Arkansas' top three NFL draft prospects led a 45-23 win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday, but Alex Collins' performance was on a different level.
The Razorbacks' junior running back rushed for 185 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns, setting a school single-season record with his 20th touchdown of the 2015 campaign. He finished the season with a career-high 1,577 yards and has rushed for more than 1,000 in each of his first three years at Arkansas.
Quarterback Brandon Allen completed 20 of 26 passes for 315 yards, while tight end Hunter Henry caught five passes for 92 yards. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees some pro traits in the senior Allen (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema believes Allen has what it takes to make it in the NFL. Henry, an underclassman who has yet to announce his draft intentions, has reportedly received a first-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Collins is considering applying for early draft eligibility as well, and Bielema is uncertain what his decision will be.
"(Collins) ran hard, protected the football and played behind his pads," Bielema told ESPN after the game. "... He's a very talented player who's got a very difficult (NFL) decision. The good news is we've got a lot of good players coming back next year regardless, but two or three who might go out."
The Razorbacks (8-5) struggled defensively for much of the season, but scored 40-plus points six times, despite the absence of Collins' backfield partner, Jonathan Williams, who missed the season with an injury and also intends to enter the 2016 draft.
"It means a lot. I know our guys battled through the year to get to where we are," Bielema said. "We went through some adversity and responded the right way."
That adversity included embarrassing early-season losses to non-conference opponents Toledo and Texas Tech. The Razorbacks won five of their last six games to reach bowl eligibility.