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Lingering punishments could impact Week 1 in the SEC

Many words have been spent wondering what Alabama coach Nick Saban will do about Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones, before and after the drug and weapons charges they faced weren’t pursued. Will the star left tackle and reserve defensive back still face suspensions? Or will Saban, ever the fan of second chances and never one to bow to public pressure, let them slide?

Everyone wants to know the answer, but no one more than the coaches at USC. While fans and pundits weigh the morals of a troubling incident involving two young men, Clay Helton and his staff are left to wonder whether they should prepare for one of the best offensive linemen in the country. The answer could make the difference between pulling off the upset in Texas or not.

But the fact is that they’re not alone. Offseason arrests have left many coaches wondering who will be playing in Week 1 across the SEC. The only high-profile punishment that seems to be set in stone is that of Texas A&M wideout Speedy Noil serving the second of his two-game suspension against UCLA.

Florida State doesn’t know what to expect when they take the field against Ole Miss in the Monday opener. Breeland Speaks, who many believe will replace Robert Nkemdiche in the starting lineup at defensive tackle, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in March, and coach Hugh Freeze has been mum on whether he’ll take the field in Orlando. The same goes for Rod Taylor, a key cog in the offensive line who appeared in 10 games last year, and was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting in April.

Auburn, meanwhile, has the opportunity of a lifetime with defending Orange Bowl champs Clemson at home for their season-opener, yet they could very well be without two of their best young players in cornerback Carlton Davis and pass-rusher Byron Cowart. They, along with wideout Ryan Davis and defensive back, Jeremiah Dinson, were arrested in May on misdemeanor marijuana charges. Assistant coach Kodi Burns told Al.com that “we’ve already addressed everything,” but what exactly that means is open to interpretation. Gus Malzahn certainly hasn’t been definitive.

Tennessee transfer Alexis Johnson's status is unknown, and while Missouri announced that Terry Beckner Jr. was reinstated by coach Barry Odom after his suspension, the details of his punishment were never made public.

And that’s to say nothing of the potential transgressions we haven’t been made aware of. Between SEC media days and the start of the season, there are always a few surprises. Remember, we’re nearing the two-month mark until the season gets underway.

USC surely likes the idea of Alabama with a new left tackle, new running back and a new quarterback. Florida State wouldn’t mind seeing its defense against short-handed Ole Miss offensive line. And Clemson would rest easier knowing that Davis and Cowart won’t be able to lay a hand on star quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Predicting whether coaches will be heavy-handed in handing down punishment is a fool’s errand. Until there’s an announcement, everything is on the table. So in the meantime, sit back, relax and make sure you know who No. 2 on the depth chart is just in case.