Going into January, Arkansas had already signed a class more talented than any in its recent history.
That class just got more impressive.
On Friday afternoon, Jalen Catalon, a four-star safety out of the DFW metro area, announced he’ll become a Razorback over Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Clemson and TCU among others.
The 5’9, 188-pound dynamo is the third player from Mansfield High to join Arkansas. His teammates, defensive linemen Taurean Carter and Enoch Jackson, both inked with the Razorbacks during last month’s early signing period.
Jalen Catalon is also the fifth defensive back to commit or sign with the program. Since the days of Ahmad Carroll and Lawrence Richardson, Arkansas has struggled in the secondary. The program traditionally has not been able to put together enough talented, athletic defensive backs together at one time — and teach them great technique — to produce a top-tier SEC defense.
But those years of Hog fan head scratching and hair pulling may soon end with the following:
- Devin Bush, a four-star defensive back from New Orleans (signed)
- Gregory Brooks Jr., a four-star DB from Harvey (La.) (signed)
- Myles Brooks, a three-star DB from Pflugerville, TX (signed)
- Adonis Otey, a four-star DB from Murfreesboro, TN
Soon after Jalen Catalon made his announcement, star recruit Hudson Henry put to bed any lingering doubt about where he would sign in February with this Tweet:
On film, Catalon looks like a natural. The words that immediately come to mind when watching him are “shifty,” “compact” and “heat-seeking missile.” Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis will have fun employing him to devastating effect:
Arkansas Now No. 4 In the Nation
With Catalon’s choice, Arkansas now has 14 four star players committed or signed to the program. According to the Rivals, Arkansas now ties with Georgia as having the fourth-most four star recruits in the nation.
So, yes, there are some grains of salt to be taken here. Arkansas doesn’t have any five stars. Arkansas’s class, overall, is “only” No. 16 nationally. And, yes, it does appear Adonis Otey is wavering ahead of his signing, visiting other schools and may go elsewhere.
Still, c’mon. We’re talking about a program that has averaged three wins a season the last two years.
Bringing in this kind of talent, coming off those kinds of struggles, is simply jaw dropping. It’s arguably more impressive than any single on-field victory that Arkansas has had in the SEC era.
What’s Jalen Catalon’s Background?
Joseph Hoyt, a sports reporter for the Dallas Morning News, attended Catalon’s signing and provides some great background on the 29th-ranked player in the state of Texas.
Hoyt notes that early in his sophomore year, Jalen Catalon set the school record for tackles (24). By the end of that season, Missouri was the first program to offer. But SMU (under Chad Morris) offered the same day. Twenty more programs eventually followed with offers of their own.
“After his brother graduated, Catalon became Legacy’s starting quarterback and its defensive leader,” Hoyt added. “He was SportsDay’s All-Area Defensive Player of the Year last season, recording 101 tackles, three interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. As quarterback, he threw for 1,122 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also ran for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns to lead Legacy to the 5A Division II state semifinals.”
“It appeared Catalon’s senior season would be his best, but he tore his ACL in the season opener against Jenks (Okla.) and was ruled out for the year.”
Danny West of Hawgsports.com adds: “Catalon was one of the Razorbacks’ most wanted prospects for several months. He initially visited Fayetteville on an unofficial in late July. The four-star target returned to the Hill for an official visit alongside Carter and Jackson on the weekend of October 6 when the Razorbacks hosted Alabama. Catalon also made official trips to Oklahoma (Sept. 28), Texas (Dec. 7), and TCU (Jan. 11).”
What About Lakia Henry and the Linebackers?
So, the secondary looks stacked. With Catalon committed, the biggest likely get still out there is Lakia Henry, a four-star linebacker who recently de-committed from Tennessee. Check out the below analysis (starts near the 1:45 marker) for more about the recruitment of Henry (who is rated as the nation’s top JUCO inside linebacker).
[the feature graphic for this post is via @870editz]