Arkansas football bolstered its secondary via the transfer portal last year by double-dipping from a Big 12 school. Some fans are hoping the Razorbacks can do that again for 2024.
While Alfahiym Walcott and Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson transferred in from Baylor and were each key members of a much-improved unit this season, there’s no guarantee the two Texas defensive backs with connections to Arkansas would make as big of an impact.
That hasn’t stopped some from linking the Razorbacks with both Jalen Catalon and B.J. Allen Jr., who were safeties for the Longhorns before hitting the transfer portal.
The first of those names should be very familiar to Arkansas football fans since Catalon spent the first four years of his college career in Fayetteville and even earned All-SEC honors with the Razorbacks.
Allen is someone those who closely follow recruiting should know, as he is the older brother of 2024 four-star commit Jaden Allen. The elder Allen signed with Texas out of high school and has been there two years.
Here’s a closer look at whether or not it’d make sense for the Razorbacks to go after both Longhorns, as well as some other defensive backs they’re pursuing in the transfer portal…
A Return for Jalen Catalon?
When he was healthy, Jalen Catalon was arguably the Razorbacks’ best safety since Ken Hamlin. He certainly brought back memories of Hamlin and Steve Atwater with his bone-crushing hits.
The problem was that he was injured more than not. In fact, dating back to his senior year of high school and including this past season at Texas, Catalon has missed time or been limited by injuries in five of the last six years.
His lone healthy season came as a redshirt freshman in 2020, when he finished with 99 tackles, three interceptions, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles, helping him earn first-team All-SEC honors from the AP. There was legitimate talk of him being an All-American and first-round pick the following year.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery limited him to half of a season in 2021. The next year, he was limited to half of a game because he re-injured the same shoulder.
That ultimately led to Catalon making the surprising decision to enter the transfer portal instead of declaring for the NFL Draft or returning to Arkansas. He needed a change of scenery and the opportunity to return to his home state was too good to pass up — even if the thought of him wearing burnt orange made Arkansas football fans sick to their stomach.
Considered one of the bigger pickups of the offseason, Catalon fell well short of expectations. He did start five of the Longhorns’ first six games of the season, but was splitting time at the position even before he got hurt. In fact, he averaged just 23.4 snaps over the first five games.
It was during that sixth game, the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma, that Catalon suffered a lower-leg injury. That caused him to miss four games. Upon returning, he played just 17 total snaps against Iowa State and Texas Tech before not seeing the field in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Jalen Catalon ended the year with a 61.0 Pro Football Focus grade on 142 snaps, which was significantly lower than the 79.4 mark he had posted in 2020.
With his injury history, it might be tough for any Power Five program to risk a scholarship on him. Plus, he may decide to drop down to the Group of Five level to ensure he can get plenty of reps — assuming he stays healthy.
Then there’s the question about whether or not Arkansas would take him back even if he wanted to return to Fayetteville. Sam Pittman never spoke poorly of him publicly, but who knows how he feels about the situation behind closed doors.
There is a precedent, with kicker Vito Calvaruso returning to Arkansas after transferring to Wisconsin, but his situation was a bit different. He was originally a walk-on and left for a chance to be a placekicker instead of just a kickoff specialist — something he wouldn’t be able to do behind Cam Little at Arkansas.
Would Pittman be as willing to welcome Catalon back with open arms? Only he can answer that question.
Two-for-One Allen Brothers
Nearly a decade has passed since the Arkansas football roster featured a pair of Allen brothers. Those were Brandon and Austin, who were quarterbacks and played together from 2013-15.
If the Razorbacks pursue and land B.J. Allen Jr., it would happen again with him and 2024 commit Jaden Allen — this time in the secondary.
The older Allen was a heralded recruit coming out of Texas powerhouse Aledo High School. A unanimous high four-star prospect, he was ranked in the top 100 by ESPN (No. 71) and On3 (No. 89) and checked in at No. 125 in the 247Sports Composite.
With a slew of offers from big-time programs like Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and many others, Allen originally committed to LSU. That lasted about nine months before he flipped to Texas in February of his junior year.
In two years with the Longhorns, though, he appeared in only two games and played just three total snaps, failing to crack what was a five-man rotation at safety this season.
A quick glance at Jaden Allen’s timeline on Twitter seems to indicate he’d love to play with his brother again…
The question with Allen is whether or not Arkansas would be interested in bringing in someone who basically hasn’t played in two years.
Last year, the Razorbacks brought in cornerback Jaheim Singletary from Georgia despite the former five-star recruit hardly playing in his freshman season for the Bulldogs. The year before that, they signed Landon Jackson from LSU despite him not taking a single defensive snap as a freshman. Both were heralded players coming out of high school, so there is a precedent.
That said, the only offer Allen has tweeted about since entering the transfer portal is from North Texas and most of the defensive backs Arkansas has reportedly offered have been those with more significant playing time in college.
Transfer Portal DBs Offered by Arkansas Football
According to Best of Arkansas Sports’ unofficial list, the Razorbacks have offered five defensive backs in the transfer portal. However, it’s worth noting that it probably isn’t a comprehensive list because it relies on players reporting their offers and not all of them do.
One of those five has already narrowed his choices and Arkansas didn’t make the cut, as Will Lee III from Kansas State will focus on Texas A&M, Washington and Louisville.
Of the other four, two of them played at Oregon State — Akili Arnold and Jermod McCoy. TJ Crandall (Colorado State) and Ethan Robinson (Bucknell), meanwhile, hail from smaller schools.
Arnold is the only safety on the list and he’s played more than 1,700 career defensive snaps. The others are all cornerbacks, with Robinson being the most experienced (1,905 snaps) albeit at the FCS level. McCoy and Crandall were each true freshmen who played a decent amount (410 and 303 snaps, respectively).
For more information on those defensive backs — among players at all positions with offers from Arkansas — check out our constantly updated list here.
Transfer Portal Visitors
The Razorbacks have already landed one commitment from the transfer portal in former Michigan State offensive lineman Keyshawn Blackstock, but they are actively pursuing even more. After all, they have scholarships available to use.
Blackstock visited Arkansas for the Auburn game, as he was able to enter the portal early because of the Spartans’ coaching change, but this is the first weekend since the portal opened to all players. The Razorbacks are expected to host two transfers on official visits, according to Hogville’s Otis Kirk.
Those players are Boise State quarterback Taylen Green and Eastern Michigan tight end Andreas Paaske. For a rundown of those players and others Arkansas has offered, click here.
More coverage of Arkansas football and the transfer portal from BoAS…