Catalon's pledge keeps Razorbacks' recruiting momentum rolling

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Friday, January 18, 2019
Jalen Catalon
Jalen Catalon

— The wins were few and far between on the field during Chad Morris’ first year at the helm of the Razorbacks, but the victories on the recruiting trail just keep coming this offseason.

It happened again Friday afternoon when Arkansas added the pledge of highly regarded Mansfield (Texas) Legacy safety Jalen Catalon (5-10, 190) to a group that was already ranked 17th in the country by Rivals.

Catalon, an exceptional athlete who an obviously biased Mansfield Legacy head coach Chris Melson called the best football player in the state of Texas, chose the Razorbacks over Texas, Oklahoma and TCU. He also had an offer from Alabama.

He is a four-star prospect, the 20th-best safety and the No. 225 overall player regardless of position, according to the 24/7 composite rankings.

It was thought going into the season that he would end up at Texas or Oklahoma, but Arkansas secondary coach Mark Smith spearheaded an effort to land Catalon as well as Legacy defensive linemen Enoch Jackson, Jr. (6-0, 290) and Tauren Carter (6-3, 260), who both signed with the Razorbacks on Dec. 19.

I got to see Catalon’s first and last snap of the season, unfortunately both coming in his team’s season opening 37-16 loss at Jenks, Okla., on August 31.

Catalon limped off in the field in the opening quarter after making a tackle before returning to the field early in the third quarter, playing two series at quarterback on offense, aggravating the injury and ending the night on crutches.

The loss was an obvious big blow for Legacy, who also had Alabama safety signee Jeffrey Carter and was expected to contend for a state title.

As a junior, Catalon was the Dallas Morning News All-Area Defensive Player of the Year while recording 101 tackles, three interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

He was also the starting quarterback for a 12-3 team, throwing for 1,122 yards and 15 touchdowns and running for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns to lead Legacy to the 5A Division II state semifinals.

Catalon was expected to be one of the top candidates for the Tom Landry Award, which goes to the best football player in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was awarded last season to current Razorbacks quarterback John Stephen Jones.

Catalon recorded 276 tackles in his sophomore and junior seasons, 13 for loss, 10 pass deflections, four forced fumbles, five recoveries and 12 interceptions.

He accounted for 2,234 yards and 28 TDs last season for the Broncos, who had their deepest playoff run ever, to the state semifinals.

Catalon and his teammates took their official visits to Arkansas on Oct. 4-6 and Catalon reportedly became a private commitment at that point.

It seemed to be a forgone conclusion that he would indeed don a Razorbacks jersey, including nearly 60 percent of voters in a recent Fort Worth Star Telegram poll predicting Catalon was headed to Fayettevile.

Still, the Razorbacks had to get through his visits to Texas (Dec. 12-14) and TCU (Jan. 11-13) before solidifying his status Thursday night when Morris and his coaches had the last home visit, right after Texas’ coaches had gone in.

Arkansas is not about to wrestle away the title of DBU from LSU, but it certainly has closed the gap a bit with three signees and three other commitments, five of whom are four-star prospects, in its 2019 class.

Catalon joins New Orleans products and early enrollees Devin Bush and Greg Brooks Jr. as well as early signee Malik Chavis of Rison as prospects who have inked their national letters of intent with the Razorbacks.

Arkansas also has pledges from Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Blackman cornerback Adonis Otey and Plufgerville (Texas) Hendrickson safety Myles Brooks.

Throw that bunch in with holdovers Joe Foucha, Montaric Brown, Kamren Curl, Myles Mason, LaDarrius Bishop and Jordan Curtis and suddenly the secondary looks loaded with young, talented guys with a wealth of potential.

The back end of the defense has struggled for a few years, but the cavalry is coming.

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