One of the bright spots of Arkansas’ scrimmage on Saturday was a player who was getting first-team snaps on Tuesday.
Redshirt freshman Santos Ramirez (6-3, 205), who came in as a 184-pound cornerback, was working at first-team strong safety during Tuesday’s workout.
He was elevated to that spot by Razorback defensive coordinator Robb Smith and secondary coach Clay Jennings after his scrimmage effort.
“I believe I earned those reps,” Ramirez said. “Coach Jennings and Coach Smith like the way I play out there so they put me in a first-team role to compete for a first-team spot.
“Last year I came in as a straight corner and worked there all fall. I believe I like safety better because I like to roam and I like to hit. At safety, I believe you can make more plays and you get to control the defense.
“That is something that I like to do because I believe I am leader so I like the safety spot a lot.”
Ramirez is glad to be working at both spots.
“I believe it is good because I can play both positions,” Ramirez said. "It is not something that really stresses me out. I know both of them and just try to play my best and give 110 percent effort.”
Smith loves the versatility that Ramirez, a former Shreveport, La., Evangel Christian star, brings to the table.
“He is a guy that really gives us a lot of flexibility,” Smith said. “We have got three really good corners that we feel good about. We know that he can play corner.
“He has jumped into the mix at the safety position and we have four guys that we feel good about there. Competition is going to allow us to get better at that position.
“We are going to find a way to get him on the football field. He just gives us great flexibility. He can match up on a guy on the perimeter, he can match up on a guy in the slot, he can come back and play safety.
“As we get into game-playing situations and we look at our opponents’ personnel, we will give him a definitive home and allow him to excel. But we are excited about his progress he has made this spring.”
Jennings notes that Ramirez is coming along although it is a process.
“He is getting better every day,” Jennings said. “One thing he showed on Saturday is that he will tackle. He is doing a great job at getting himself lined up. The next step is getting everybody else lined up.
“So in a critical situation whether we are here at home or in Tuscaloosa or at Neyland Stadium in Tennessee that we can get people lined up when it is loud and play with poise, use our hand signals and get the job done.
“We know he is athletic, we know he is tough, we know he can run, now we have got to get him better in between the ears and that is the responsibility of the defensive coaches.”
Ramirez had one of the biggest hits of the scrimmage when he laid out wideout Eric Hawkins.
“It was my boy E-Hawk,” Ramirez said. “It was all love and game, but my mentality is that I like to hit. I am really kind of messed up in the head sometimes when it comes to that. But it is all love and fun at the end of the day. It was a pretty good hit on him.”
Ramirez was surprised that Hawkins was able to get up and walk away.
“Actually I was surprised,” Ramirez said. “E-Hawk just went back to the huddle and did his little thing. No harm, no foul.”
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema mentioned Ramirez several times last year as someone who could have played as a true freshman.
But both times it looked like he was ready to get on the field, an injury popped up.
“Injuries can really kill you, but this year I believe I am going to come back strong and contribute to the team as much as possible as I can,” Ramirez said. “I am just looking forward to the season, helping my team out and get some Ws.”
Ramirez does believe the redshirt year allowed him to mature both physically and mentally.
“The biggest thing I learned was how to play the game of college football,” Ramirez said. “How to play fast, how to play smart and to play like a professional.
“Coming in here, don’t bring too much confidence. It is okay to have confidence, but at the same time you have got to learn your role.”
Ramirez joins Josh Liddell, who played last season as a true freshman, to give the Razorbacks two young safeties with a lot of potential.
“Josh is actually one of our leaders,” Ramirez said. “When we are back there and may be confused on a call or something like that, we go to Josh for it and Josh knows all the answers. Josh is a very reliable safety back there.”
Santos Ramirez talks to reporters after Tuesday's practice.
Ramirez listens as linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves makes a point to the defense.
Ramirez Leaving His Mark in Spring Drills
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