FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman Jalen Catalon is one of Arkansas’ best players despite just being a redshirt freshman.
The safety is third on the team with 70 tackles, including 40 solo and 0.5 for loss. He also has three interceptions, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbes. He has been compared by some to Steve Atwater and Ken Hamlin.
“Honestly, when I first came in, I knew about Steve Atwater and I kind of heard about Ken Hamlin, but as I started to hear those comparisons, I looked to see what they look like and stuff like that,” Catalon said. “After seeing how Steve Atwater played, he hits pretty hard. Same with Ken Hamlin. They were both ballers.
“It’s just an honor to be put in that category to be compared to them because they both wore the Razorbacks with proudness and they put on for the Arkansas Razorbacks and Fayetteville. I have much respect for those guys and their games. To just be compared to them is a blessing, but I just keep my head down and play my game and let y’all compare whatever y’all want to compare. I’m just going to do me, but it’s an honor to even be put in that category for sure.”
Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman is pleased to have Catalon on his team and has very high expecations for him.
“Yes, again we have high expectations for everybody on our football team,” Pittman said. “But yes, and I’m talking about just his physical play too. He’s a physical guy. Knows what he’s doing, is captain back there for the secondary and just very smart guy and certainly a tenacious hitter.”
One thing Catalon is known for is watching a lot of film each week and studying opponents.
“Enough to where I can watch it consistently and still get my school work done,” Catalon said regarding how much film he watches. “I think I watch quite a bit. I think it’s one of the habits I built in high school. In high school I watched film a lot, just to kind of break it down, what offenses did. Me playing quarterback it also helps me understand a quarterback’s mind and what he’s thinking on certain downs or what his philosophy is.
“Film is all about just getting a feel of what someone does. I’ve kind of started understanding it a little bit, and Coach (Barry) Odom and Coach (Sam) Carter do a great job of breaking down the film to give us the resources to watch film and being able to utilize it to our maximum potential. I’m blessed to have that opportunity and availability to watch film for sure. But I’d say I watch film quite a bit for sure.”
On Saturday morning, Catalon and the other Razorbacks will face an LSU team that is playing for the first time in three weeks. TJ Finley is the starting quarterback and backed by Max Johnson. Both are freshmen.
“I know the starter has a really good arm,” Catalon said. “He throws it really hard. I mean, they’re both pretty young. I know that, but it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, we’ve still got to come in and play with our philosophy. I think they’re both really good quarterbacks, and they’ve got a good scheme over there.
“They haven’t played in a little while, so you know we’re going off of what we saw two weeks ago. But we’ve still got to come in and play our game because this is the SEC. It doesn’t matter who you play, you can get beat any single day if you don’t bring it, so. We’re preparing for them like we’re preparing for anybody. But, I respect the quarterbacks. I think they have a great upside to them. I think they’re going to get better each week. But, we’ve just got to play our game. If we do that, then it doesn’t matter what quarterback they put out there, we can stop them.”
The LSU running game is led by John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis-Price. Emery has 246 yards rushing and Davis-Price has 245. They have each scored a pair of touchdowns.
“Oh yeah, they run pretty hard,” Catalon said. “They’re some hard runners. Just like any SEC running back, they’re hard runners. But I know John Emery, he’s elusive. He can make some moves. And then Davis, he’s not afraid to put his head down, so you know we’ve got to prepare for both, and they both bring different elements to the game, so our defense has to be ready for that. But I think with the plan that Coach Odom is bringing in, I think we’ll be prepared for both running backs, and our scout team unit gives us a great look with the running backs situation, how everything…I mean, what they do. I think we’re going to be ready when the time comes at 11 Saturday to face off, for sure.”
The other safety in Arkansas’ defense is Joe Foucha who is in his third season of playing. He has 41 tackles, including 10 unassisted, two for loss, one sack, two interceptions and a pass breakup.
“Joe, Joe’s athletic,” Catalon said. “I think Joe’s athletic, and I think he’s kind of fit into that boundary safety really well, and I think now he gets to really thrive and show what he can do on the football field. Not to say he can’t play any other position, but I think that dime safety just fits him well in our scheme. And you can just tell the way he comes off the edge, the way he understands his drops. And he can just make plays on the ball when it’s there.
“But I have much respect for his game, and you can tell he’s probably one of the more athletic people on our team. He’s a baller. There’s nothing else to say but he’s just a baller. I love to watching practice and play because you can just see the athletic ability, and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ But nah, I’m glad what he’s doing this season, I’m proud of him. He’s doing a really good job this year of doing his job and making other people around him better. But nah, he’s a baller, for sure.”
One of the defensive linemen who will be able to play on Saturday is senior Jonathan Marshall, who is also having a great year. He has 26 tackles, including 15 solo, 5.5 for loss, a sack and two quarterback hurries.
“Oh man,” Catalon said. “He’s an animal down there. He’s causing havoc every single time a ball is snapped. I think that’s why coach keeps him in so much is because his motor, he’s able to go and his consistency to get to the ball and cause havoc down there. I think that makes the defense a lot easier for us to go flow because he’s just blowing up the middle, so now the running back has to stop and come on a gap where we’re going to be at.
“His motor is second-to-none, hands down one of the best motors on the team on the D-line. For him to play that many snaps and give it 100 percent on those snaps while doing special teams, as well, that just shows you the type of person he is. He’s a distraction down there. Teams have to plan our for him because he’s going to cause havoc on every single play. I think he definitely makes our jobs easier on the back end and at the linebacker spot, for sure. He’s having a great year as well and I’m ready to see what he’s going to do the rest of the year, too. I know he can keep it consistent because of his work ethic, but he’s just a monster. That’s all I can say. He’s just a monster.”
Arkansas and LSU will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.