Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SEC 2010 Review

Taking a look at each of the SEC schools from 2010, how they finished, and a hint as to what to look forward to in 2011...

Auburn Tigers
2010 Reocrd: 14-0 (8-0), SEC Champion
2010 Bowl Game: National Championship Game, Defeated Oregon 22-19

     No matter how it was acquired, Auburn still ended up the 2010 season as the best team in the country, whther or not it was outright bought is another matter for another stage. Cam Newton, the center of the storm, was also the center of production, as he tore the nation apart with 50, yes 50, total TDs on the season. That is an incredible feat, especially concerning the fact that he had 30 of those through the air, and another 20 on the ground. His 203 yards passing and 105 yards rushing per game are something of a rare contribution to state it mildly, and he alone drove the Tigers to their national title. He is gone, so the 2010 focus shifts on offense to the duo of Onterrio McCalebband Michael Dyer for 2011. McCalebb rushed for 810 yards and 5 scores, while Dyer broke the barrier with 1093 and 5 scores. With Newton gone, they will have a much harder time producing, as most teams will stack the line against the Tigers in 2011. Darvin Adams was the top target in 2010, and he returns after posting a line of 52-963-7, and Emory Blake returns as well, after grabbing 8 TD passes to lead all Tiger receivers. TE Philip Lutzenkirchen also returns, and 33% of his receptions went for scores last season.
     Defensively, the Tigers were vulnerable at times, but they always found a way to male the right play at the right time. The secondary was an open target most of the season, as they allowed 250 yards passing per game. The Tigers defense gave up 24 or more points 9 times last season, and with a new QB breaking in, the offense may not be able to keep up the tempo in 2011. The Tigers lose 5 of their top 7 tacklers from 2010, including the anchor of the D in DT Nick Fairley, who had 60 tackles, 24 for loss last season. This creates huge cause for concern entering next fall. With fellow holy terror Antoine Carter also leaving, the secondary could be even more exposed, as those two players combined for 38 QB hurries in 2010. That kind of production doesn't replicate overnight with new starters.
     Wes Byrum also departs at PK after connecting on 17 of his 22 FGs last season, and the Tigers are also tasked with replacing underproductive punter Ryan Shoemaker. Replacing your specialists at the same time can also be costly, so special teams may be a roller coaster ride early on.
Final Notes
     Auburn won out of conference by playing a bevy of nobodies last season. Not one opponent in non-conference action had a winning record with exception to Chattanooga, who comes from the FCS. I compliment them hardily by running the gauntlet of the SEC undefeated, which is a nearly impossible thing to do. The Tigers did accomplish some very heady things last season, but it's likely to be a bit of a crash in 2011 without their superweapon in Newton.

Arkansas Razorbacks
2010 Record: 10-3 (6-2), tied 2nd SEC West
2010 Bowl Game: Sugar Bowl, Lost to Ohio State 31-26

     Bobby Petrino put his stamp firmly on the Hogs in 2010, and the offense took off like a rocket. However, when push came to shove, the Razorbacks still could not overcome their two toughest obstacles, and they fell to Alabama and Auburn, which kept them from obtaining unseen heights since joining the SEC. As good as Arkansas was at times, they still wound up as a second class citizen, despite the Sugar Bowl birth, which was only obtained due to Auburn playing in the title game. Ryan Mallett was the driving force last season, as he passed for 3869 yards and 32 TDs. He is gone now, so Petrino has to start over. Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell will battle for his spot, but Knile Davis will be the new leader on offense, as the sophomore RB pounded for 1322 yards and 12 scores, while averaging just under 6.5 yards per carry. Whomever wins the QB competition this fall will have the grace of having his top 4 receivers from 2010 back in the fold, with Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, and Cobi Hamilton all coming back.
     Arkansas' major flaw on defense was a basic vulnerability to the run, as they allowed over 150 yards rushing per game last season, but the pass defense was very strong, having only allowed 182 yards per game. 5 of their top 7 tacklers from 2010 return in 2011, led by Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson. Franklin and Nelson were joined by Anthony Leon as defenders that all finished with double digit TFLs in 2010, led by Franklin with 13. Leon departed after the season. Ramon Broadway led the secondary with 6 passes defended, but he will not return next season. Isaac Madison and Tramain Thomas both finished with 5, and both return. Thomas also led the Hogs with 4 picks last season.
     Zach Hocker quickly became one of the best kickers in the SEC as a freshman, as he connected on 13 of 16 FGs last fall. The Hogs will be more dependent on his leg in 2011 with a new QB in place, as the offense will likely need some time to gel. Dylan Breeding was a very solid punter as a sophomore last season, averaging just over 42 yards per punt, so the specialists remain intact. Lance Ray was the leading kickoff return man, and compiled over 500 yards as a freshman in that spot, while Adams is the punt return specialist, having averaged 15.56 yards per return with a score last fall.
Final Notes
Replacing Mallett will be no easy task for Petrino. Mallett was simply one of the most prolific QBs in Razorback history, so pressure on Wilson (the likely starter) will be intense. Davis is a special talent at RB, but with a new QB in play, he will be targeted early. The receivers are as good as any in the conference, and the defense looks to repeat their strong play from last season. If Wilson develops early, this team could finally rise in the West.

LSU Tigers
2010 Record: 11-2 (6-2), tied 2nd SEC West
2010 Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl, Defeated Texas A&M 41-24

     LSU's strong suit has not been their offense in recent years, and the same remained so in 2010. Jordan Jefferson looked like a major flop for most of last season before coming on in the Cotton Bowl, where he finally looked like he could handle the job. Jarrett Lee played a bit, but never developed into the potential starter that LSU desperately needs to find. Jefferson tossed 10 picks to just 7 TDs in 2010. The run game is going to look a little thin in 2011, with Stevan Ridley taking his 1147 yards to the next level. Jefferson was the second leading rusher for the Tigers, and then it was Michael Ford, who only carried the ball 45 times in 2010. Terrence Tolliver, the top receiver in 2010, is gone. He compiled a line of 41-579-5, and his career ended after the bowl win. The next 4 receivers return, but none of them were stars in 2010. In all, the Tigers averaged only 155.4 yards passing, but did rush for 177 yards behind Ridley and Jefferson.
     The defense remained the face of LSU football in 2010, as this unit allowed only 165 yards passing and 135 yards rushing per game, both quality numbers. Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 116 tackles last fall, but he departed after the bowl, as he was a senior. Ryan Baker takes over as the leader of the defense at LB, where he collected 87 tackles a season ago. There are holes to fill, however, and none bigger than CB Patrick Peterson, who functioned as the teams leading pass defender and kick returner last season. His loss alone could create a sufferable void that could lead to a lapse next fall. Peterson had 4 picks, but his biggest contribution comes in the next section.
     Peterson collected 1350 yards in returns last season, and was a threat to break one every time he touched the football. Peterson also blocked one kick last season, so his special teams exploits are reason alone to fret about his impending absence. Josh Jasper was one of the most frequently used PKs in the nation last season, and his leg never wore out, as he collected on 28 of his 34 FG attempts on the year. He too is gone, meaning an even bigger void is created in replacing him. Derek Helton, the big legged punter who averaged over 45 yards per punt, also departs, meaning that the Tigers are in an all out rebuilding phase on special teams.
Final Notes
     The Tigers fell short of winning the SEC West last season mainly because of their ineptitude on offense. If the Tigers could just get close enough to compete offensively to the level that their defense has become known for, LSU could be competing for national titles every year. Defense wins, but you have to score points to allow the defense to win for you! The Tigers were held to 14 points or less 6 times in 2010, and that just does not fly. How they won 11 games is beyond me.

Alabama Crimson Tide
2010 Record: 10-3 (5-3), 4th SEC West
2010 Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl, Defeated Michigan State 49-7

     Alabama struggled to bounce back to championship form last season, and that's no surprise due to how much talent bolted to the NFL after the 2009 season. A bit of a slip was guaranteed, but the Tide still rolled back to win 10 games, and they stayed competitive in the SEC. The Tide's 3 losses came to teams that all finished the season in bowls, and every team that beat Alabama had at least 9 wins by season's end.
      Greg McElroy finished his career at Bama as one of the best that they have ever had. Sure he has some shortcomings in his game, but McElroy was a born winner, and he averaged over 229 yards per game last season. Mark Ingram also failed to reclaim his Heisman that he won in 2009, and injuries cost him 2 games last season, preventing him from busting the 1000 yard mark. Ingram still scored 13 times on the season. Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy now take over the run game, and Richardson, who also missed two games last fall, has every shot at being as good as Ingram was. Richardson averaged 6.25 yards per carry last season. The receiving game misses a huge load next fall, as Julio Jones left early for the NFL after posting numbers at 78-1133-7. The depth behind Jones is thin, so Alabama has some work cut out with a largely new receiving corps and a new QB as well.
      Alabama, much like LSU, lives and dies by their defense, and the defense was incredible for most of the season last year. They did have the benfit of playing San Jose State and Duke, but nevertheless, the Tide was rolling. The benefit of having been young on D last season was that the defense returns basically intact next fall, meaning that the offense will have a little time to get it together, as the now experienced defense can hold the linje for a while. The big loss will be in Marcell Dareus, who leaves after having rolled up 11 TFLs last season. With a bulk of the returnees being on defense next season, Alabama may be in a very nice spot to challenge for the SEC title next fall.
     The Tide used two young PKs last season, and it seemed to work just fine. Jeremy Shelley, a sophomore, connected on 12 of 16 FGs, while freshman Cade Foster hit 7 of 9 on the season. They also combined to hit on 57 of 58 PATs. Cody Mandell has some work to do, as he finished at just over 39 yards per punt last season as a freshman. He can only get stronger. Trent Richardson was the key kickreturn man, while Marquis Maze handled punt returns. Both return after finding solid success as specialists last season.
Final Notes
     Alabama slid back to normalcy after having won the national title last season. That's not a shock. And if normaly is finishing 10-3, most schools would kill for that kind of normal. Alabama has an open chance to take back the SEC West in 2011, but the first challenge is finding a combo to even remotely get near the productivity and the consistency of the McElry to Jones combo on offense.

South Carolina Gamecocks
2010 Record: 9-5 (5-3), 1st SEC East
2010 Bowl Game: Chik-Fil-A Bowl, Lost to Florida State 26-17

      The Gamecocks SEC East title was just a sign of how absolutely below average the East was in 2010. Stephen Garcia, who has made a lifetime of climbing in and out of Steve Spurrier's doghouse (he's back in again, by the way) was thought of by some as having a breakthrough season. If tossing a 20/14 TD to pick ratio is breaking through, I'd hate to see what close to broke down looks like. Garcia is a mess on and off the field, and Spurrier toyed with replacing him with freshman Connor Shaw (brother of Georgia Southern's Jaybo Shaw) at times throughout the season. The unfortunate part of the push was that Shaw, although he completed 23 of 33 passes, he also tossed 2 picks to just 1 score. Shaw may be the guy out of the gate in 2011, as Garcia has gotten in trouble once again, and seems to have an unfortunate alleged alcohol issue.
     The backfield is set for at least two more seasons, as Marcus Lattimore is rock solid and set in stone. Few freshmen impacted the game like Lattimore did for their teams last season. Lattimore totalled over 1600 yards of total offense in 2010, and he rushed for 17 scores, while receiving 2 more. That was in his first season. If he doesn't suffer the vaunted sophomore slump, Lattimore will be one of the best players in the nation in 2011.
     Alshon Jefferey is one of the best receivers in the nation, and the Gamecocks can find a QB that can regularly get him the football, eveyone will be speaking about him this fall. Jefferey grabbed 88 receptions for 1517 yards and 9 TDs last season. If he had a better QB than Garcia, he would have doubled those TD numbers. Jeffery is big and strong, and is built for this game. His presence combined with that of Lattimore gives South Carolina a shot to win what remains a very much watered down SEC East.
     Defensively speaking, there were few teams better at stopping the run than the Gamecocks, but people seemed to have a field day passing against them. They gave up over 250 yards per game through the air, while only allowing 104 per game on the ground. The good news is that 8 of the top 10 tacklers from last season return, as do the top 4 players in TFLs. Delvin Taylor, Melvin Ingram, Antonio Allen, and Travian Roberston combined for 44.5 TFLs last season, but nobody achieved double digits in sacks.
     Spencer Lanning was not exactly automatic last season, as he connected on 17 of 24 FGs. He moves on, and Jay Wooten, who will be a senior, should be the guy replacing him. Wooten has no experience other than one PAT attempt last season (he made it). Lanning's real contribution was at punter, where he averaged over 44 yards per punt. The prospects of replacing him are worrisome.
Final Notes
     Spurrier and the Gamecocks got exposed in their final two games, both losses. The Gamecocks were solely the East champs due to horribleplay by most of the division, and they certainly benefited from Florida's basic inability to figure out how to replace most of Tim Tebow's production. Everyone else should start to catch up, but South Carolina has a chance to pick up what they learned from last season, and use it to defend their divisional title. They do have to figure out the QB situation quickly, and my suggestion would be to just jettison Garcia now and start working with Shaw.

Mississippi State Bulldogs
2010 Record: 9-4 (4-4), 5th SEC West
2010 Bowl Game: Gator Bowl, defeated Michigan 52-14

      The new era of MSU football began in earnest last fall, as Dan Mullen took the Bulldogs to a whole new level of competition. There is still much work to be done, but Mullen is getting it done, and MSU is no longer the doormat that they once were.
     The passing game is average at best, and if Mullen wants to get to the next level, he'll have to develop a QB that is able to average 200+ yards per game, and he does not have that in Chris Relf right now. Relf is competent enough to do what needs to be done, but he is not a next level QB that can win you championships, and every team needs that to make the top level. Relf averaged 136.6 yards per game passing last season with a 12/6 ratio of TDs to picks. That's not enough.
     The Bulldogs depend and lean on the run game to a great degree, but again, Mullen must find a primary back that can be depended on to bust the 1000 yard mark, and again, they have not isolated that player on the roster yet.  What they do have is a strong committee that rushed for 215.8 yards per game, led by Vic Ballard with 981 yards. His real value was in the red zone, as he rushed for 20 TDs. He's a great big power back that just plows through you, and he has real value in short yardage scenarios, and has just enough to get to the second level. Relf was second on the team with 701 yards. The top 4 receivers all return next season, so the time is now to start developing the passing game.
     The Bulldogs were like many squads in the SEC, as they were concrete against the run, but rather leaky against the pass. MSU held the opposition to 121.7 yards per game on the ground last season, but they allowed 231 yards through the air. Chris White had 110 tackles to lead the team, KJ Wright had 98, and Charles Mitchell had 93. There waqs a huge drop after that, and White and Wright are both gone now, leaving Mitchell, a DB, to lead the squad next season. MSU also loses 33.5 TFLs from the team for next fall. The secondary also loses some experienced depth from a secondary that struggled a season ago.
      The Bulldogs lose both PKs that saw duty a season ago. In the case of Derek DePasquale, that's not a good thing, as he nailed 10 of his 12 FGs last season. Sean Brauchle was not nearly as solid, as he only connected on 3 of 7. What this does mean is that there is zero game experience returning in 2011. Punter Heath Hutchins also departs after a season in which he averaged over 41 yards per punt.
Final Notes
Mullen is moving in the right direction, but needs development from key skill areas to continue so that MSU can make the leap to elite. The defense was key last season, and the bowl win over Michigan was a huge eye opener for folks that weren't aware of the progress that this school was making. The defensive replacements this fall will go a long way towards telling whether or not the Bulldogs can build off of previous progress.

Florida Gators
2010 Record: 8-5 (4-4), SEC East
2010 Bowl Game: Outback Bowl, Defeated Penn State 37-24

     I was all over John Brantley last summer as the QB that would take over for Tim Tebow. I felt from what I had seen of him that he would be able to do pretty much what Tebow could do, but had a better arm, and that his passing ability would allow for some improvements in the Gator offense. Brantley never got there, and it was evident from game on as to how wrong I seemed to be about him. That being said, Brantley was very rarely placed into situations that showcased his abilities, and was shaken by a rotation that pulled hiim out in certain scenarios. Brantley finished by tossing a 9-10 Td to pick ratio, and was held to a 158 yard average. Brantley looks to still be the guy, but competition is coming, and there was, even for a short time, some transfer talk.
     The Gators did not get a ton from their rushing game, and the problem that Urban Meyer had was that he never would settle on a feature back, and too many people shred the load, creating a vacuum of flow that would go on to suck the life out of the offense. Will Muschamp will be changing the offense in many ways, and the offense wil lnow include a fullback and a TE, meaning that the focus will be on Brantley as a passer, and will focus on two or three primary backs, rather than the scattered playbook that was popular under the here today, and gone tomorrow Meyer. 5 of the top 6 receivers return next season, and with a newly refocused offense, they should all benefit.
     The defense did everything that they were supposed to do. They held opposing passing games to just 173 yards per game, and opposing run games were held to 129.9 yards per game. Both of those totals were solid and commendable. The D held teams to 14 points or less 7 times in 2010.
     Ahmad Black led the team from the secondary with 107 tackles, but he is gone now, and there was a healthy drop to the next tackler, and with 5 of the top 7 tacklers moving on, Muschamp will have some building to do, but that is supposed to be his specialty.
      The PK game was an absolute disaster last season, and it will be the job of Caleb Sturgess to make the job his this season. Sturgis only hit on 2 of his 4 FG attempts, so that may be an adventure at best. Zack Brust could challenge. Chas Henry averaged over 45 yards per punt, but he departs, leaving a massive gap in the special teams game.
Final Notes
     Urban Meyer quit again, apprently for good this time, and Will Muschampwas brought in to replace him. Muschamp, the former coach in waiting at Texas, brings a different philosophy to the Gators, and so you should see a more traditional look to every aspect of the Gator team. Last season had to go down as a huge disappointment, and it will be up to the young Muschamp to bring the swagger back. He has it cut out for him.

The following squads all finished with losing records...

Georgia Bulldogs
2010 Record: 6-7 (3-5), Tied 3rd SEC East
2010 Bowl Game: Liberty Bowl, Lost to Central Florida 10-6

The Good:
  • Aaron Murray had a very strong freshman campaign, as he passed for 24 TDs and only 8 picks on the season. He averaged 234.5 yards per game, and looked like a very nice long term answer to the QB position.
  • Washaun Ealey rushed for 811 yards and 11 TDs on the season
  • AJ Green posted a line of 57-848-9 and parlayed that into a 1st round selection in the NFL Draft.
  • Kris Durham averaged 20.59 yards per reception and Tavarres King looked like a potential star in the making at times as a sophomore.
  • Akeem Dent rackedup 125 tackles on the season
  • Young DB Baccari Rambo looks like the leader for 2011 for the defense, as he piled up 82 tackles.
  • Justin Houston was a major disruptor, as he collected 19.5 TFLs and added 11 sacks.
  • Blair Walsh connected on 20 of 23 FG attempts.
  • Dre Butler averaged over 44 yards on punts.
The Bad

  • Washaun Ealey ran into many issues and eventually left school this offseason with the intention to transfer.
  • The loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl was like the bottom falling out.
  • Mark Richt finished the season with the pressure building, as he has become looked upon as a major underachiever.
  • AJ Green was the only receiver with over 50 receptions.
  • Georgia lost 4 of their first 5 games, 3 of which came on the road.
  • Georgia only defeated one team all season that finished with a winning record.
  • The Bulldogs finished the season on a 2-3 run.
Final Notes
Nobody enters the 2010 season under more pressure to deliver than Richt. Another average record and non-New Years Bowl will be enough to likely oust him from Athens, as faith has wavered big time. That UCF loss in the Liberty Bowl was like a death blow to this program.

Tennessee Volunteers
2010 Record: 6-7 (3-5), Tied 3rd SEC East
2010 Bowl Game: Music City Bowl, Lost to North Carolina 30-27 (2OT)

The Good:
  • Tyler Bray showed flashes as a freshman at QB, averaging 205 yards er game, and passing for 18 TDs
  • Tauren Poole bustedout for 1034 yards and 11 TDs.
  • Denarius Moore put together a line of 47-981-9 to lead the receivers. Gerald Jones caught 55 passes.
  • Nick Reveiz led the defense with 108 tackles.
  • Malik Jackson finished with 11 TFLs
  • Prentiss Waggner returned 3 picks for scores.
  • Marsalis Teague defended 8 passes.
  • Dan Lincoln made 10 of 11 FGs
The Bad
  • Expected starter Matt Simms was unable to hold onto the starting job at QB
  • There was no depth at RB, as Poole was the only back with significant yards
  • Beyond the first two WRs and the starting TE, there was very little receiving production
  • Other than Reveiz, only two other Vol defenders averaged over 5 tackles per game
  • Tennessee lost 6 of their first 8 games before finishing strong with 4 straight wins
  • Those 4 wins all came against opponents with losing records
Final Notes
Derek Dooley certainly seemed overmatched at times last season, and the refs hosed UT out of a Music City Bowl win that the vols thought that they had won. The talent level still isn't up to par, and the depth is murky at best. Tennessee could be in for some trouble in 2011.

Kentucky Wildcats
2010 Record: 6-7 (2-6), 5th SEC East
2010 Bowl Game: Compass Bowl, Lost to Pittsburgh 27-10

The Good:
  •  Mike Hartline passed for 3178 yards and 23 TDs, while completing 66.2% of his passes.
  • Derrick Locke rushed for 10 TDs
  • Randall Cobb rackedup 1017 yards receiving, while Chris Matthews racked up 925 more. They combined for 16 TDs. Cobb also returned a punt for a score.
  • Danny Trevathan piled up 144 tackles, and Winston Guy had 105 more.
  • Trevathan added 16 TFLs
  • Randall Burden defended 6 passes
  • Ryan Tydlacka averaged 43.81 yards per punt.
  • Wins came against Louisville, and eventual SEC Champ South Carolina
The Bad:
  • No 1000 yard rushers
  • Very little production behind Cobb and Matthews
  • Other then Travathan and Guy, very little production on defense
  • Trevathan was the only TFL threat on the defense
  • Only 19 sacks on the season, with nobody collecting more than 2.5
  • 3 wins came against Western Kentucky, Akron, and Charleston Southern
Final Notes
The Rich Brooks era ended witha thud against Pittsburgh. It has become apparent that going to a bowl...any bowl...is all that really matters to UK fans, as they seem completely ok with going 6-7, and they are treating it like a winning season in a lot of ways. UK goes into complete rebuilding mode now under new HC Joker Phillips.

Ole Miss Rebels
2010 Record: 4-8 (1-7), 6th SEC West
2010 Bowl Game: None

The Good:
  • Brendan Bolden seemed to be the heart of the offense as he rushed for 976 yards and 14 scores
  • Marketh Sumers averaged over 20 yards per catch on the season
  • Bryson Rose hit 16 of 18 FG tries
  • Tyler Campbell averaged 46 yards per punt ast fall
  • Jonathon Cornell collected 14 TFLs
The Bad:
  • The Jeremiah Masoli experiment was a basic abject failure, as Masoli never lived up to his billing after transferring from Oregon
  • The season started ugly to a home loss to FCS member Jacksonville State and former Arkansas coach Jack Crowe
  • Lost 6 of last 7 games with only win coming against Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Gave up just under 400 yards per game
Final Notes
The Houston Nutt honeymoon in Oxford appears over with at this point. The loss to JSU was embarrassing to say the least, and it set the tone for the rest of the season. Nutt has a ton of work to do, and will be toying with a new transfer at QB in Barry Brunetti from West Virgnia. Look for more of the same in 2011.

Vanderbilt Commodores
2010 Record: 2-10 (1-7)
2010 Bowl Game: None

The Good:
  • Richard Kent averaged 41.8 yards per punt
  • Sean Richardson, Chris Marve, John Stokes, and Casey Hayward all averaged over 5 tackles per game
  • Hayward defended 11 passes and picked off 6
The Bad:
  • The offense averaged only 298 yards per game
  • QB productivity was almost non-existent
  • the run game was a vacant lot all season, wth nobody stepping up to be the primary back
  • defense gave up 419 yards per game
  • Held to 21 points or less 10 times. Only scored more against Ole Miss and Eastern Michigan
  • Defense gave up 226 yards passing and 193 yards rushing per game
Final Notes
Remember just a couple of years ago when Bobby Wallace took the Commodores to a bowl game and it looked like things were looking up? Wallace quit 3 weeks before the first game, leaving Robbie Caldwell to run the show right into the ground, and now Caldwell is gone as well. It's going to take a while for new HC James Franklin (former Maryland OC) to get the ship running, and it may never happen at all.
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