When the phone of a head football coach rings at 3:37 a.m. in the offseason, it’s the college football equivalent of fingernails across a chalkboard or that cryptic sound from Jaws when a shark is approaching.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban‘s phone rang twice Tuesday morning.
According to the Ouachita Parish (Louisiana) Sherriff’s Office, Alabama All-SEC left tackle Cam Robinson and reserve defensive back Laurence “Hootie” Jones were arrested in Monroe on weapons and drugs charges. The most serious charge for the two is Robinson’s felony charge of possession of a stolen firearm.
Head coach Nick Saban addressed the arrests Wednesday morning, courtesy of Alex Byington of the Decatur Daily.
As Michael Casagrande of AL.com notes, the penalty under Louisiana law for felony possession of a stolen weapon is “not less than one year nor more than five years” in prison.
It’s safe to say any potential punishment from the school might be a nonissue because, if convicted, Robinson might not be available to play for Alabama in 2016.
Robinson has started every game of his career over his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa despite several nagging injuries.
Without him in the lineup, it would be very hard to pick Alabama to repeat as national champs.
Robinson was the anchor.
The stabilizing force on an offensive line that already has to navigate through a massive overhaul without three-year starter and 2016 first-round draft pick Ryan Kelly at center.
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and the rest of the Crimson Tide running backs did their best work outside of Robinson.
That was with Henry and a center who had three years of experience adjusting the blocking scheme at the line of scrimmage under his belt.
That offensive line won the inaugural Joe Moore Award in 2015, which is given to the nation’s best unit. But it struggled at times, including in the first half of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Clemson. Now, it will be without its two best players from a year ago and has a new running back and quarterback behind it.
Alabama’s offensive identity is as a power rushing attack that dominates the line of scrimmage, establishes the run and works off play action downfield.
Every single part of that equation is a question this offseason, and Robinson’s arrest makes it even more difficult to answer.
As Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News noted on Twitter, Robinson’s backups aren’t exactly household names.
Korren Kirven started one game at right tackle in place of Dominick Jackson last year, according to his bio, and moved over from the defensive line after the 2014 season. Lester Cotton didn’t record any stats as a freshman last year, and Jonah Williams is a freshman.
Think of the defensive fronts Alabama has to face early in the season.
Southern California is short on experience but loaded with talent, like rising sophomore linemen Rasheem Green and Noah Jefferson. Then in Week 3, that road trip to Ole Miss and the fearsome Rebel defensive front that features tackle Breeland Speaks and end Marquis Haynes looms large.
Robinson can deal with the speed Haynes brings off the edge. I’m not sure anybody else on the Alabama roster can at this point of their careers.
Later on down the road? Maybe. Three games into the season? Not likely.
Arkansas in Week 6 should be stout up front with Deatrich Wise Jr. off the edge, Tennessee the following week is loaded with stars in the trenches like Derek Barnett, LSU has an NFL draft’s worth of monsters in its front seven, and Auburn’s defensive line with end Carl Lawson and tackle Montravius Adams should be stellar if everybody can stay healthy.
It’s unlikely Alabama can run that gauntlet with Robinson off an offensive line that already is undergoing some significant changes, a new feature back and new quarterback without at least a couple of losses, which makes a second straight title seem more like fantasy than reality.
Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. As a result, Alabama will be fighting an uphill battle in 2016.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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