Those fortunate to attend last Saturday’s Arkansas scrimmage not only got to see redshirt freshman strong safety Santos Ramirez play, but also heard him.
Ramirez (6-2, 202) delivered several big hits in the scrimmage, including one that caused a fumble, but also missed a tackle after JoJo Robinson’s catch that let him go the distance.
That comes just a week after Ramirez - a former Shreveport, La., Evangel standout currently running second team - lit up Robinson in what was supposed to be a non-contact drill.
It has led to what senior safety Rohan Gaines notes is a new team saying - “Free Santos.”
“I think we kind of started it as a secondary because we see how he is,” Gaines said. “If we can’t can’t hit he goes crazy. So it’s Free Santos.”
Ramirez laughs at the saying, but admits he is a bundle of energy waiting to explode in this Saturday’s scrimmage and the upcoming season opener against visiting UTEP on Sept. 5.
“I'm a real physical player,” Ramirez said. “In practice we can't really hit so when it comes to game-time situations, I'm loose. I'm let loose. I go out there and do my thing you know.”
Ramirez’ thing is something that Arkansas secondary coach Clay Jennings enjoys watching.
“He is an exciting young football player to work with and he delivers some big hits like you guys saw on Saturday,” Jennings said. “We have to just keep bringing him along and get him to slow down and not go for the big hit on every play.”
Ramirez was ready to lay a big hit on Robinson in last Saturday’s scrimmage, but put his head down too early and the wide receiver was soon headed to the house.
“Yeah, JoJo caught a slant and there was an open field,” Ramirez said. “Obviously it was JoJo, so that was a lot of grass to cover, you know. He made a little move on me and scored a touchdown. Just one play at a time. You erase that play and go on.”
Jennings likes what he has seen from Ramirez in practice this week.
“Sometimes they get a little bit ancy there,” Jennings said. “But I think this week he has done a better job of showing some patience. A lot of times he understands that even though he is going to end up setting the edge, he’s got some time because there are guys up front that are not only plugging in gaps, but making that ball bounce.”
Ramirez noted the defense has been pushing toward this Saturday’s scrimmage hoping to tidy up the errors it had in last Saturday’s scrimmage, which was nevertheless a win for the defense.
“It's being physical and tackling,” Ramirez said. “We missed a lot of tackles last scrimmage and this scrimmage we want to make sure we've got tackling down.”
Arkansas coaches were very excited about Ramirez from the time he got on campus, but an early injury set him back in preseason camp.
He was set to make his debut in midseason before he suffered the same injury in pre-game warm-ups.
“Last year was real tough for me but everything happens for a reason,” Ramirez said. “I used it as motivation to fuel the fire. This year I came out strong because I want to be a great player.
“Obviously I want to get on the field. Last year it helped me to build as a better person and as a man.”
He treasures his relationship with Jennings.
“Coach Jennings, he's like that go-to person you can trust,” Ramirez said. “You can go to him and he'll understand. He'll give you a bust sometimes, but at the same time he'll understand and he knows where we're coming from.”