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Arkansas vs Northern Illinois: Final Grades

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Evaluating the Razorbacks' last tune-up before coming back to SEC play.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Well the drama certainly left that game quickly. The following grades don't do justice to how excited I was to see the Hogs take care of business Saturday. Bielema's squad is rolling right as they hit SEC play which means we're in for one hell of a clash this weekend against Texas A&M.

Quarterback

After four games maybe it is safe to say that we've seen the true 2014 Brandon Allen. 2014 BA is someone who can comfortably sit back and throw for 200 yards while the Razorback rushing attack does work. He's also someone who we can trust to manage this football team throughout SEC play. I've finally seen enough out of his arm to say that I'm not worried about the future of the Hogs. He can make the throws when given the time, and can improvise on his feet when needed, such as his touchdown throw to Jared Cornelius before halftime. I saw Allen put his best performance out there on Saturday, I'll say that he is ready to face Texas A&M.

Grade: A-

Running Backs

I've noticed that I've already gone down that dark path where I get angry when Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams don't break 100 yards on the ground each, but dangit they were so close! Collins led the way with 79 yards, averaging a cool 5.3 yards per carry. Alex is in midseason form and looks to be at his best just in time to teach TAMU a lesson in Dallas.

Poor Jonathan Williams. His average yards per carry took a dip this week as he accumulated ONLY 4.6 yards on 15 tries. Even his "bad" games come with a TD, 70 yards and an average that would rank him as a top 10 running back in the NFL. We'll call this a rest game, as I'm sure Williams was saving his best for the Aggies next weekend.

Korliss Marshall had a mixed game. Obviously the huge kickoff return to open the game and the 27-yard touchdown to close it were big highlights, but not much in the middle. Got to catch that pitch.

Grade: B+

Receivers

We finally got to see why Keon Hatcher has been called a threat. After seeing him against NIU, he's worthy of being our #1 for now. He's clearly Allen's favorite target this year (sorry Hunter), and with the moves he's capable of he could take any pass to the house. Glad to see them connect on another deep ball that was perfectly on point! Thumbs up to Allen and Keon for that.

Allen did a great job spreading the ball around with 6 other receivers with a catch. And I have to point out, Allen is in the sweet spot here with most of his passes about 8 yards deep. Take what the defense gives you, don't force the ball, and make them make the mistakes. This is the recipe for Hog success.

Grade: A-

Offensive Line

Arkansas' offensive line has been playing as well as any in the country over the last few games. Can anybody remember the last time Allen was pressured inside the pocket, and our rushing attack netted only 15 negative yards all game, and most of that had to have been on the fumbled pitch. Put these boys on the podium and hand out the medals.

Grade: A

Defensive Line

How about that HUGE strip sack by Trey Flowers and the ensuing recovery and leaping touchdown by Darius Philon! I've never seen a big man lay out like that for a touchdown. If Korliss' return hadn't already set the tone, this defensive touchdown certainly tucked NIU in. You could almost feel that they were just worried about getting blown out at that point.

Overall, still solid play by the line. Flowers led the team with nine tackles including two for loss. Taiwan Johnson and Anthony Brown both had tackles for loss. We're seeing the defense pick up the physicality in preparation for SEC play. They are still the strength of the defense at this point.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

Not too many stats jump out from this group, but they continue to play hard and back up a sturdy D-line. There was good hustle, especially from Martrell Spaight who looked fired up this game. One thing I am noticing are the amounts of assisted tackles our linebackers are racking up (11 from the starters). That's what I want to see; our guy soldiering down and finishing plays.

Also need to give a thumbs up to Josh Williams, who came in and played well after Brooks Ellis was hurt in the first half.

Grade: B

Secondary

Man, this group has improved over the past few weeks. This group is far from perfect, but they've shown the development necessary to be hopeful of competing in SEC games. They collectively had 4 pass breakups on 31 pass attempts. Northern Illinois was behind the entire game and couldn't pass the ball enough to mount any semblance of a comeback. Jared Collins and Gaines were second and fourth on the team in tackles.

Grade: B

Final thought

These guys can compete with most of the teams we will see from here on out. We will lose some games, but against the SEC West talent we are facing does that mean we aren't good? I believe this team is far more talented than they are given credit, and leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last year. I'm going with a big prediction here, but I believe we will be ranked at the end of this year as well as win a bowl game. This team has something that we haven't had since 2011; confidence, and the right people to compete in the SEC.