to Fayetteville, but suffered another shoulder injury in the 2022 season opener that required reconstructive surgery.
The medical questions surrounding Catalon’s shoulder are the likely reason he’s not exploring the NFL Draft process, but were not a significant enough cause for concern to the Longhorns to derail his pursuit.
With the departure of Anthony Cook following his fifth season at Texas, Catalon is expected to compete for and win the starting role at the field safety position.
Catalon is the third addition for the Longhorns out of the portal in the last month, joining cornerback Gavin Holmes and punter Ryan Sanborn.
Analysis (by Daniel Seahorn):
Jalen Catalon is coming off two injury shortened seasons in Fayetteville, but prior to that he was impact player in the Razorback secondary as a freshman. Catalon was incredibly productive in 2020, as he tallied 99 tackles, 2 TFLs, 3 INTs, 4 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Catalon earned a slew of postseason accolades in 2020 for his play on the field and several pre-season honors heading into 2021. At 5’10, 201 pounds Catalon served as a tone setter for the defense and was named a team captain. He displays great range from the middle of the field and is a high energy spark plug that only knows one speed and when he arrives at the ball carrier he gets there with a bad attitude. Catalon may be vertically challenged, but he is stout in stature and he has a well earned reputation for laying the timber. Catalon is a well rounded player who can make impact plays against the pass and who will aggressively fill his run fits coming down hill and stop ball carriers cold. If his medicals are all checked out then this is a no brainer replacement for Anthony Cook heading into 2023 and Texas is getting a player who step right in for them the moment he arrives in Austin.