It hasn’t been the dominant start to the season many expected from Alabama’s starting left tackle Cam Robinson.
A subject of controversy over the offseason after being arrested on gun and weapon charges, Robinson has been receiving hype as a future top-10 draft pick since his stellar true freshman season in 2014, but he hasn’t shown the same brilliance for much of the 2016 season.
Until last Saturday’s 34-6 win against Kentucky, the junior hadn’t displayed the same mean streak that originally made him a starter in Tuscaloosa. He had also been the culprit on a handful of false starts, uncommon for a veteran lineman of Robinson’s caliber.
Against the Wildcats, Robinson’s tenacity was evident, especially during a 7-play, 61-yard drive in which the Crimson Tide ran left behind Robinson on each play. Robinson graded at 88 percent for the game and was also penalty-free for the evening.
“We think Cam has played well all year long, but I think sometimes when you have an outstanding player like that you always have high expectations for what he does,” Nick Saban said after the victory over the Wildcats, per The Tuscaloosa News‘s Ben Jones. “He certainly did a good job of sort of fulfilling those expectations in this last game. We were able to get some movement on the line of scrimmage and have the kind of balance that we want to have on offense as well.”
The glimpse of the old Robinson had to be a welcome sight for Crimson Tide fans, especially considering the gauntlet of elite defensive ends Robinson will face in the Tide’s next several games, starting with Saturday’s matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks and Deatrich Wise Jr.
Wise was named third-team All-SEC in the preseason and has backed up that expectation with his play through the first five games of the season, leading the Razorbacks with three sacks.
However, the task only gets more difficult over the next three weeks. The Tide will face Tennessee, Texas A&M and LSU. For Robinson, that means matchups with three potential first-round drafts picks at defensive end: Derek Barnett, Myles Garrett, and Arden Key.
Among those three names, Garrett has already been projected as next year’s No. 1 NFL Draft Pick by SI.com. Barnett has been named a Heisman Trophy candidate by Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman, Key is second in the nation in sacks with 7 through just five games.
It also doesn’t help Robinson that two of those games will come in road environments at Neyland Stadium (Vols) and Death Valley (LSU), where the snap count will impossible to hear.
In each of Alabama’s next four games, Robinson’s performance will be crucial in keeping freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts’ blindside clean, as well as holding down the left side for Alabama to continue its dominance running the football against quality defensive fronts.
That’s not to mention the money Robinson could make himself with a strong performance in the Tide’s upcoming stretch.
Alabama and Cam Robinson haven’t been tested the past two weeks. Now the teeth of the SEC schedule awaits. It’s a time for greatness to emerge. It’s time for the Crimson Tide and its foremost offensive lineman to stand tall.