Alabama got some ugly news on Tuesday morning. The Crimson Tide's star left tackle, rising junior Cam Robinson, is facing a felony weapons charge after an arrest in Louisiana in the early morning hours.
Robinson was charged with illegal possession of a stolen firearm, illegal carrying of a weapon in the presence of narcotics, and possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor. Alabama defensive back Hootie Jones is facing charges of illegal carrying of a weapon in the presence of narcotics and possession of a controlled substance.
According to the Ouachita Parish booking report for the two men, an officer approached their car at 2:33 a.m. Tuesday in a local park, smelling marijuana. Robinson was the driver, and the officer found the drug on his floorboard and a stolen gun under his seat, according to the report. The report says the park was closed at the time.
None of this looks good for either Robinson or Jones, obviously, but it could be especially bad for Robinson.
If he can't win his case or get a plea bargain, Robinson is facing prison time.
The stolen-gun charge Robinson is now staring down carries ugly consequences. Louisiana's criminal code is unambiguous about the penalty for a conviction for illegal possession of stolen firearms.
The state has a mandatory minimum of one year in prison for such a conviction. It defines the crime as "the intentional possessing, procuring, receiving, or concealing of a firearm which has been the subject of any form of misappropriation," so that's what Robinson will be fighting against. However, the charge of illegal carrying of a weapon on the presence of narcotics carries a five-year minimum sentence.
For Robinson, the best news is that his record looks otherwise clean. The police report says Robinson has no criminal history, and that's likely to give Robinson an easier time obtaining a plea bargain that could keep him out of prison. That's if Robinson wants to avoid a trial and the case continues.
It's particularly poor timing for Robinson, a top NFL Draft prospect for 2017.
SB Nation's Dan Kadar projected Robinson as a top-five pick just a few weeks ago. Prison time would be a disaster for both his college and professional football careers, but virtually any kind of drawn-out legal proceeding could be a problem.
Recently, teams have demonstrated that even the specter of legal trouble without charges can send an elite prospect tumbling down draft boards, as happened to La'el Collins after he was questioned in the murder of his ex-girlfriend in 2015. Collins was never even charged, and he wound up falling all the way out of the draft (although he might have been a late pick if his agent hadn't convinced teams against it).
Despite Laremy Tunsil falling in the first round this year after a video surfaced of him apparently smoking it, NFL teams probably don't care much about marijuana. But if Robinson was really in possession of it and a stolen gun in a closed public park, he'll have to answer hard questions about how he makes his decisions.
It's also rough for Alabama, whose potential best player is now in trouble.
As college football players go, Robinson is the cream of the crop. A five-star tackle from Louisiana in the class of 2014, Robinson picked Alabama over offers from just about every major program in the country.
He's been a star in Tuscaloosa, playing up to his high recruiting rankings. He was a freshman All-America selection, and he was a cornerstone of Alabama's dominant running game and College Football Playoff run at the end of last season.
It's not at all clear yet what this will mean for Robinson's 2016 season, other than nothing good. But he's a critical part of Lane Kiffin's offensive scheme, and losing Robinson for any period of time would be the rare sort of development from which Alabama might not easily recover. The Tide have plenty of line talent, but nobody quite as good as the tackle who's now potentially in serious trouble.
Note: This story has been edited to show the minimum sentence for a conviction of illegal carrying of a weapon on the presence of narcotics. H/T to commenter Ardbeg.