Hence, it was probably not a surprise that defensive line coach Charlie Partridge was beaming about the progress of some of the young tackles where he thinks there may be a five-man rotation developing at the two inside spots of the defense.
"I'm really excited about the way my guys are embracing the fundamentals we are teaching," Partridge said. "We are keeping it very simple and not trying to do movement things, just teaching gap control. They embrace it."
Partridge said one of the nice areas of development has been the young tackles behind first teamers Byran Jones and Robert Thomas. He said Horace Arkadie, Darius Philon and DeMarcus Hodge have had a good start to spring drills.
Arkadie was listed as an end/tackle at one point on the roster, but Partridge called him "a full fledged tackle" at this point.
"I'm really excited about Hodge, the way he's rolled into it," Partridge said. "Philon had kinda eased into (spring) practice. He'd tweaked a knee a little bit. But he came back with a nice practice.
"I'm happy with the progress of Hodge, Philon and Arkadie. With the way they've worked and with continued progress, we have the potential to have five tackles that can play in the fall."
Defensive end has had some bright spots, too. Trey Flowers and Chris Smith are the bell cows there. Partridge sees some young talent developing behind them.
"They all bring some gifts," he said. "All can do different things. Deatrich Wise has good hands, but he needs consistency in his footwork. Darrell Kelly-Thomas has some speed, but he needs more weight and he's working on that. JaMichael Winston has made progress, too."
Ash was asked about the depth chart at linebacker in particular.
"Really, at every position, it's like NFL draft day every day," Ash said. "Everyone is evaluated on the depth chart every day. I like the improvement of the linebackers."
Ash was asked specifically about junior college transfers Tequinton Coleman, Myke Tavarres and Carroll Washington. He said all are doing some good things.
"I see a lot of good things with Myke, but he has a long ways to go to understand the fundamentals," Ash said. "He's learning to use his hands, bend his legs."
Ash is the position coach for the safeties.
"I am really happy," he said. "I can't hide it, I was told about the deficiencies at safety when I got here. But I think Rohan Gaines and Eric Bennett are doing a nice job."
Ash praised their communication skills on alignment and fronts, then noted they will get to show their tackling skills in a Saturday scrimmage.
Davyon McKinney started spring as a corner, but he's getting looks at safety, too.
"He's a great looking kid," Ash said. "We've looked at him at safety the last couple of days."
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon liked the progress of his group, but he noted that linebackers are judged from scrimmages. He also said that he's rotating players at several spots among the three linebacker slots in hopes of finding the right fits.
"We'll know more after Saturday," he said. "It's a good group and we are just getting started in the process. You have to learn them, they have to learn you. It's been a good start, but we haven't scrimmaged yet."
As for the depth chart, Shannon said he learned long ago that finding the right fit for players is the critical job. He reminded that early in his career that Ray Lewis struggled at outside linebacker, then soared when he replaced an injured player in the middle.
"I think it was my third or fourth year," Shannon said. "We had Ray at weakside linebacker and it wasn't going very good. A guy got hurt and we put him in the middle and he played there ever since.
"We are just trying to see where guys fit right now. And it really doesn't make any difference in our system at weak and sam. The tight end flips and you have to know both. So everyone is playing different spots."
The assignment for Saturday is simple, all of the coaches said.
"It's the same every day, from start to finish," Ash said. "It starts with effort. That's the number one thing every day. We want no loafs and play with their hair on fire. Next, we want to see alignment and check for mental errors. If you don't beat yourself, you have a chance."
Shannon said, "I want them to go out and play hard and have fun, fly around and play with enthusiasm. We want to get them to play hard, and then we can fix their mistakes."
Ash was asked to assess talent level at Arkansas.
"We've got some players who can play anywhere," Ash said. "We have some who have a ways to go. We are never going to make excuses because the number one thing is will they give effort. At Wisconsin we had some that weren't as talented, but they made up for that talent level by playing hard."
Ash said Defonta Lowe, a freshman safety, was not practicing with the team. The scrimmage Saturday begins at 11 a.m. It is closed to the public.