By MARQ BURNETT
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Eight practices and one scrimmage into spring workouts, Alabama coach Nick Saban has identified the best unit of the Crimson Tide's team thus far.
Speaking with reporters following the Tide's two-hour scrimmage, Saban pointed to a unit on the defensive side of the ball that has stood out early on.
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"The defensive front is probably the strength of our team right now," Saban said Friday. "I think those guys showed that a little bit today -- made it difficult to run and created a lot of negative plays with batted balls and pressures on the quarterback, that type of thing."
According to statistics released by Alabama's media relations staff, the Tide's defensive front produced two tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and an interception return for a touchdown.
The interception return for a touchdown came from all 6-foot-4, 312 pounds of defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson.
It's easy to see why that unit would be the "strength" of the team as the group brought back all of its starters along the defensive line -- Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen -- and Reggie Ragland at inside linebacker. Along with interception return for a touchdown, Robinson was credited with three tackles including one for a loss. Ragland totaled five tackles, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
"Defensively, we got to play a lot of players in the two-deep," Saban said. "I thought there was a lot of good hitting out there. The tackling was pretty good for the most part for this time of the spring. As I said before, I thought the front guys were probably the strength of our team.
"We had some young guys playing in the secondary. They got some valuable experience today -- made some mistakes, but I think all things that they can learn from."
Offensively is where Alabama likely has the most work to do. The Tide is ushering in a new starting quarterback, new receivers and three new offensive linemen.
As the scrimmage went on, Saban said he felt the offense "got in a little bit of a rhythm."
While Jake Coker is the favorite to be the starter at quarterback, Saban said all of the quarterbacks received their share of reps.
"We sort of rotated all the quarterbacks today, so it's probably a little bit more difficult for any one guy to get a rhythm," Saban said. "They all played, probably, a similar number of plays -- maybe 30, 40 plays apiece -- and all of them did some good things and all of them have some things that they can improve on."
Unlike scrimmages from last spring, Alabama didn't provide any quarterback passing numbers. Coker wasn't around last spring, which made it a tough transition for him during the 2014 season.
"He's more comfortable in the system (now)," Saban said. "He's playing with more confidence. I just think that, the system that we're playing now is better suited for him, in terms of what we're putting on him to do, actually playing him in the (shot)gun a little bit more, which is probably more suited for him."
Saban said he's "really pleased" with the way Coker has practiced, but added that there is a still a "lot of competition at this position" between Coker, Alec Morris, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett. Cooper Bateman has been working at receiver, but Saban said the move isn't a permanent one as of yet.
At running back, Derrick Henry rushed for 112 yards and touchdown on 11 carries. Freshman Bo Scarbrough had two touchdowns before leaving the scrimmage with a knee injury. Kenyan Drake wore a black, non-contact jersey, but Saban said it's "good to have him back out there."
ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster and O.J. Howard all had over 50 receiving yards and a touchdown. Raheem Falkins caught five passes for 88 yards.
"Our receivers just need to learn how to pay attention to detail and how important it is to do little things right so that we're all on the same page in the passing game," Saban said.
It's to be expected at this point, but Saban said the team is "not satisfied" with where they are, but said that they're "certainly not disappointed."
Alabama will have six more practices before its A-Day spring game -- the 15th and final practice of spring workouts -- to correct its mistakes. Saban said he and the coaching staff have identified the areas in which they need to improve.
"I think everybody's commitment and focus to do those things are really important," Saban said. "I think discipline is something that is really important to this team in terms of their development. Choices, decisions, how they buy in, how they sort of buy in to the mission of what we're trying to accomplish, how the team chemistry develops is something that I think is going to be very important to this group."
Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.