Senior safety Santos Ramirez is like all the other players and coaches as well as fans in that he’s ready for a real game. Arkansas has been practicing since Aug. 3 and finally will get a chance to play a game on Saturday. 

Ramirez is one of five captains named for the season opener. He’s back to try and help lead the defense to a better season than the past two. Under John Chavis, who is the new defensive coordinator, how much different is this year’s defense compared to last year?

“I would say right now people can play faster because the game is simpler,” Ramirez said. “You hear your call and make it happen and don’t hear too much about it. I feel like I’m in good position.”

Eastern Illinois will be Saturday’s opponent with kickoff set for 3 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Eastern Illinois head coach is Kim Dameron, a former Razorback. Dameron has yet to name a starting quarterback and likely won’t do so until the beginning of the game. 

Ramirez talked about both Tulane transfer Johnathan Brantley and JUCO transfer Harry Woodberry. Dameron hired Scott Parr from Navarro Junior College and he brought Woodberry with him.

“Well as far as the quarterbacks go for Eastern Illinois, the starting quarterback watching his film going off JUCO tape and everything, I feel like he has a great arm on him,” Ramirez said. “He knows how to run the offense they run over there. I feel like he cuts off the field pretty fast so it’s going to be a great opportunity to make plays.

“The second quarterback is a great runner. When he gets in we have to be alert for the speed option. So one is more gunslinger and one is more of a running quarterback.”

Do they run a 5-wide offense?

“They are more of an Air Raid team,” Ramirez said. “They look as short passes as run downs, three or four yards, quick passes. That’s kind of like their run game. So the  Air Raid team spreads you out and tries to use the whole field.”

After the first scrimmage, Chavis and Chad Morris weren’t happy with the tackling. Has that gotten better since then?

“We are getting more bodies to to the ball and getting to the open field and breaking down to the ballcarrier and not just running past him,” Ramirez said. “We put more emphasis on making sure we get to the ballcarrier and get him down so it has improved.”

With a new coaching staff and philosophy do you feel this is a fresh start for you guys?

“Yeah, man, it’s a new culture,” Ramirez said. “I’m just glad to be able to be a part of something new and bring Arkansas back to its old ways. I’m very excited about the first game.”

Since the start of practice you have been facing your own teammates on offense. Are you ready to play through the whistle and hit someone?

“I practice every day on forcing fumbles and everything and going to the whistle,” Ramirez said. “But it (not full scrimmaging) isn’t very realistic. I’m looking forward to a game just to blast somebody. Just going out there and making plays between the lines. So football is back, baby. We’re ready.”

Since you face the uptempo offense in practice each day, how much more prepared will you be to defend it in your opinion?

“I feel we we will be way more prepared than we were this time last year just because we have gone against them not just in the fall but the spring as well,” Ramirez said. “Being able to adjust to that type of game speed, Coach Morris is doing a great job of getting us in shape, man. And running the No-Huddle offense, I feel like this team will be prepared for teams to come.”

In three years, Ramirez has started 22 of the 36 games in which he has played. He has 141 tackles, including two for loss, five forced fumbles, on recovered fumble, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

In addition to Ramirez, the other captains on Saturday will be cornerback Ryan Pulley, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, center Hjalte Froholdt and wide receiver Jared Cornelius. All five are seniors. There will be four different captains for the Colorado State game.