LSU Tigers: Greg Studrawa
Hard-nosed and extremely vocal, Studrawa -- whom Les Miles did not retain after the 2013 season, and who has since accepted the same job at Maryland -- could have come straight from Central Casting to play the role of an offensive line coach. Grimes, on the other hand, does his teaching without all the yelling.
That’s not to say that Grimes lacks an edge. It’s there when necessary -- just not as loud.
“He’s upfront. He won’t sugarcoat anything. He’ll just tell you how it is,” said senior Fehoko Fanaika, who is battling for the Tigers’ starting right guard spot.
LSU’s offense relied heavily on a foursome of NFL-caliber skill players in quarterback Zach Mettenberger, tailback Jeremy Hill and receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry -- a group that helped the Tigers become the first SEC team to boast a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.
However, the Tigers’ offense was fairly average overall, ranking in the middle of the SEC pack in both total offense (seventh, 453.3 ypg) and scoring offense (sixth, 35.8 ppg). The offensive line’s play certainly factored into those middling results, ranking 57th nationally with an average of 1.92 sacks allowed per game.
Miles, however, believes Grimes’ focus on “attention to detail and technique” will help a line that returns four starters become a more effective group this fall.
“I think we’ll be better. I really do,” Miles said. “But it has to do with the duality of veteran offensive linemen getting to a point in their career where they’re making the final adjustments and Jeff coming in with a real nice focus for them there. I think it should be pretty quick.”
Just because Alexander, left tackle La'el Collins, center Elliott Porter and right tackle Jerald Hawkins are all back doesn’t mean Grimes has guaranteed starting roles to the returning starters. The Tigers have at least seven linemen whom the coaches like -- throw Fanaika (guard), Evan Washington (guard or tackle) and Ethan Pocic (center, guard or tackle) into the mix -- and want to evaluate as potential starting combinations.
“Everyone’s been moving around a lot. Coach Grimes has been moving us around. He’s trying to see where he likes people at,” Pocic said.
That type of experimentation is fairly common during the spring even among coaches who didn’t just arrive on campus. But in this case, Grimes is simply getting a feel for his personnel -- and they’re getting a feel for him, which they quickly noticed does not include the in-your-face tactics one might expect from an offensive line coach.
“Coach Grimes is one of the most specific, technical guys you'll meet in your life. Automatically, right off the bat, he got us better,” Alexander said. “Coach Stud was a great coach and I love him. He got us better, as well, but just Coach Grimes has a different way of approaching things. He's more mellow.”
In Grimes’ profession, results are what matter, not coaching methods. He has been successful in that regard, most notably during Auburn’s 2010 BCS championship run, but also in stops at Virginia Tech, Colorado, BYU, Arizona State and Boise State.
Starting with his first practice on campus, Grimes’ reputation as a technician caught his head coach’s attention. Miles said last week that it was paying off, with linemen picking up the finer points of their positions that can lead to an overall more productive performance from his group.
“I think our guys are responding to it,” Miles said. “I think the guys are really in position to do so in other words. It’s pretty much a veteran group and there’s always the final footwork, if you will, or the final course, the head placement. I think Jeff’s coming in at the right time for these guys and making that point.”
What's new: Former Auburn and Virginia Tech assistant Jeff Grimes joined the staff in January, replacing Greg Studrawa as offensive line coach. An old face will also return to Les Miles' staff, as Bradley Dale Peveto -- a Miles assistant from 2005-08 and participant in a failed experiment as co-defensive coordinator in 2008 -- was recently hired as special teams coordinator. He replaces Thomas McGaughey, who accepted the same position with the New York Jets of the NFL.
On the move: If comments he made last month are any indication, Miles and the coaching staff intend to leave Jalen Mills at safety on at least a part-time basis. He started at the position in the Tigers' Outback Bowl win against Iowa. Don't be surprised if players who have played other positions -- tackle Evan Washington and center Ethan Pocic are reportedly among them -- figure into the competition to replace Turner at right guard. Also, keep an idea on how the Tigers deploy Kendell Beckwith this spring. He has the ability to contribute at defensive end or linebacker, and he might play both positions at points.
New faces: The Tigers have two early enrollees participating in spring practice in quarterback Brandon Harris and defensive back Edward Paris Jr. We'll discuss Harris, who was ESPN's No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and No. 37 overall prospect for the 2014 class, more below. ESPN ranked Paris as its No. 4 safety and No. 50 overall prospect, but LSU listed him as a cornerback when it added the freshmen to the roster.
Key battle: There will be several position battles worth watching -- right guard, defensive tackle and quarterback are among them -- but let's talk about the wide receivers. With Landry and Beckham jumping to the NFL, LSU lost nearly all of its production at wideout. Speedster Travin Dural (seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in 2013) is the only receiver who has done much of anything, and even his production was limited last fall. With arguably the nation's top collection of receiver signees -- led by ESPN's No. 1 wideout Malachi Dupre and No. 3 Trey Quinn -- set to arrive in the summer, now is the time for the players on campus to show they deserve some snaps. Senior Quantavius Leslie (1-11) was disappointingly quiet last season as a junior college transfer. Freshmen John Diarse, Avery Peterson and Kevin Spears all redshirted. Conventional wisdom has Dural and Diarse as the most likely contributors in 2014. Will at least one or two of the others join that group?
Breaking out: Let's see whether cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White continue the ascent that started late last season. They started alongside one another in two of LSU's last three games -- wins against Texas A&M and Iowa -- and the secondary made strong showings in both games. Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel had one of the worst outings of his college career (16-for-41 for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions), with Robinson intercepting the former Heisman Trophy winner once. LSU held Iowa to 13-for-30 passing and 157 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions -- one of which came when White picked off a Jake Rudock pass at the LSU 7-yard line in the second quarter. LSU has a longstanding tradition of excellence at cornerback, although the Tigers' entire defense needed to perform more consistently last fall. Perhaps they've found something in sophomores Robinson and White.
Don't forget about: Most of us have already penciled in No. 1 overall prospect Leonard Fournette as the Tigers' starter-in-waiting at tailback. And he very well may be. But he won't arrive on campus until the summer. For now, rising seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard will handle the carries, and both players have proved themselves capable of producing. Magee was Hill's primary backup last season, rushing for 626 yards (and 7.3 yards per carry!) and also flashing good receiving skills (six catches for 49 yards). Hilliard has never been the No. 1 tailback, but he has acquitted himself in a short-yardage role, rushing for at least six touchdowns in all three seasons. Fournette has stardom written all over him, but he won't push the veterans completely out of the way. Count on Magee and Hilliard to keep getting their touches.
All eyes on: Anthony Jennings started LSU's bowl game against Iowa after replacing an injured Zach Mettenberger -- and leading the game-winning comeback -- against Arkansas. He was shaky to say the least (7-for-19 for 82 yards and an interception) in that first career start, however. With Harris, an excellent passer and explosive runner, already on campus, Jennings needs to show he can handle the starting job. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron hand-picked Harris and is no doubt excited about what he can bring to the offense, but he needs to learn the offense first before he can truly threaten Jennings for a starting spot. Throughout the summer, LSU fans will dissect the two quarterbacks' performances in the spring game. Jennings seems like the safe bet to open the season as the Tigers' starter, but whether he holds onto that spot is up to him -- and perhaps up to his new freshman competitor, whose ability to execute the offense will be under heavy scrutiny over the next month.
Grimes spent the last season as offensive line coach and running game coordinator on Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech staff, following a four-year tenure as the line coach at Auburn – a stretch that includes the Tigers' 2010 BCS title run.
Congrats to @coachgrimey on his move to LSU. Excited for him to get closer to his TX roots. Thanks for making our OL better this past year— Shane Beamer (@CoachSBeamer) January 15, 2014
LSU coach Les Miles told reporters Tuesday that he didn't expect to announce a hire for approximately a week, but listed some of the attributes he values in a new assistant.
“He's got to be a guy that can show us that he can improve what is already really a pretty good line,” Miles said. “And he's going to have to have run-pass technical expertise, he's got to have guys he's put in the league. Coaching in the league is a thought – not necessarily a prerequisite, but certainly a consideration.”
Grimes, a 20-year coaching veteran and native of Garland, Texas, does not have NFL experience on his resume. His players have earned their share of postseason accolades, however, with several reaching the pros. Out of the five starters on Auburn's 2010 offensive line, four earned All-SEC or All-America honors in their careers and two became NFL draft picks.
Grimes' 2001 offensive line at Arizona State had four seniors drafted the following spring, including first-round pick Levi Jones.
He inherits an offensive line that returns four starters – including second-team All-SEC left tackle La'El Collins, who announced Tuesday that he will return for his senior season – and loses only guard Trai Turner, who decided to forgo his remaining eligibility in order to enter the draft.
The returning starters – Collins, center Elliott Porter, right tackle Jerald Hawkins and left guard Vadal Alexander – collectively started all but two games in 2013.
“I think we'll be a dominant offensive line, without question,” Miles said. “There's a number of guys that really are back out there that will step forward and have an opportunity to be really significant. I think obviously La'El returning will just bolster that group.”
Studrawa has been a member of Les Miles' coaching staff since 2007, when he first became LSU's offensive line coach. He took over as the program's offensive coordinator when Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and served in that role for two seasons before shifting back to coaching the line this season.
The Tigers ranked 32nd nationally – seventh in the SEC – in total offense with an average of 453.3 yards per game. The Tigers' scoring average of 35.8 points per game ranked 23rd nationally and sixth in the conference.
Studrawa coached two linemen who earned second-team all-conference honors this season: sophomore guard Trai Turner (media) and junior tackle La'El Collins (coaches).
TigerBait.com was first to report the coaching change.
He was handed another this spring when Cam Cameron replaced Greg Studrawa as LSU's offensive coordinator. It sounds like it could be a little bit of an annoyance to have to learn and change so much while trying to master the sport's most important and scrutinized position, but Mettenberger has appreciated the chaos.
"If you look at the NFL, it's like a carousel of offensive coordinators that come through (for teams). If I am fortunate enough to play in the NFL, this is a chance to get me prepared for that," said Mettenberger, who passed for 2,609 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. "There's been a lot of studying and getting used to new playbooks and whatnot, but I've definitely embraced that challenge and enjoy it."
He failed to pass for 200 yards in consecutive games through that stretch and threw seven touchdowns to four interceptions.
But when November arrived, Mettenberger became a new player, passing for 200 yards in all four of LSU's games that month. His comfort level continued to rise and his chemistry with players improved. There was no special formula, Mettenberger said. He just had to be patient and continue the learning process.
Now, Mettenberger will enter the 2013 season without hesitation about his ability. His confidence pushed him through yet another spring with a new offensive coordinator. With all of his receiving weapons returning, Mettenberger expects to have a much more productive second year as LSU's starter.
"I'm just more comfortable," he said. "You can't tell? I'm more loose, not as nervous. I learned a lot of tough lessons last year, but also a lot of good ones. The ups and downs of the college football season are some things that I'm more prepared for and ready to take on."
Mettenberger knows that with Cameron aboard, his arm will get used even more this fall. He knows his strength is throwing downfield, and he hopes to unleash that more against his SEC foes.
"There were a lot of chances [downfield] that we had last year that we missed," Mettenberger said. "You can trust me when I say that that's been one of our main priorities in getting better at this offseason."
He also knows that everyone will be watching. For so long people have waited for more of a downfield passing game from LSU, and Mettenberger was supposed to shepherd that process. The wait is over, and in a pressure cooker like the SEC, it's time for Mettenberger to prove himself as he looks to cement his legacy with the Tigers.
"You're either a winner or a loser," he said. "In this day and age it's what you can do for me and I want to go out on top and lead us to a great season and hopefully I can leave LSU with a national championship."
What’s new: Cam Cameron steps in as LSU’s offensive coordinator after spending part of last season in that role with the Baltimore Ravens. Cameron replaces Greg Studrawa as LSU’s play-caller on offense and will also coach the quarterbacks. Studrawa remains on staff and will coach the offensive line. Steve Kragthorpe will move into an administrative role after coaching the LSU quarterbacks the previous two seasons.
On the mend: Reserve quarterback Rob Bolden (knee) and defensive end Justin Maclin will both miss the spring while recovering from injuries.
On the move: Junior La’el Collins will get first shot at left tackle this spring after starting all last season at left guard. Senior Josh Williford will shift from right guard to left guard. Junior Terrence Magee is moving back to running back after playing receiver last season and catching just one pass.
Question marks: The Tigers are replacing five of their top seven defensive linemen. Junior tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson and junior end Jermauria Rasco need to take that next step and become every-down forces up front. Head coach Les Miles said sophomore tackle Mickey Johnson has lost weight and had a promising offseason. Playing with more consistency at receiver will also be important. The Tigers had too many dropped passes last season and didn't make a lot happen down the field. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry will be counted on to make big moves as juniors. LSU also has to find a new place-kicker and punter. Sophomore Jamie Keehn heads into the spring as the punter, while junior James Hairston will have to hold off redshirt freshman walk-on Colby Delahoussaye for the starting place-kicking job.
New faces: Junior-college newcomer Logan Stokes will battle for a starting job at tight end, while junior-college newcomer Fehoko Fanaika could factor in at offensive guard. At receiver, redshirt freshman Travin Dural will be one to watch after injuring his knee last season along with a pair of early enrollees -- Avery Peterson (Patrick Peterson’s younger brother) and John Diarse. Two more true freshmen, Anthony Jennings and Hayden Rettig, will be among a handful of players vying for the backup quarterback job. The Tigers have a total of six true freshmen on campus who will be going through spring practice as early enrollees. Redshirt freshman Dwayne Thomas is a prime candidate to be the Tigers’ third cornerback on passing downs.
Breaking out: In reality, senior linebacker Lamin Barrow has already broken out. He had 104 total tackles last season, but was overshadowed by Kevin Minter. With Minter leaving early for the NFL draft, Barrow will move this spring from weakside linebacker to Minter’s middle-linebacker spot. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Barrow has everything it takes to become an All-SEC performer. If he sticks in the middle, it just makes the Tigers that much deeper at linebacker. Talented sophomores Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and Lamar Louis can all play on the outside along with senior Tahj Jones, who returns after missing all but one game last season for academic reasons.
Don’t forget about: Senior running back Alfred Blue returns to give the Tigers one of the deepest backfields in the league. He injured his knee in the third game last season and was No. 2 in the SEC in rushing at the time. The 6-2, 220-pound Blue has excellent speed and also catches the ball well out of the backfield. He’ll team with sophomore Jeremy Hill to give LSU a dynamite one-two punch. The 6-2, 235-pound Hill had four 100-yard games as a true freshman and led the Tigers in rushing. Following a splendid freshman season, Kenny Hilliard was the forgotten man last season. He’ll be looking to regain his form this spring, while Magee will add some speed to the Tigers’ backfield.
All eyes on: Now that senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger has a season as a starter in the SEC under his belt, can he capitalize on the improvement he showed toward the end of last season? In particular, Miles wants to see Mettenberger get better at throwing the deep ball and understand all of the throws better. Mettenberger struggled early last season, but he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers. The best news for Mettenberger was the hiring of a veteran offensive coordinator like Cameron, who’s tutored a ton of quality quarterbacks. There’s no question that LSU has to be more consistent on offense if it’s going to return to the SEC championship picture. How much Mettenberger improves from his junior to senior season will go a long way toward determining whether the Tigers will be a part of that equation.
From: Michael (Baton Rouge): Do you sense discontent in Coach (Greg Studrawa) and Coach (Steve Kragthorpe) getting demoted after the hiring of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator? Do you see them moving to another job next year?
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For an offense not known for its passing game, it's an interesting choice,
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The only departing starters from LSU's line would be center P.J. Lonergan -- who has an heir apparent in Elliott Porter -- and left tackle Josh Dworaczyk, who became the starter only after Faulk got hurt.
Move Porter into the lineup, bring a healthy Faulk back at left tackle, and just like that you have an experienced and talented offensive line set to go.
But now that Faulk will depart despite suffering a season-ending knee injury that cost him the season's final 12 games, the outlook is less clear.
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From Josh (@j_bruns22): Who actually does the play calling for LSU on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball?
Gary Laney: This might seem like a no-brainer answer from the perspective of non-LSU fans since a quick search can tell you that Greg Studrawa is the offensive coordinator and John Chavis the defensive coordinator. Around LSU, that always comes to question on the offensive side of the ball considering Les Miles' past as an offensive guy.
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- As the Golden Band from Tigerland struck up LSU’s alma mater following the Tigers' dramatic 23-21 win over South Carolina, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa couldn’t find enough people to hug.
With ear-to-ear grins, rosy cheeks and victory sweat running down their faces, the two stood a few yards from the mob of players raising their fists and helmets to the sky with each note that blared from above, and savored the moment, as gorilla-sized weights slid off their backs.
A week after their inept offense helped produce LSU’s first loss of the season, all seemed forgotten.
“Really, that’s what we should have been doing all year,” said Mettenberger, who finished Saturday night with 148 yards on 12-of-25 passing. “We knew we could do it.”
The Tigers didn’t do it with much style, but a week after being pushed around by Florida, LSU was the more physical team and grinded like the Tigers did in 2011.
The game plan that buried LSU in the Swamp benefited the Tigers on Saturday, as they wore out South Carolina’s defense by running 78 plays -- 28 more than last week -- which amounted to 406 yards. LSU pounded South Carolina’s vaunted defensive front with 258 rushing yards, with three running backs running up double-digit carry totals.
In a game in which the Tigers’ backs were firmly against the wall and any chance of winning the SEC West -- let alone winning the entire league -- would have been dashed with a loss, LSU stood tall with the kind of rugged offense and smothering defense that pushed it to 13 wins last season.
“When we play like that, we are pretty good.”
LSU still has issues when it comes to consistently throwing the ball downfield, but it’s going to be tough to beat these Tigers when they run like that. The running game finally put this game into manageable third downs, as the Tigers converted seven of their first 10 third downs and finished the game 11-of-19 on third down.
Last week, the Tigers converted one of 13 third downs.
“The defense played great, and the offense got better,” Miles said.
And this was a total team effort. On Friday, there was a players-only meeting called. Feelings were aired out, and players left re-energized and focused, wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. It motivated a team in what was essentially a must-win situation.
“It really touched the hearts of the men that were in the room and it showed today,” Landry said.
“It was something that was overdue.”
Players said it was a chance for this group to come together more as a unit, and it showed most in how the offensive line played. Three underclassmen -- La'el Collins, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander -- started, and left tackle Alex Hurst wasn’t even in the building as he deals with personal issues. Against one of the league’s best fronts, the makeshift line overpowered the Gamecocks.
It also showed in running back Jeremy Hill, the talented freshman who has seen limited action. With the Tiger Stadium lights beaming down and his team’s season in the balance, Hill served up the play of the day with his 50-yard touchdown run that gave LSU its late 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter. He nearly finished off the Gamecocks with that run, and finished the day with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
“We kind of wore those guys down,” Hill said. “As the game went on, they got tired, so we just kept running downhill, hitting them hard, and eventually we were going to break one. That’s kind of what I did.”
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney seemed to agree.
“Some guys came out to play, but some guys didn’t,” he said. “It may have been because of injuries. It may be because they were scared.”
On Saturday, LSU’s offense delivered the blows, and the defense cleaned up the rest.
“They were just demolishing South Carolina’s defense,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “You can’t help but feed off of something like that.”
And that’s the way LSU has to play from here on out. The passing game is what it is, but the offensive line’s grit and the running game’s power will propel this team to its goals because it knows the defense will always have its back.
This was the game LSU needed, and it’s the type of game the Tigers intend to keep having.
“We gotta win out. That’s the big thing that we all know,” Landry said. “Every game for us is a national championship to us. It’s that type of mentality that we’re going to take every Saturday from here on out.”
The Tigers have started three running backs at least one game this season. Because of injury, three players have started at least one game at left tackle and two at right tackle. Alex Hurst has started at both right tackle and left tackle and Josh Dworaczyk has spent time at guard and tackle.
But even with a recent trend to struggle offensively against SEC opponents, including an anemic 200-yard offensive performance in last week's 14-6 loss to Florida, there are two shuffles LSU coach Les Miles isn't considering: his offensive coaching staff and the Tigers' offensive approach.
That's not exactly the case. Offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa was promoted from offensive line coach after then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in August 2011. Kragthorpe is now quarterbacks coach and coaches from the field while Studrawa calls plays in the press box.
Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is available to deal with the linemen on the sideline during games.
In recent games against SEC opponents, the approach hasn't worked well. While the issues were often masked by a forgiving early schedule in which the Tigers piled up points in wins over North Texas, Idaho and Washington, LSU has managed 18 points and one touchdown in two SEC games this season.
Dating to last season's 21-0 loss to Alabama in last season's BCS championship game, the Tigers have 18 points, one touchdown and 643 yards in their last three games against SEC opponents.
"In our view," Miles said, "we have to run it and throw it better."
And maybe call plays better.
1. Sonic boom: Sam Montgomery was in full effect Saturday, eating freshman Auburn tackle Greg Robinson for lunch en route to a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss, including a safety that made the difference in the game.
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After getting just two carries -- for no yards -- in his first two seasons, the junior already has two rushing touchdowns in his junior season with six carries for 35 yards in the first two games.
"I worked on it all summer," said Copeland, a converted defensive tackle. "I worked on catching the ball, hanging on to the ball, being a better overall player."
He had little background in anything involving ball skills. When offensive line coach (and now offensive coordinator) Greg Studrawa asked Copeland if he had ever played fullback during his freshman year, Copeland said he had in high school, but only as part of a "crazy package" his prep team put together. He embraced the move and got playing time, splitting time last season with senior James Stampley. But he was mostly called on to be a battering ram at the position.
This season, not only have his snaps gone up as he's become the unquestioned starter, but also because of a change of offensive focus. After the departure of Jordan Jefferson, a quarterback whose talents led to the Tigers running a lot of plays from the spread, LSU has been more of an I-formation team this season with drop-back passer Zach Mettenberger at quarterback. That means more plays for Copeland because fullbacks would normally not be part of the a spread personnel package.
LSU has run only 30 offensive plays this season that have not included the use of a fullback. Opponents have struggled to slow down a rushing attack averaging 5.7 yards a carry, most of which come behind Copeland, who has slimmed down to a still-powerful 272 pounds this season.
"It's great," running back Kenny Hilliard said of following Copeland. "A fullback, 270, in front of you, crushing linebackers ... you know what I'm saying? I'll run behind him any day of the week. I just love what he's doing."
Now, Copeland added ball skills to his game. With two touchdowns in two games on the ground, the next step would be to catch a pass, something coach Les Miles said is in his repertoire.
"He's capable," Miles said. "It's an advantage to have a guy who can run as well as he does and block as well as he does and, we'll see if we can get him some receptions because we really think he's that guy."
ULM provides lesson: Don't think for a minute that Louisiana-Monroe's upset of Arkansas won't be a topic of conversation at LSU this week as the Tigers prepare to play Idaho.
Dworaczyk not only got there, but he turned Shirley to the right, creating a gaping seam that running back Alfred Blue used to gallop through to a 21-yard touchdown.
It was known that Dworaczyk, a sixth-year senior who served as a de facto sideline offensive line coach while he missed last season with a knee injury, could handle the mental part of the position. On that play, he showed that he could could physically get the job done as well.
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