NCF On The Trail: Jalen Hurd

SEC signing day roundtable: Coach under pressure

February, 10, 2015
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There is only one new face among SEC head coaches this year -- Florida’s Jim McElwain -- but a number of the league’s head honchos face increased pressure to perform in 2015.

Continuing this week’s SEC series of post-signing day roundtable discussions, today we’ll examine the conference coaches who are under pressure to make something happen after signing their newest class of recruits.

Edward Aschoff: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Year 4 of the Freeze era is beginning, and expectations are about to explode in Oxford. After being on the cusp of an SEC West title and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Ole Miss now has to stay in the thick of the title hunts. While Freeze has been enormously successful during his time at Ole Miss, he has now signed three straight top-20 classes, and now the 2013 class (the crown jewel of Freeze’s tenure) will be all grown up. If the bulk of that class is going to bring a championship to Ole Miss, the time is now because the heavy hitters, like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, will likely head to the NFL after this coming season. There’s too much talent in Oxford for Ole Miss not to compete for a spot in Atlanta, and anything else will be considered a failure.

David Ching: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
I was tempted to focus on Mark Richt or Les Miles because the natives seem to be getting restless at Georgia and LSU, but let’s go in a different direction. Mason probably needs to get more out of this 2015 class immediately than those two SEC veterans. Last season was a mess at Vandy, with the Commodores failing to put up a good fight in most of their nine losses. Their three wins came against UMass (by three points), Charleston Southern (by one) and Old Dominion (by 14), and they lost by an average of 18 points per game in SEC play. Now Mason enters his second season with two new coordinators (actually he’ll be his own defensive coordinator) and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked No. 44 nationally, dead last in the SEC. Mason told reporters on signing day that he staked his reputation on the quality of this class, which is all well and good. But if the Commodores don’t start looking like a more competent team this fall, I’m not sure Mason’s reputation as a head coach will be too great.

Sam Khan Jr.: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
I think Travis Haney said it best Insider that Sumlin must begin to reap the fruits of the recruiting labor he and his staff have put in over the last three years. The Aggies' classes ranked eighth, fourth and 12th nationally in Sumlin's first three full recruiting cycles, and the team now enters its fourth year in the SEC. He made significant coaching staff changes (including paying a pretty penny for former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis), and overall the Aggies have recruited better than any team in their own state -- which is talent-rich -- since Sumlin has been there. It's time for the recruiting hauls to translate to the standings.

Chris Low: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
As it turns out, the sky didn't fall at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost six commitments in a span of eight days leading up to signing day. Thanks to some hustle by Stoops and his staff, Kentucky was able to plug some of the gaps late and finish with the nation's 43rd-ranked class. The problem was that Stoops reeled in the 20th-ranked class the year before, so expectations were lofty. As Stoops enters his third season at Kentucky -- with a brand-new contract that will pay him an average of $3.57 million per year -- expectations will be equally high on the field. Kentucky will be aiming for its first winning season since 2009. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way in 2014 after starting out 5-1, but wound up losing their last six games.

Greg Ostendorf: Jim McElwain, Florida
All things considered, McElwain deserves credit for this class. He took over two months before signing day and closed with a top-20 class that included five-star prospects Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But this class had a chance to be more than solid. It had the potential to be great. Florida missed on a number of homegrown prospects, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland, who both decided to leave home to play at Auburn for the man McElwain replaced. The first-year coach deserves a pass for this class, but he can’t keep letting the top players out of the state. Losing battles to Florida State is one thing. Losing battles to Will Muschamp and Auburn is another.

Alex Scarborough: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The great thing about Steve Spurrier is that you can take him at his word. But this time I think his openness hurt him. By telling reporters he thought he'd stay at South Carolina 2-3 more years, he had to turn some recruits off. I mean, who would commit to a program knowing the head coach wouldn't be there the whole way through? Though his 31-man signing class was solid, coming in at No. 21 overall in the country, it was what was missing that Gamecocks fans should find troubling -- most notably, four-star defensive players Damon Arnette and Arden Key, who both decommitted heading down the stretch. While you have to appreciate Spurrier’s honest assessment of himself, reading a head coach say this has to be jarring: "I don't think I did a very good job of maybe going full-speed as much as we needed as it turned out."

Derek Tyson: Butch Jones, Tennessee
After two top-five recruiting classes in a row, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones now has the talent on his roster to make a move in the SEC East. With Josh Dobbs showing promise last season and several other freshmen having standout years, including Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr., the talent is in place to have a big season on the field this year. Another 7-6 season could have Tennessee fans getting a little restless.

Youth a recruiting pitch for Vols, Cats 

September, 25, 2014
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Either Tennessee hit a home run with its 2014 recruiting class or the Volunteers are playing with fire. Either way, the Volunteers are taking a big gamble with their freshmen.

Head coach Butch Jones has played 71 percent (22 of 29) of his true freshmen — an incredible stat that some coaches might be scared to advertise for fear that future opponents might try to take advantage of inexperienced players. Jones, however, has taken the opposite approach and is using the fact as a recruiting tool.



The official Tennessee football Twitter account has tweeted out several stats about how many freshmen have played, and behind the scenes, the Volunteers' staff is not shy about telling recruits they are young and need more talented prospects to play early and add depth to an improving roster.

Tennessee assistant athletic director Jason Yellin appeared almost proud to share how many freshmen have played this year.

"We have played the most in the nation, 22,” Yellin said in an email. "For comparison, last year’s high was 18 by UCLA. We have started seven so far and could potentially start two more on Saturday at Georgia."

Top overall position classes in 2014 

February, 21, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.


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Top position classes: RBs 

February, 11, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Tennessee went into the 2014 class with a gigantic future need at running back, and coach Butch Jones and staff delivered for Volunteers fans in a big way. The Vols' running back haul includes not only ESPN 300 backs Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech) and Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock) but also four-star Treyvon Paulk (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton). With different body types, styles and strengths, Tennessee added talent and depth for years to come as well as many different skill sets within the position. Hurd is tall, lean and chock-full of speed, athleticism and versatility, and Scott is a slasher with excellent ball skills out of the backfield. Paulk is a compact, downhill back with leg drive and power.

The Volunteers had the nation's best RB class; here's which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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ESPN 300 WR Malone picks Vols

December, 4, 2013
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Since arriving in Knoxville, Tennessee coach Butch Jones has focused intently on keeping the best prospects in the state at home. The Vols took another step toward that goal Wednesday after Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp), the top-rated player in the state, committed to Tennessee. Malone is the No. 48 overall prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 6 wide receiver.

The 6-foot-2, 191-pound Malone chose Tennessee over Clemson and Georgia in a recruitment that kept many on the edge of their seats.

The talented playmaker began his official visits on Sept. 27 with a trip to Athens to visit Georgia, which was once considered the favorite. Following the visit to Georgia, Malone made official visits to Tennessee on Oct. 5, Ohio State on Oct. 26, Florida State on Nov. 1 and Clemson on Nov. 22. Many thought the SEC would dominate Malone’s list, but Clemson proved to be the toughest competition for Tennessee.

The Vols now have four of the top six prospects in the state committed. In addition to Malone, Tennessee has reeled in ESPN 300 prospects No. 59 overall Todd Kelly Jr. (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb School of Knoxville), No. 62 Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech Senior High) and No. 296 Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy).

Currently ranked No. 2 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, the Vols have 33 commitments, including 11 ESPN 300 commitments and 17 four-star prospects. The Vols also boast five junior college transfers ranked in the recently released ESPN JC 50. The class features prospects from 11 states, plus the District of Columbia.

But Jones is not done yet. The Vols are still in the hunt for three-star lineman Charles Mosley (Brighton, Tenn./Brighton), with a decision likely at the end of this week, as well as No. 7-ranked Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), No. 61 Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and No. 108 Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock), among others.

#AskLoogs: Impact recruits in SEC

November, 15, 2013
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So far, I believe there are several. Let’s start in the SEC West. Offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), an Alabama pledge, is sure to make an instant impact at one of the two tackle spots. Defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) is a huge need for the Texas A&M Aggies and should have an immediate role. If Johnny Manziel bolts for the NFL, QB Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) could be thrust into immediate duty. Running back Roc Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) is as big of a need as any for the Auburn Tigers and he is the right style of back.

In the SEC East, it is a little more muddy because there aren't as many immediate needs or impact guys committed just yet. For Tennessee, if Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech Senior) can stay healthy, he will play. In fact, several Vols could see immediate duty and they could also have up to 14 mid-year enrollees. Wide receiver Shaq Davidson (Gaffney, S.C./Gaffney) at South Carolina. Defensive end Denzel Ware (Crestview, Fla./Crestview) at Kentucky. And if Florida can hang on, there is no doubt that WR Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior) and RB Dalvin Cook (Miami/Miami Central) will have roles with the Gators.

SEC recruiting storylines: Nov. 14 

November, 14, 2013
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A week after LSU-Alabama took center stage in the recruiting universe, the Auburn Tigers will take the spotlight this weekend with a number of big-time prospects expected on the Plains.

Stellar visitor list expected on the Plains


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Movers, shakers in updated ESPN 300

October, 29, 2013
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The Class of 2014 has had two months to show what it’s made of on the field. How are the nation’s elite prospects faring as we approach signing day? Here’s a look at the biggest names and notes from the most recent update of the ESPN 300:

The Big Movers

No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), ILB
Prior ranking: No. 59
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Garrett jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings as he has added bulk to his frame, and at the same time retaining quickness and his fast-filling, downhill ability. Garrett has impact-type ability with a blend of lateral quickness, discipline and a nose for the ball.

Davion Hall
Max Olson/ESPNAthlete Davion Hall, who is committed to Baylor, jumped 30 spots in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
No. 45 Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), ATH
Prior ranking: No. 75
The 6-2, 194-pound Hall is one of the most impressive athletes in the class. He has a long, stoutly-built frame, is explosive, has physicality filling the alley at safety and very good ball skills at receiver. When he settles into one position at the next level, his upside is very high.

No. 64 Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), RB
Prior ranking: No. 106
The Georgia commit is putting together a sensational senior campaign with more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through eight games. The 5-11, 217-pound tailback continues to add strength to his compact body structure while maintaining his speed, overall athleticism and ability to bend.

No. 70 Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), DE
Prior ranking: No. 125
The Miami commit has flashed his high-ceiling ability, even though he is playing inside more than half the snaps as a senior. His combination of first-step quickness, arm length and the ability to play with low pad level sets him apart from most ends in the class.

No. 84 Rashaan Evans (Auburn Ala./Auburn), OLB
Prior ranking: No. 150
The 6-3, 217-pound Evans has filled out physically, and displays the quick-twitch burst and speed combination to be a factor off the edge. Evans has been dominant off the edge as a senior with double-digit sacks.

No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis), WR
Prior ranking: No. 144
The Florida State commit continues to flash the initial quickness, ability to get to top-end speed quickly, ability to play the ball in the air and elusiveness that makes the 6-2, 180-pound wideout one of the top playmakers in the class.

No. 128 Brad Kaaya (Hollywood, Calif./Chaminade College Prep)
Prior ranking: No. 171
The 6-4, 213-pound Miami commit is one the fastest rising quarterbacks in the class. Has added bulk to his tall frame, and continues to show the foot quickness, foot work and quick release that will be demanded of him at the next level.

Other Big Movers

WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp): From No. 99 to 49.
Texas A&M ATH commit Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/William B. Travis): From No. 101 to 60.
RB Joe Mixon (Berkeley, Calif./Freedom): From No. 100 to 72.
Georgia QB-DT commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford): From No. 157 to 94.
Oregon RB commit Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): From No. 154 to 99.
RB Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): From No. 176 to 108.
Ole Miss S commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): From No. 201 to 134.
Alabama C commit J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge): From No. 246 to 188.
Georgia DT commit Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): From No. 266 to 201

ESPN 300 debuts
No. 89 Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westbury), WR
The 6-6, 215-pound pass catcher returned to the football field as a senior after playing only basketball as a junior, and has quickly become one of the most coveted uncommitted prospects in the country featuring deceptive initial quickness, and the high-point timing and size to win 50-50 balls in the air.

No. 287 Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf), OLB
The 6-3, 220-pound Owens has transitioned from safety to outside linebacker as a senior without skipping a beat. Long, rangy and with edge-rush ability, the Miami commit is a top senior riser.

No. 295 Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland), WR
The 6-1, 196-pound Georgia commit was a standout at Mark Richt Camp in June. Williams is blessed with straight-line speed, change-of-direction ability, strong hands and the physicality and strength to play through contact.

[+] EnlargeJoe Mixon
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTailback Joe Mixon is ranked No. 72 in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
More Who Moved Into The ESPN 300

Ohio State ATH commit Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall): No. 148.
LSU DE commit Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass): No. 298.
Baylor WR commit Ishmael Zamora (Alief, Texas/Elsik): No. 245
Alabama OLB commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest): No. 284.
DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes): No. 257.
DT Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): No. 292.
Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn): No. 181.
Virginia Tech DT commit Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel): No. 299.

Injured Reserve

David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), QB
The Alabama commit suffered a season-ending knee injury. The 6-5, 241-pound Under Armour All-American is No. 44 after being 32nd previously.

Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech), RB
The Tennessee commit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener, requiring a second shoulder operation in less than a year. The 6-4, 222-pound Hurd is now No. 62 after being 39th.

Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), WR
The 6-3, 172-pound Harris hasn't played this season due to a lingering hamstring issue. The Michigan commit checks in at No. 85 after previously being 72nd.

Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), DT
The 6-6, 295-pound Shaw has been sidelined with a neck injury this season. He checks in at No. 186 after a prior ranking of 82nd.

Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central), OLB
The 6-2, 202-pound Rhaheed missed the first six games of the season before returning to the field in late October. The former LSU commit is No. 260 after being ranked 133rd previously.

Kyle Berger (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius), OLB
The Ohio State commit was sidelined his senior season with an ACL tear. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after being ranked No. 281.

Treyvon Paulk (Milton, Ga./Milton High), RB
The Tennessee running back commitment recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after previously being ranked No. 294.

SEC class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the SEC, check out our conference rankings:

1. Alabama, 21 commits: The Crimson Tide sit atop the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that features 15 ESPN 300 prospects, including most recent commitment Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), the No. 96 overall prospect. Alabama remains in the hunt for several five-star prospects, including No. 1 overall Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 16, 2013
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The college season is three weeks in, and as expected the recruiting wheels are back in motion with official visits now taking center stage. From Alabama’s win in a showdown at Texas A&M with a slew of prospects on hand, to standout performances, here is the latest around the SEC.

Best weekend performances
QB Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Day, Florida commit): The weekly Grier statistical dominant performance includes a 30-of-40 night for 422 yards and five touchdowns, along with 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns. In four games this season, Grier has 25 touchdown passes.

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SEC recruiting storylines: Aug. 29 

August, 29, 2013
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The long awaited college football season is set to kick off tonight. And while the start to the year has been at the forefront this week, a few storylines have developed on the recruiting front. Here is a closer look at some of the hot topics throughout the SEC:

Tennessee’s top recruit lost in season opener
Record-setting running back Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech) saw his senior season come to end following Beech’s 42-39 victory over Station Camp. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound playmaker re-injured his surgically repaired right shoulder early in the game. He played through the pain and rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns and played significant snaps at safety. Hurd is set to undergo surgery Sept. 9 to repair the partially torn labrum with a recovery expected to take between four to six months. The No. 39-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 plans to enroll at Tennessee in January. Hurd set a state single-season rushing record with 3,357 yards, and 43 touchdowns in 2012.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

August, 26, 2013
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Alabama continued its recruiting dominance by adding an ESPN 300 wide receiver and several SEC commits had huge games to start off the 2013 high school season. Here's a look at the biggest storylines over the weekend.


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#AskLoogs: Grading Butch Jones

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



As of now, I give them an “A”. The question is going to be whether the Vols can hold on. Recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. With 24 total pledges -- and 10 in the ESPN 300 -- most of whom have no doubt been pursued by other SEC and ACC programs, Tennessee has hit the ground running in Butch Jones' first full recruiting year.

The class is littered with not only the best in Tennessee, but also with players who fill specific needs for the Vols. The juco ranks have been recruited hard for some maturity and experience, which is generally not the case at Tennessee. I think WR Dominique Booth will be a nice addition to Marquez North. RB Jalen Hurd could be a potential early impact guy.

What happens, though, if Tennessee hits see serious bumps in the road on the field? Will the Vols lose momentum? Are these commits banking on the future and not concerned about this fall? You can bet if things don’t go well, the chum will be in the water and the sharks will be circling, trying to peck away at Tennessee in order to get prospects to rethink their decisions. There is lots of time between now and February. Jones and his staff know full well that it will get harder once the season starts.

The List: Most important SEC recruits 

August, 20, 2013
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Whether it's on-field production or friendships that recruits develop with other recruits, some prospects just have a desire to play with other top prospects. Here's a closer look at the most important committed player for each SEC school.

Alabama

ATH Bo Scarbrough (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy)
6-foot-2, 215 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 20
The 20th-ranked player in the country has been committed to the Crimson Tide for nearly a year and is the highest-ranked Alabama commit. With his size and athleticism, Scarbrough could play either running back or linebacker. Alabama is targeting at least three players in the ESPN 300 top 10, including RB Leonard Fournette, OL Cameron Robinson and CB Marlon Humphrey, and Scarbrough is the type of star player with whom other big-name recruits want to play.


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Scouting Bates’ role at Tennessee 

July, 3, 2013
7/03/13
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ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates committed to Tennessee on Wednesday at The Opening. Here's how RecruitingNation’s talent scouts think he’ll fit in Knoxville.


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