Safety Jalen Catalon makes quick recovery, returns to action for Arkansas Razorbacks
football Edit

Catalon makes quick recovery, returns to action

Jalen Catalon is competing for a starting job at safety as a redshirt freshman.
Jalen Catalon is competing for a starting job at safety as a redshirt freshman. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — In its first true test since being injured earlier in camp, Jalen Catalon’s knee passed with flying colors.

The former four-star recruit and Rivals250 prospect hurt his knee in one of Arkansas’ first preseason practices and even required a minor procedure, but was back at full speed last week and participated in Friday’s scrimmage.

Speaking to the local media in a Zoom videoconference afterward, Catalon said his knee is doing good, even after practicing all week.

“Physically I’m feeling great,” Catalon said. “Just glad I’m back there with my guys and working hard just being back doing what I love. I’m tired right now but overall I’m feeling pretty good. My body and all that, I’m just ready to get out and get after it again next week.”

Catalon’s health is a key for Arkansas’ defense this season. He is among a group of five safeties vying for a spot in the two-deep depth chart, which the coaching staff has kept mostly secret.

Joe Foucha and Myles Mason are the experienced players of the bunch, while Micahh Smith is a sparsely used fifth-year senior. Catalon and true freshman Myles Slusher are the most heralded of the group, but also the most inexperienced.

Defensive coordinator Barry Odom has been rotating them between the first and second units, as well as the different safety spots and even giving several of them reps at nickel.

“Coach wants us to know all of the positions because you never what's going to happen, especially now with this COVID situation,” Catalon said. “A guy might get knocked down with COVID and you got to play this position, or next week you might have to play this position.”

Although COVID-19 is a new threat, getting knocked down with injuries is nothing new for Catalon. He missed virtually his entire senior season at Mansfield, Texas, Legacy with a torn ACL and was limited in his first year at Arkansas because of a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.

Now a redshirt freshman, Catalon gave the Razorbacks a scare early in camp, but he credited the training staff for knowing just what to do to get him back on the field quickly.

“I think once I realized I was able to walk still and all that, I was good, so I wasn’t too worried,” Catalon said. “I took the precautions that I needed to be able to get back and I was able to get back within a week and a half span. I’m blessed and I’m glad I’m going to be back on the field and glad I’m back to balling with my brothers.”