"Coach Bielema is going to run the ball and we had to get used to it," said Chris Smith, senior defensive end. "Every day, 30 minutes of that. The offensive line loves it."
Junior Trey Flowers, the other flank on the UA defensive front, has the same feelings as the O-line.
"The inside run period?" Flowers said, "yea, we embrace it. In the SEC, the key to playing football is stopping the run. We are going to be able to run it and stop it. It's about being able to handle a double team."
That last part made defensive line coach Charlie Partridge smile. He thinks he's guys in the defensive line meeting room are getting it.
"We are making the adjustment to a power running game," he said. "There are lots of double teams. Really, what we are doing in the (defensive) front is training our guys with their muscle memory, how to set up to a block and respond.
"Inside run, you know it's going to be run. There are times we tell the line what play is coming and how to step into it. I want to see them react when they know the play. Then there are times when we don't tell them the play and see how long it takes them to react.
"It's more than just the inside run period. Just before that, every day we do pods drills. That's the prequel to inside run. It's the technique to play the double team that we get there. Ask the guys about pods next time. They look forward to that. They know they are learning how to play the run."
The goal is to close the reaction time between the two concepts -- when you know the play and when you don't. It's happening.
Partridge coaches the tackles and the ends, a change from the last five years when the last regime used two full-time assistants to coach the two spots. Hence, they were split in two different meeting rooms. Partridge thinks that's the key to his success as a D-line coach, merging the two positions in meetings.
"I see it," Flowers said. "It cuts down the number of questions. He doesn't have to answer the same question twice, or we don't have to tell us anything twice. We are all together.
"And we are all learning the positions. There are times that a D-end might slide down inside. So he has to know how to play the double team."
Partridge sees several defensive ends who could make that move. Deatrich Wise is getting some snaps inside. That would be a case where three defensive ends are on the field in passing situations. Darius Philon, an agile tackle, is also getting some snaps at defensive end.
"Maybe you want to have four defensive tackles on the field in some situations," Partridge said. "We are going to have some versatility with this group. We want all of them to understand the double team."
Defensive tackle DeMarcus Hodge, perhaps one of the big movers this spring, said it's made it fun for practice.
"I just love the run game stuff," he said. "I know I need to get to the point where I'm good at the pass rush, too. I'm going to get there.
"But I absolutely love stopping the run. Coach Partridge tells us all the time when we get to the 30 minutes of inside run, this is our home. This is where we live, it's what we are going to be good at.
"I think it's about changing an attitude and I think we have changed our minds. Guys bought into it. We are doing a good job and having fun."
Interestingly, linebackers coach Randy Shannon said he's tried to teach his group to make "practices fun for the defensive line because if those guys are having fun, then you'll have fun (playing linebacker) because everything is going to be clean for you."
Hodge said he gets that.
"That's what's going on right now," Hodge said. "It's fun out there. Those guys are making it fun for us and we are making it fun for them."
Smith said there is supreme confidence that they are learning from the best.
"You see that he sent guys to the next level," Smith said. "J. J. Watts played for him. Need I say more?
"We are watching a lot of tape of NFL guys, including Watts. It's a lot of NFL tape. That's probably one of the differences in the way he teaches from what we had before. I've had two great D-end coaches in Coach (Steve) Caldwell and now Coach Partridge. But Coach Partridge teaches more off the NFL tape."
There was a reminder this week about Partridge's connection to Watts for current players to note. Watts sent a present.
"A Fedex box was on my desk," Partridge said. "I didn't even look at who sent it, just figured it was from my wife. I'd given her my GPS device and I thought she was sending it back. I tore it open and it was a Ipad mini. Then it hit me it was from J.J.
"So I got him on the phone and his response was typical J.J., 'Coach, I'd have sent you more, but you wouldn't have accepted it. It's something your daughters can play with.' "
Partridge is getting plenty of "thank yous" from his current players. They know they are learning the stuff that will get them to the league, perhaps in a position to pay back their coach.
"We know what we are doing now is going to help us," Smith said. "If you stop the run in the league, we know what happens -- you go bowling."
And that's just the start of the good stuff. Slick new computers are sure to follow.