Feb. 13, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Happy Friday the 13th. Coach Weis will start with some opening comments about a number of things, then we'll take some questions from the media. Coach Weis.
COACH WEIS: First of all, I'm in a good mood after that nail biting victory by our basketball team last night. I was very happy for Coach Brey, our hoops team. That was an impressive performance. Lifted my spirits.
A couple of follow ups from our signing day. I told you we were involved with a couple more players there down the end. We did end up getting Roby Toma, wide receiver. He was the Hawaii co offensive player of the year this year. He played in a couple of the All Star Games. 1400 yards in catches, 15 touchdowns, return kickoff, played some DB. Ended up having 19 touchdowns overall. We were really happy to get him at the end.
We went into the year kind of hoping to land two wide receivers in our recruiting class. Now it all played out, that's how it ended up working out. That was good for us.
Tom's question last time about numbers going into next year, it looks as though the combination of recruits and fifth years will be in the 24 to 25 range, the combination of the two.
The main topic that I'd like to talk about today really is our coaching staff, configuration of our coaching staff, some issues as we go forward.
First of all, I'm going to be the offensive coordinator. I'm obviously the head coach, but I'm going to be the offensive coordinator with Michael (Haywood) leaving to go on to Miami of Ohio. I thought the best chance for us to win this year would be to make me the offensive coordinator.
What that's done though, is it's caused a trickle down effect in configuration of our staff with both Corwin (Brown) and Jon (Tenuta). We are now the title kings, as you look at that handout that Brian got you. There's all sorts of titles, okay? Let's say what everyone is doing.
Because I'm now running the offense, not just the play caller, Corwin is now kind of my second in command. You'll see he now has been promoted to the associate head coach, because there's going to be times where I need input from him, especially during the season, on some matters as it relates to the defense overall and special teams, because I'm going to be spending the majority of my time during the season with the offense.
In the spring it's much easier to do because it's always offense against defense. There are not show teams. So everything is together. But that's not the case once the season comes around.
So Corwin will be the associate head coach, okay? He will be a co defensive coordinator, because some of his responsibilities will now fall on Jon's shoulders, which I'll talk about momentarily, and he'll continue to coach the defensive secondary.
Jon, who is the assistant head coach on defense, he will keep that title, but now he will take over as the defensive coordinator. He will be the play caller on defense, just like I'm the play caller on offense. By the way, Corwin, as Brian told you guys, wasn't going to be available today because he's getting back into town today.
He has a prepared statement on several issues that Brian will get to you as it relates to this subject.
So with me calling the offense, Jon calling the defense, Jon being the defensive coordinator, Corwin being the co coordinator because it's a collaborative effort really between those guys. And now with these additional titles, I now feel I have the leadership in place when we go forward into the football season to make sure I'm not negligent.
Before I go on to the other staff members, let me address one subject. One of the questions will be, `Does that mean you're not going to spend any time with the defense or the special teams?' The answer to that question is, in the spring, it's very easy to keep doing all three things because you're together all the time. But during the season, what it means, it's just going to cost me more time in the evenings because I'm going to have to spend more of my time with defense and special teams when we're done with offense. That's just a burden I figured I had to put on my own shoulders, and that's what I intend to do.
Now, the next subject. Let's talk about the defensive line coach. There's been a lot of speculation out there. Most of it's been right on your guy's part, which is normally the case when you do your due diligence.
I've been, for over a month, going back and forth with Romeo (Crennel). Most of you guys know that Romeo and I are close friends. When he got let go from the Browns, we started talking about the possibility of coming over here and working with me.
Well, at first it was just, What are we going to do? We'll talk about it. Then when Bryant Young decided to come here as a graduate assistant, this really turned up a couple of notches, because with Romeo still having a couple years left on his contract, it was a very favorable situation for me that he could come.
Now, instead of me hiring I had interviewed a couple guys at the defensive line coach already. When Bryant came in, I thought I'd like to bring him in here to eventually be a defensive line coach. I didn't want to bring him in here to be a career graduate assistant after 14 years in the NFL.
At the same time, I don't know whether or not he's going to enjoy coaching. He's never done it before. I know he can coach fundamentals and techniques and work with the players, but I had to see how this was going to work.
Romeo and I set a timetable for this week, because next week he's going to have his hip replaced. We set a timetable for this week to kind of come to a conclusion on this one.
Before he went on a little vacation this week, we talked earlier this week, we decided that he wasn't in a position at this time to make a commitment to do this, so we're going to move in another direction.
My other direction will be resolved here within days. As most of you know me well enough by now, it isn't like there isn't, What are we going to do if the answer is no? So we'll have the defensive line situation resolved very quickly. But I was not going to go with any other defensive line coach until after Romeo made the decision whether he was going to do it or not do it.
Now, obviously we brought in Bryant. He's going to be available to you today. With both Bryant and Kinnon (Tatum) we have two ex Notre Dame football players who we would like to groom as potential members on our staff. We'll just have to wait and see how that goes, okay?
Let's go over the offensive staff. I already talked about the new offensive coordinator, so let's talk about a couple other titles here.
Rob Ianello, who has been our recruiting coordinator and our wide receiver coach, really knows how I like to do things. He will add a title as assistant head coach on offense. What he then is, is a sounding board for the offense when I'm not there, or things come up that they have somebody to turn to.
Especially having two new guys on the staff with Frank (Verducci) and Tony (Alford), I needed an experienced guy to kind of be the sounding board to this offensive staff to get to me when any issue has to be resolved. So he will add that title.
Frank, who came in as the offensive line coach, has now added a title as the run game coordinator. One of the reasons we're doing that is because I've done a lot of study on our football team and where our football team is at this point in comparison to BCS championship caliber teams, and we're a distant trailer, in the run game in particular.
So I felt that just me being the coordinator, I felt that I needed somebody that had to put an emphasis on the run game. Frank will be my emphasis when it comes to that.
You know, Tony Alford I obviously hired, and made a statement coming out of Louisville as our running back coach. That's really working out really well. Bernie (Parmalee), Ron (Powlus), Brian (Polian), they keep their same positions they have. And then this week I added an offensive graduate assistant from the University of Maryland by the name of Brian White. His information is also in that handout you've been given today.
He's been with Coach Friedgen here for the last two or three years. As a matter of fact, for the last month and a change of the season, he was their special teams coach and tight end coach on an interim basis. When that interim basis was then filled by somebody else, he ended up coming here as a graduate assistant.
So they are the issues as relates to our coaching staff. Recruiting, I talked about Roby. Really the only other issue that I want to bring up, there were two personnel issues that most of you know on one of them, Darrin Walls is obviously back in school.
On the second one, which conjecture would have won out here, but I put Luke Schmidt on medical because of recurring concussions. I just felt Luke and I and his parents, we all met and felt it would be in his best interest if he moved on and didn't play any more football, because it was getting to be too risky with the number of concussions that he was having.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.
Q. You touched on Tom's question from last time out. Can you expand? What can you tell us about the fifth year guys?
COACH WEIS: I asked about that this morning. Brian and I were talking about what exactly we could say.
I can tell you that several guys have applied for the fifth year. You know, there's a bunch of them that have applied. After going through the faculty advisory board, they said that really in the past what we've really done is done more than what I'm going to do right now, is told you, Here are the guys who have applied for a fifth year. But they said they wanted to just say that several guys have applied for it.
They've not rejected a guy yet, but still they have to go through the process. Let me just let that play its course.
Q. A lot of feedback back at the shop about calling plays from the booth. Have you given any more thought to that?
COACH WEIS: My wife has asked me that, as well. That's no kidding, you know. I mean, she's asked me the same question.
I can tell you that it's a subject that we've addressed as a staff. Although I'd say it's definitely on the lower end of 50/50, it's not something that's a 5% consideration by us at this point.
Here is the problem with that. If you go upstairs, you obviously have to stay upstairs. The first time you come downstairs, now you open yourself up for a whole different set of scrutiny. So what you have to decide, you know, is what is the best in both short term and long term.
You don't want to say, Well, let's go up for Nevada, let's come down for Michigan. You can't do that. So whatever that decision is, you have to intend to do it on a fairly permanent basis.
I can honestly tell you it's not a no. It's something that's still under consideration. My wife will be very happy that you asked that question.
Q. Obviously when you put your first staff together, you were a little bit handcuffed, trying to coach the Patriots and whatnot. There was reference and word of mouth. Does it feel better to be able to plug the holes this way?
COACH WEIS: I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to do conceptually I was happy with how things came together, but the one thing you can't do, unless you're around, is feel chemistry. I think that a critical factor in successful programs is chemistry. There has to be chemistry. Chemistry with the players, but there has to be chemistry with the coaching staff.
That's why with this defensive line hire, you couldn't just hire anybody. Corwin was calling the defense last year, Jon is calling the defense this year, but they're both in a collaborative effort to set up the game plan. You need to have a defensive line coach that fits in with both those guys. It couldn't be just somebody that could coach the defensive line.
So That guy had to coach the defensive line, had to train Bryant Young, and has to be able to get along with both Jon and Corwin. So I think that's the one thing you couldn't do from afar, that now I feel as we go forward I've got much more comfortable doing.
Q. Can we expect any tangible differences in the looks of the defense?
COACH WEIS: You go back and forth. It's always great in football terminology going back and forth between 34 and 43. Like last year we were a 34 defense, but we're playing an under defense the whole year, which is a 43, you know, with 34 personnel.
Most of the stuff will be almost exactly the same. It's just that we might change some of the terms. When we line up in what looks like a 43 defense, we'll probably call it a 43 defense. But when we line up in an odd defense, we'll probably call it an odd or 34 defense. That would probably be the biggest thing.
But we haven't gotten to that. That's something that as we get into spring ball...
Right now the most important thing, we got through recruiting. I gave the coaches a little time off. I want to get the staff under control. On Monday of this week, you know, the players start doing some of their well documented mat drills and everything else that they really, really enjoy doing. Monday is their coming out party for that, so things are falling together nicely.
Q. Is there anyone that that's had surgery or an injury?
COACH WEIS: There's a whole bunch of guys that could be in that category. I'm going to table to what extent till we get closer to spring ball, because there's some shoulders, which means they'll be out there practicing, but there won't be contact. There's ankles, there's knees, there's tonsils. Tonsils are a big one. We've had a whole bunch of guys having tonsils pulled. We're going to have one guy get his tonsils pulled this week. Usually these guys lose a whole bunch of weight. I guess I should have my tonsils pulled. They can lose about 25 pounds. So we've had a whole bunch of things like that.
But, you know, the best thing I can tell you, let's work on the back end instead of the front end. There's no one that's projected to not be ready to go for training camp. That's one of the reasons why you get them done so quickly. As far as whether or not they're full speed or not come spring ball, I'll get you those answers right before we get going in March.
Q. Is this tonsil thing typical?
COACH WEIS: Every year there seems to be something that's en vogue. This year, I'm sitting there with Jim, he needs his tonsils out, he needs his tonsils out. I've never heard so many people needing their tonsils out at the same time. There was a whole bunch. Just yesterday we got another one. All those have been resolved, because we had all those things done right away.
We had another, Do you want to have his tonsils out now or after spring? How do I know? How can I answer that question (laughter)?
Q. Has there been any resolution with Jashaad Gaines?
COACH WEIS: You know, it's interesting, because just last week he had an open door policy to come here. Just last week he was still not enrolled in any school yet. So I try not to pry too much, because I don't really know the magnitude of how bad the problems are. You just make yourself available if you want to do that.
I'm not sure, based on the questions he asked, Like, Well, if he wanted to stay out here could I go to that school? Yes. If I wanted to go here, could I go to that school? Yes. I don't think he really knows what he wants to do yet, because I don't really know the magnitude of problems. I really think it would be out of line if I asked.
Q. Is this a time where you're thinking about position switches for spring? Is the staff talking about that?
COACH WEIS: Well, we talked about a whole bunch of 'em yesterday. But what's happened now is we're not going to etch anything in stone going into spring until after everything is settled. Corwin is getting back tonight. The defensive line coach probably next week. We want to get everyone in before we start doing that.
Remember now, I got two new offensive coaches that are just trying to learn their guys right now. So I think there's a little bit of a transition going on here for the short time frame. But I think all those questions I think we have a good jump start on it because we know our guys pretty well.
But we have everyone positioned in slots. I think by the time March 19th or 20th rolls around we'll be in a lot better shape to be able to answer those questions.
Q. The study you did as far as Notre Dame's running games versus what BCS running games teams look like, you're bringing in Frank, making him the running game coordinator. Specifically, what are some of the ideas he has that close that gap?
COACH WEIS: Well, the first thing is when you bring somebody in with his experience, which is extensive, that's an outsider, not an insider, I think they can be objective then to the pros and cons of the things you do well and the things you don't do well.
I think sometimes when you're looking at your own stuff you say, If the runningback would have cut there we would have cut a couple more yards. If that guy would have blocked that we would have got a couple more yards. But they didn't.
The bottom line is whether they do or they don't. You look at our rushing average. I think it was 3.3. Most teams on a championship level are over 4.6. That's 1.3 yards a carry. We're not talking half a yard now.
That's obviously an area of concern on my part, and an area that I drastically think has to improve if we're gonna play championship caliber football.
Q. With regard to the two kids from Hawaii, I had a chance to talk to Roby. He thought not only are those two kids coming here, but there are some other kids.
COACH WEIS: That means from the high school, not to play football. There's a bunch of kids. It was interesting. On Manti's visit, the Friday night he comes in here, they go to a little Hawaii student gathering to let them know it's people from Hawaii. He tells me, I'm talking to him Saturday morning, and he says, I'm sitting there and some girl walks by and says, Hi, Manti. It was a girl that graduated the year before. He does a double take. He didn't realize there are so many kids from his high school that actually go to school here.
It's kind of a Notre Dame sending district, thankfully (laughter).
Q. Last thing with Manti. Which of the linebacker positions do you project for him?
COACH WEIS: Well, he'll be one of the inside linebackers. He could play inside or out, but he'll be an inside linebacker.
COACH WEIS: Jack might be a Will. The Will that was an end could be a Will. We'll get to it in March. One of the inside linebackers. Mike or Jack, based off the verbiage from last year, yes, one of the those two positions.
Q. Is there any situation that could arise where Bryant Young would be the defensive line coach?
COACH WEIS: I don't think that that would happen this year. That situation is hopefully one that's going to end up matriculating, but just not at this time.
There's two things. Not that he's not capable of doing it. I want to make sure this is something he wants to do. You know, football players that transition to be coaches, some of 'em it really works and some of it doesn't work.
Because when you realize the coach's hours versus the player's hours, there's two different set of circumstances. He has a wife, bunch of kids. You know, there's other factors here.
But ultimately my game plan of hire changed when he came in as a GA, because it changed from hiring a guy that will be here forever to hiring a guy that you can bring in here that is an experienced guy, that you can groom him to potentially being our defensive line coach.
Q. How did the relationship come about? You knew him from the NFL?
COACH WEIS: I knew him from the NFL. To be honest with you, we started we really started talking right after he retired. That's when we really started talking. I invited him out here. I gave him an open door policy. He could come any time he wanted. He said he was going to do a lot of travel.
Both he and his wife love this place. They just love the place. It's something he wanted to do. He had other options now. He could have gone to work with the 49ers. The Carolina Panthers offered him a job. But he wanted to come here.
Q. This may be premature. Last year with Mendoza, the approach with the offensive linemen was more of quick burst type work, where I think the previous couple of years they ran a lot of 110s. Philosophy change. Where are you going with that on the offensive line?
COACH WEIS: We're meeting Monday morning at 8:00. The answer to that question I just met with Ruben yesterday to set up a meeting with him and the staff for Monday morning at 8:00. We just got done recruiting. Right now they've been doing to what we do at this stage of the year. The running part really cranks up for Monday. So we'll address it on Monday.
Q. Do you personally have a philosophy one way or another?
COACH WEIS: Well, we as a staff interject our philosophy. First I'll listen to Ruben. Ruben is the expert. We chime in based off of what we think on what he says.
Q. I presume your wife's desire talking about you coaching up in the booth, she's looking out for your health and well being.
COACH WEIS: No, she saw us score a whole bunch of points against Hawaii. I don't think she's worrying about my health. I think she just wants to win football games. She's like every other fan. What have you done for me lately? That seemed to work. What do you think? What do you think?
For all you people, all your readers or followers that are going to follow up on this press conference, just know that Maura is right there with you.
Q. As far as your health, how is the knee that you had surgery on, and what is the status of the other knee?
COACH WEIS: The one I had surgery on is coming on very nicely. Dr. Yergler did a nice job. The therapist Jim Russ and his wife helped me a whole bunch. People over at South Bend Orthopaedics, Patrick, my therapist over there, things have just gone nicely. I walk around a little bit like I'm an old man. I've gone from the walker to crutches to a cane to nothing. I walk slow, but I'm pain free.
When I was under anesthesia to have the right one done, they checked out my MCL on the left one. My left one is relatively firm. As I said, no kidding intended, me and 'fast twitch' are not in the same sentence. But because it's firm and I have no pain, we tabled the February 24th operation. We're just gonna put it off until there is pain, because there isn't.
At this point I think we're just going to try to move forward from where I am right now.
Q. Sometimes when an associate head coach gets a role, like Corwin, can you be specific with what his role will be?
COACH WEIS: Well, let's go one hypothetical role. One hypothetical role is if I decide to go upstairs, somebody's going to have to act in your stead downstairs. A lot of these are still hypothetical. But that's a hypothetical.
Like going into this game that we just played, he was the guy on the field that was going to talk to the officials, all those other things. So even though that is just one example, those are the type of things where when you have somebody programmed in like he's the guy, then there's no question in the hierarchy, the leadership, of who's doing what.
I think there's several issues that this could fall under, but I'm just giving you one example.
Q. I know you haven't spent a lot of time up there, but what were the specific advantages? How much of an advantage was it to be up there schematically?
COACH WEIS: Here is the major problem. It's the dilemma you face when you're asked this question.
Realistically as a play caller, you can call the game very easily from the field just as long as people are feeding you from upstairs on stuff. Not, Let's do this, let's do this, let's do this, let's do this, okay?
So, for example, when I was in New England, I had a guy by the name of Jeff Davidson, offensive coordinator for the Panthers, who was in that role. You can't have more than one person doing that, okay? Let's do this, let's do this. So it's very easy to call the game from the field when you have somebody who you and him are already on the same page with, okay? So that's the reason why it works when you're on the field.
As far as an offensive coordinator on your own, you could see everything before it happens. I mean, you would have had a couple good chuckles during that game if you would have heard my voice raised before play is even called. We called that one screen pass. I said, They're bringing the house here, fellas. Before they go. Here they come. It's a walk in. We haven't snapped the ball yet, and I already know they're bringing the house and it's going to be a walk in touchdown.
Chris Stewart went out there and he had no one to block. You can see it happen before it happens, whereas on the field you can't see it happen before it happens. You see it as it happens.
Therein lies the best advantage of being upstairs. Downstairs is more practical as the head coach. Upstairs is more practical as the offensive coordinator. So the question then comes, you know, which one wins out, and can you find that chemistry that I was talking about with somebody that can feed you, because if you can, then the best answer would be to be down on the field.
Q. As far as the running game coordinators, you were evaluating how you wanted your staff organized. What appealed to you about having that title?
COACH WEIS: When you're doing research, on a weekly basis, gives the coaches different assignments to do research, so when you go to game plan, when you go to put everything together, you know, who's got the primary responsibility to research and make suggestions, okay?
So that's what Frank will do. He'll have the primary responsibility of researching to make suggestions, so that when we get together as a staff, you know, you're either rubber stamping it, saying, No, we need to do this, need to do that.
That doesn't mean everything he says we end up doing, but usually the majority of what he ends up recommending gives you the best chance of being successful in that game.
Q. You talked in the past about coach's ability to put his players in position to make plays. As the head coach here, how can you help the running game be in a position to make plays?
COACH WEIS: The first thing Frank needs to do, and he knows it, is know our players. So I think come Monday when he starts to be around and see the players a lot more. Remember, we can't use a football till spring ball. But when you're around the players more, you start to see them, because you're off the road from recruiting, can start watching things now, now you can actually start making evaluations of what you think people can do.
I think we're a little ways away. He's playing a little catch up right now. But just yesterday both Tony and Frank expressed to me their number one priority was to get to know our players and what they can do.
Q. Were you surprised that Bryant wanted to come back?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that he was in a unique situation. He was in a unique situation in the fact that he's made a good living in the NFL, so he didn't have to be in a rush to make a decision to what I really want to do with my life. So he took a year to go travel and all those other things.
At the end of the day, I think he found this is really what he wants to do. At least what he wants to do is find out whether this is what he wants to do. There aren't many people in today's society that have that freedom to say, Let me see if I want to do this.
I think he has potential to be very good at it. I think he can be very good at it. And, you know, what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to bring in more Notre Dame guys that you can eventually hire on the staff and stay here forever. It wouldn't bother me no offense intended to the rest of my staff but it wouldn't offend me when all was said and done that everybody went to the Notre Dame. That wouldn't offend me at all.
Q. You mentioned coaching chemistry. What qualities are you looking for when you bring a person in?
COACH WEIS: Let's talk about the current situation I'm going through with the defensive line coach. Let me use that as an example.
You have two coordinator types already on the defensive staff in Corwin and Jon. You have a guy you got to bring in here, okay? First of all, he's got to have chemistry with Jon. Second of all, he has to have chemistry with Corwin. Third of all, he has to have chemistry with Bryant Young.
That's before we even get into coaching. So sometimes when you're going through these interview processes, a lot of it is spending time with the different people, you know. It isn't just the football. It's not just the X's and O's. It's how everything's gonna mix together, because coaches spend a lot of time together.
You know, I spend a lot more time with the coaches during football season than I do with my family. I think that's an important thing.
I think when you hire people, you want to hire people that kind of are like everybody else. That doesn't mean they have to be from the same part of country, but they have to think the same.
Q. Do you have a bunch of different personalities you're juggling around to make sure somebody fits in?
COACH WEIS: You never want to inhibit personalities. It's good to have different personalities. You don't want to have everyone's the same. But you want to have the chemistry as far as work ethic, family guys, guys that that the important to, that are passionate about Notre Dame being successful.
You just don't want Notre Dame to be a steppingstone for someone else. If you work hard and you win games and your guys end up getting jobs because you won games, that's a good thing. That's not a bad thing.
Q. Is there a model when you're talking to somebody, you say, All right, family guy, passion about the game, will mix with the players? Are there specific qualities you are just looking at in someone?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, you want a guy that is going to be a great teacher, first of all. But you also want a guy with a lot of energy. You want a guy that can recruit. That's before you even worry about how they get along with everyone else.
For example, Frank is from New Jersey. How can I go wrong there? I mean, I'm saying that sarcastically, but I've seen the Frank Verduccis a thousand times. For me personally, that's an easy one. If it wasn't Frank Verducci, it was Nick Bongi (ph) or Bob Cordello (ph). I've seen Frank Verducci a whole bunch of times. Just didn't live in my hometown.
For me that was an easy one. You know, Tony Alford, Michael Haywood, big personality. He's now the head coach at Miami of Ohio. It was important to have someone come in that was a good teacher, that was going to be an instant connection with the players, and that's already happened.
You can tell when players are standoffish or something is there, so that's already happened. I think you have to look at those situations as unique.
Q. With the changes in the staff, can you tell us if there will be any changes in the recruiting?
COACH WEIS: There will be some tweaks in the area. I'll give you an example. Rob, in the past when he had Texas, really was in the Houston area, okay? But with Michael being from Houston, he was down in Houston, Rob up in Dallas.
Now with Tony coming in, one of his areas was Dallas. He knows all those people in Dallas. So what we'll do, is Rob, in addition to keeping his Chicago niche, where he has already. Now he'll go down and take the Houston area again where he was, and Tony will take over in there.
In addition, you know, Tony was working especially the west coast and the northern part of Florida, okay? Well, Ron Powlus kind of had that area. I'll take Ron out of that area and give it to Tony. With John (Latina) leaving, we'll put Jon in Pennsylvania, so we go ahead and have Pennsylvania covered.
I mean, Frank Verducci going into New Jersey, I mean, the name Verducci, I know you don't know the name yourself, but in high school football, both his father and his uncle are icons in New Jersey football. I mean, everyone knows the name Verducci. Anybody, any high school coach in New Jersey would know the name Verducci. That was his father and uncle. He walks into that state, he has instant appeal.
You have to put people in areas.
Now, Tony also was from Colorado. We'll throw Colorado at him as another state so he can hit his home turf. Frank spent a lot of time coaching in Iowa, so we'll continue with Iowa as an additional territory.
I think it all transitions nicely.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone.
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