Let's get this out of the way
According to the arrest report: The pair sat in a parked car in Forsythe Park in Monroe, La., after the park closed. An officer approached the vehicle and detected the strong odor of marijuana. The officer found a handgun sitting in Jones' lap in the front seat. After removing Robinson and Jones from the vehicle, the officer found a bag of marijuana in the car in plain view. He also found a stolen handgun under the seat. Possession of a stolen firearm is a felony. Robinson was arrested and charged with marijuana being found in his possession along possession of a firearm. Neither player has faced known disciplinary action during their time at Alabama. The University of Alabama has yet to comment on the arrests.
Aaron Suttles updates this story somewhat. It appears to be a classic case of idiocy: Robinson, you will recall, is from West Monroe, so he's intimately familiar with the park where the offenses occurred. And, as the driver of the vehicle, he is going to get the stolen weapons felony charge for a hidden handgun. Making matters worse for both kids is that Louisiana has excruciating mandatory minimums passed in the wake of privatizing its prisons. Don't expect leniency from Ouchita County prosecutors either: according to several lawyer friends, that is a decidedly defendant-hostile venue. I suppose we'll wait for a response from the University and for facts to trickle out of Monroe. Sigh.
As for the team, Alabama should still be in good shape. Lester Cotton was always being groomed for the LT spot. He is a beast and is ready to play. The dismissal of Baldwin hurts the Tide's OL depth, but by all accounts he was being passed on the depth chart at RT anyway. That is a unit of much promise, with guys like Matt Womack and Jonah Williams already pressing for playing time. Should Hootie be dismissed, the Tide is still in good shape at the safety position. Ronnie Harrison has nailed down the SS spot for all intents and purposes, and Shawn Burgess-Becker is ready to come in and contribute immediately as well.
The sky is not falling, but this is a terrible look for the University, the program, and a terrible, readily-preventable self-inflicted wound for both players.
How good was that 2008 class?
The 2008 haul was the catalyst -- the building block for what came next. Those who stuck around four years won two national titles. And the few who redshirted were part of three championship teams. A reexamination through the lens of what really happened gives a different perspective on the class. A few of the more legendary moments came from mid-pack players, according to the ratings. Some of the can't-miss five stars, well, missed. Eight years down the road, a handful are among the NFL elite. Of the 32 signees in 2008, 12 were drafted. Five were first-rounders. And a total of 12 made rosters.
VERY good: Eight years after the fact, nine of the twelve Tide players drafted by the NFL are still on pro rosters. It's safe to say, that class was exceptional.
The Australia-to-American football pipeline for punters and kickers made its first splash in 1994, with Darren Bennett punting for the San Diego Chargers. It had roots in the late-1980s, when Colin Scotts became the first Aussie to earn a football scholarship and played briefly as a defensive end for the St. Louis Cardinals, and in 1965, when Lamar University track athlete Colin Ridgeway of Melbourne played in three games for the Dallas Cowboys. Since then, the pipeline has taken off. Dozens of players have made the international jump to American football. That includes current NFL punters Jordan Berry of the Pittsburgh Steelers and college breakout star Brad Wing of the New York Giants, plus the two players who've won the last three Ray Guy Awards, given annually to college football's best punter.
While Australia is known for its kickers and punters, don't forget that the nation is also churning out linemen -- three prospects hail from Down Under this year alone, and an Alabama fan-favorite, Jesse Williams, also hailed from Australia.
It's never too early for preseason rankings!
3. Alabama For the third year in a row, the Tide enters training camp with its quarterback still a question mark. Given the success Bama has had, especially in 2015, I don't think this team will be too worried about that fact. Cooper Bateman appears to have the inside track on the job. Whoever is the QB will have a talented crop of wideouts and a play-making TE in O.J. Howard. Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris are capable RBs, but whether they can be quite as tough as Derrick Henry remains to be seen.
Feldman makes a compelling case for his top three -- I don't think it's beyond the realm of reason that LSU is the second best team behind Clemson: favorable schedule, elite defensive talent and DC, excellent skills players, all they need is (stop me if you've heard this before) serviceable QB play. In dinging Alabama, Bruce points out the brutal slate that Alabama faces, including an A&M visit after back-to-back roadies versus Arkansas and Tennessee; a UT, Ole Miss and LSU road swing; and opening against a dangerous USC team in Dallas.
Well, this is a non-story
Trash was talked. Word spread. Now, the responses are rolling in. A few days after Tom Brokaw made a crack at the University of Alabama at the Ole Miss graduation, one Crimson Tide offensive lineman spoke up. After apparently learning of the former NBC newsman's crack through Paul Finebaum's Twitter account, Alphonse Taylor delivered a string of rebuttals.
Everything about this story is stupid. Tom Brokaw played to the crowd, who naturally ate it up. Then, Shank and the University respond angrily -- as well as hordes of Alabama fans, residents, and alumni. I don't see the big deal here. It's a little smack talk. Besides, I've practiced law in South Dakota and taught there; Tom has zero grounds for sanctimony. Let it lie.
Alas, baseball is upon us
Alabama returns home to Sewell-Thomas Stadium for its final non-conference matchup of the regular season, hosting Samford for a Tuesday midweek contest. The single game is part of a four-game homestand for the Tide as the 2016 schedule of regular-season games comes to a close.
Alabama closes out its season with a tremendously tough home stand. The Tide face Samford, a team that is simply better than 'Bama. Then, No. 10 South Carolina comes for the weekend to close out the home slate. Following that up, will be a trip to Hoover for the SEC tournament, a venue Alabama in which the Tide play notoriously poorly. A regional berth will almost certainly follow, but so will a road team against three almost-certainly better teams. An 0-6 end to the season is not out of the realm of possibility. But, so is a 3-4, 2-4 conclusion. Gaspard's job hangs in the balance here after two slaughter series against the very dregs of the SEC, Arkansas and Auburn.