Safety has been one of the more inconsistent position groups for the Texas defense this fall. Texas got good safety play in the last few weeks, as this group has progressed throughout the season. But the safety rotation was a question mark early in Big 12 play for the Longhorns and DC Pete Kwiatkowski.
It didn’t help that probably Texas’ best safety, senior Arkansas transfer Jalen Catalon, has dealt with recurring injury issues since the Red River Rivalry game on Oct. 7 against the Oklahoma Sooners. Injuries have unfortunately been a constant thing Catalon has dealt with in his collegiate career between his time at Arkansas and Texas.
Texas has one safety spot locked down for 2024, with true freshman Derek Williams Jr. stepping up in the secondary in the second half of the regular season. Williams has emerged as a rangy and physical safety that the Longhorns can count on in pass coverage and playing downhill against the run.
But Texas doesn’t have a sure-fire starter at safety upon the move to the SEC in 2024 opposite Williams. While safeties coach Blake Gideon and the Longhorns could return seniors Jerrin Thompson and Kitan Crawford and redshirt sophomore Michael Taaffe, none of them have proven enough that they will have a starting safety job guaranteed next fall.
I also wouldn’t expect all three senior safeties, Thompson, Catalon, and Crawford, to return to Texas in 2024.
No matter what, Texas needs to upgrade the safety position heading into its first year in the SEC in 2024. They need to find an immediate impact safety who can elevate this secondary playing alongside Williams in the SEC.