March 20, 2009
BRIAN HARDIN: Good afternoon, everyone, this is Brian Hardin here at Notre Dame. We have Coach Weis at the front table. He's going to start with some opening remarks, and we'll take questions from the media.
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. Get right down to business. Let's start with those depth charts that you've just been handed out. Brian's already given you one aspect that I am going to stay away from.
You'll see several players in italics. Those guys that are in italics are limited this spring for one reason or another. You know, some of them are because of injuries. Some of them are because of academics. One of them is because of baseball. I'll give that as an example. You'll see Golden Tate listed at the third X, maybe, on the offensive page. I think he's probably listed as a third X. Well, obviously Golden is starting and leading off for the baseball team.
So they're playing this weekend. They're playing a weekend series, so Friday and Saturday he'll be playing baseball, but on Monday, they have no game. I've met with Coach Schrage, because he's limited, and I've worked out with they'll stay within compliance of the number of hours that he's allowed to be involved in a week.
Some guys have injuries, some guys have academics. But rather than you guys playing a guessing game of who is out there or what, the first two days you're out there without pads on, so there is more guys that are out there doing things than when you start putting pads on. Some of those guys end up not having pads on. So I figured I'd go ahead and get that out of the way all at one time.
The second point is objectives of the spring. I really put down four things as we go into the spring that I identify as objectives. One new one is kind of mesh our new coaches and our new coaching assignments together in the spring time. Obviously, I brought in three new coaches with Frank Verducci and Tony Alford and Randy Hart.
In addition to having some of, you know graduate assistants and interns that are around as well where there's been some of those guys. And in addition, you know, there's been a change of job responsibilities of different coaches as well.
So one of our objectives in the spring time is to get that all worked out and meshed so as we go into training camp and into the season, everyone's set and ready to go.
Second objective as related to our self scout, which is our analysis of this past season. Every year we spend an in depth amount of time analyzing what we did well and what we didn't do well, both on an X and O version, and mentally as well. Why things were working or why things weren't working and why. We identify them and then we decide are we going to try to fix it, throw it out? What exactly are we going to do?
I'll give you an example on offense, defense and special teams so you see what I'm talking about. I'm a little frustrated in these first couple of days of spring because the way spring is laid out, you get 15 practices, one of them is the spring game, then you get three days you can't wear pads. Okay. So all you can do is wear jerseys and helmets.
The first two days are mandated two of those days. So we've identified as one of the things we really want to, you know, work on right off the bat offensively is our running game. You get a little frustrated in these first two days because when you go with no pads on, to work on your running game, you know, that just doesn't mesh too well.
But I think that come Monday I think that there will be a high level of hitting on both sides of the ball very early in training camp. Very early in the spring. This isn't something that we're going to be easing into because both offensively and defensively we've identified that as things that are going to make a difference between us winning and losing.
Secondly, I'll just talk about defense. You know, we're switching on paper from a three four to a four three. So we need to get players settled down at their positions. Really, there is very much familiarity because our will linebacker is really translates into our weak side end, so there's a lot of familiarity with some of these people. You'll see a couple of people at a couple of different positions. But that depth chart that you have is based off of our four three defense. It's not based off of our nickel defense.
I'll give you one example on defense. We were pretty good on a couple of situations on third down, but third and long was probably one of our areas of weakness. So that we've identified that as one of the specific areas when it gets to third and longer to make sure we get off the field.
On special teams, I thought we had a pretty good year in our coverage units, both the kickoff coverage and our punt coverage. But I thought we were pretty crummy on both return games. You know, the punt return and kickoff return. Even though we ended up with our first touchdown in an eternity on kickoff return in the bowl game. But I think for the year it was inconsistent at best. I think our specialists, though we improved as the year went on, we didn't get much production early in the year. So that's one of the things that we're putting the point of emphasis on is the self scout, getting more consistency with from our specialists and improving our return units.
A third objective is just outright competition. I think some of these guys have to it's time for them to step up. You know, we've got some of these guys in italics can't go full speed. We've got potential fifth year guys we're talking about. You've got some recruits coming in in the summertime when the reinforcements end up getting here. Some of these guys it's their last opportunity to put themselves in the mix.
So this is the time. I think this is going to be a very competitive spring because so many, so many guys on both sides of the ball have been playing, practically the entire offense, has been playing, and you know, a majority of the defense. Even a couple of the key losses that we had on defense where you lose David Bruton, you know, you lose David Bruton, and we're moving Harrison Smith from Sam linebacker to free safety. You lose Terrail Lambert, you've got Darrin Walls back in school.
So even a couple of the positions we're losing front line guys, we feel we have front line guys that are already replacing the front line guys that are walking out the door.
And last but not least I think one of our objectives this spring is to improve the maturity of our team. I think that players can easily fall into an excuse of we're young, we're young, we're young.
For the past couple of years the bottom line is we have a lot of guys that aren't that young anymore. And it's time for them to step up and mature as a group, mature as a team. And integrate some of the younger position guys. For example, you see on the defensive line at the left defensive end you'll see Kapron Lewis Moore's listed as a starter.
There's a guy who hasn't played a down yet and we have him listed as a starter. We think he has a chance of not only starting the spring there, we think he has a chance of ending the spring there. So we're going to put some pressure on him.
But you've got him, Kapron and Ethan (Johnson), so you have two really young guys listed in your first four defensive linemen. So although the defensive line as a group is young, okay, we'd like to see them become part of that maturation process of the of and in that maturation process, we have a number of guys that are viewed internally as leaders of the team. I'm interested to see who the leaders of the leaders are going to end up being.
I can give you a handful of guys on both sides of the ball that the players turn to. But I can't tell you right now the guys that are going to become the leaders of those leaders, therefore the leaders of the team.
I think that through the spring and into the summertime a lot of those questions will be answered.
Lastly, part of the maturity objective is finishing the game or finishing. I think that we all agree that last year there were games where you have double digit leads whether it's coaching offensive, defensive teams. Regardless of the combination of reasons when you have double digit leads in three games you go ahead and let those games get away. The team and coaching staff and everyone have to make sure that finishing the game is the utmost priority, and a lot of that comes with the maturity of your team.
Up or down, up or down. Press box or field? Okay, I don't want to make a media circus of up or down, okay? My intent is to coach the game from the field. That is my intent. Okay? As (Bill) Parcells said years ago, I reserve the right to change my mind, but that is my intent.
I talked to people at the collegiate level and pro level, from Andy Reid right on down. By a very, very large majority, almost everyone I talked to were overwhelming thinking I was thinking way outside the box.
Look, I got bad knees. Everyone knows that I just got reconstruction on the right knee. I didn't do it on the left knee. Could I end up upstairs based off of physical reasons some day? Yes, I could. But my intent is to coach from the field. I've gone over the plan with the coaching staff. Coach Ianello would go upstairs and be responsible for the touches. Coach Parmalee would go upstairs and be responsible for the fronts and the blitzes. Okay. That's their job description on a weekly basis when it comes to scouting reports. So we've already gone over this and as of right now, that's my intent.
Last but not least, I'm excited about the group of coaches we have coming in for the Blue and Gold Game. Because I just got this wrapped up yesterday. On defense we had the last two super bowls with our defensive coaches two years ago. The Giants win the Super Bowl, and Justin Tuck was the main reason why.
Well, Justin Tuck will be one of the coaches for the Blue and Gold Game. And Arizona was in the Super Bowl this year. And Bertrand Barry is coming. You know, Bertrand graduated in '97, whereas Justin graduated in 2004. But they were both major integral parts of the success of their teams, but we're delighted to have them coming in for the Blue and Gold Game.
Offensively, Jeff Faine, just yesterday we got that finally closed down. We've been working on this for a while. He was checking his mini camp schedules in Tampa. We're really excited.
He and I finally got a chance to iron that out yesterday and get him to come in. So he's excited and more and more excited about having him come in.
Last but not least, sometimes some of the guys that are here at Notre Dame working in different capacities are, you know, not kind of go under the radar. But I asked Reggie Brooks who has that manager job with the Monogram Club /Football Alumni relations, and he's really done a good job of kind of bridging the old players back into the family. And I asked him to be a part of this.
Though he's wearing a lot of hats that weekend, he will be involved in the Blue and Gold Game as well. So Reggie and Jeff will represent our offensive coaches, okay, and Bertrand and Justin will represent the defensive coaches.
Q. I just wondered with the upstairs/downstairs thing, you mentioned that one of the things that really made it feasible for you to be downstairs at New England was you had a guy in the box who was just terrific. Who is that guy? Is it a combination of Ianello and Parmalee, is that what you're saying?
COACH WEIS: I would talk to Rob first, because the coverage is the first thing I need to know. But what ends up happening is you call both your runs, play actions, protections and dropbacks between series. The number one issue is what blitzes are they bringing at you?
So the guy you talk to down-to-down is the guy who talks to you about what coverages you're seeing because it affects whether or not if they're playing too high the whole game, you'd like to be running the ball the whole game.
Coverages kind of dictates the play call early. But in series, the most important thing is not only to know what the coverages are, know what the fronts and stunts and blitzes. That's why I'm putting two veteran guys up there to handle those two job responsibilities.
Q. You mentioned it was an overwhelming majority among the people you polled. I was curious, does Maura's (Weis) vote only count as one?
COACH WEIS: Depends on who you ask that question to.
Q. As far as some of the personnel things, I noticed that Darius (Fleming) is really the linebacker in the configuration?
COACH WEIS: In the four three he's the Sam linebacker. We're anticipating a great majority of time playing nickel defense, as is the nature of what you go against. In nickel defense he's an end. He's a pass rushing, defensive end. But if we're playing on one of the things we want to avoid is going against teams that slug it out with you, ie, Michigan State. It slugs it out with people in there, and you're mismatched we want to make sure that we can slug it out with them.
I'll give you another example of that. We can take a guy like Ethan Johnson even though he's listed as a defensive tackle at the four three, and that's where he's going to be. If we needed to get a bigger body outside to the defensive end, he's one of the guys that we'd go ahead and bump out there.
Q. I'm assuming some of these is a lot like last year where you're playing spread team and you might see different people.
COACH WEIS: When you get an interior guy, and a spread team that likes to run the ball and has multiple wide receivers. Now you'd want to get more head speed on the field if that situation presented itself.
Q. I know that Manti Te'o is going to get an opportunity this fall. But as far as what you're doing in the spring, do you try to figure out at this point where he is going to end up? In terms of outside or inside?
COACH WEIS: I think that coming in all likelihood he's going to be one of those two inside positions. But right now he's not here. You know, so, right now it's time. For example, I could have easily taken Brian Smith and put him at the Will, and put Toryan Smith at the Mike because they're the two most veteran guys.
I've talked to Toryan about this as well. If we were playing a game today, Brian Smith would play the Will, and Toryan would play the Mike so I can play the most experienced guys out there.
But those two deep are going to get so many reps, so many reps as you go through the spring. I've got to find out is I've got to find out what (Steve) Filer can do. I've got to find out what (David) Posluszny can do. I've got to find out what they can do.
When the reinforcements come, if they're behind those guys they can find them. If they can beat them out, they can beat them out.
Q. You mentioned at an earlier press conference you have some options as a third quarterback after Dayne Crist and Jimmy Clausen, maybe E.J. Banks and John Goodman? How's that looking?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, I'd go to (Nate) Montana on just the regular things here, first of all. But if we were going to run an expanded version of our offense, it would be Goodman.
If we were going to be an isolated version of the offense, it would probably, because E.J.'s in italics right now, it would probably be Danny McCarthy, to tell you the truth.
If I was going to take a defensive guy and give him some offense, it would not be the whole offense, so I want to let Goodman have an opportunity to compete at wide receiver because I think he can do that. Then later in the spring we'll worry about sprinkling in those guys and getting them a little time. But it would defend on who it is to how much of the package we can do that in.
Q. At fullback you have (Steve) Paskorz. Is there any chance one of your running backs could be used at fullback?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely. We've already talked to James (Aldridge), to be honest with you. And we've talked to James about if getting toward closer to the end of his career here, and he was buried behind Armando (Allen) or if he got behind Robert (Hughes) and rather than sitting there in third. We talked about using him as a regular fullback.
So, you know, like the first couple of days when we only have one back in the back field, he'll be a half back all the time. But, yes, James has been addressed in two back sets being the other back in the back field.
Q. Following up on Goodman, is it something you could eventually see him becoming almost a hybrid guy?
COACH WEIS: He can throw the ball as far and as hard as the first two guys (Clausen and Crist). I mean, this kid can sling the football. But the thing is Michael, first things first. I want to give him an opportunity to compete as wide receiver, because I can see him in our two deep at wide receiver.
So first things first, before I get him ready to be the third quarterback, I want to see if I can get him in the two deep at wide receiver.
Q. What do you need to see from him at wide receiver? And what have you seen from him that makes you believe that?
COACH WEIS: Well, from the beginning of last year see what happens is every time a freshman comes in here because they were the stud at the high school they're in they figure that's how it's going to be walking in the door. Sometimes your eyes get opened a little bit. From the beginning of last year to the end of last year, how his confidence grew, you know, was absolutely tremendous.
He already had good ball skills, that was not the issue. He had become a lot more confident. As a matter of fact, just the other day I talked to both he and Deion, you know, it's time not to be freshmen anymore. They went through their year sabbatical. You know, but it's time to now go ahead and get in the mix. I really like what I've seen out of them. I really do.
Q. Is that something that the two of you guys talked about, that you see a lot of guys in front of you that you'll be able to work your way up?
COACH WEIS: Well, really, there's not that many guys in front of them anymore. I mean, the guys really got to be concerned are guys like Robby Parris and Duval Kamara who are sitting ahead of those guys. Those guys are waiting for an opportunity to get in the mix.
They have a golden opportunity to press those guys, because as you know, we don't care what year somebody is. You know, if they're the best guys, they end up playing.
Q. When you switch to the three four personnel last year, you talked about your comfort zone with that because you were familiar with that. Shifting back to the four three, does it still allow for the versatility that you're familiar with or doesn't that matter now because you're calling the plays and you haven't experienced it?
COACH WEIS: Well, most of the year we didn't play odd. So when you play a three four, okay, when you play a three four like the New York Giants when they put in the three four, there were two guard bubbles. Meaning there was no lineman on either guard.
Really, most of the year, we played under. Under means you have three linemen from the center to the weak side. So most of the time we just reduced the guy on the weak side and that so called low linebacker is blocked as a weak side defensive end.
So rather than saying we're a 3 4 with a reduced weak side, we're now just calling it a four three and playing the exact same front. So really what we're doing is almost exactly the same thing. So instead of calling that guy who is on the weak side tackle a will, he's now at a weak side end. And that's what he is. And that inside linebacker that used to be called the jack is now called the will.
You know, it's a terminology thing as much as anything else.
Q. Tell us what you'd like to see Jimmy develop in the spring?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that we were very inconsistent in the passing game last year. We had games where we were very, very good and games that were very, very bad. But probably the areas, the two areas, I'll give a big picture one and a smaller picture one, okay?
The big picture one is any time a team would play a soft zone against us, having the patience to understand what you do against a team playing a soft zone. You know, that comes back to that maturity thing that we were talking about a little bit before where we just take what they give and you don't try to force something down the field, and be methodical in what you do and be meticulous.
That's one of the things that both I and Ron (Powlus) are going to be drilling into the quarterbacks this spring. It's going to be a tough spring on the quarterbacks, okay.
I'll give you one that's more specifically related to Jimmy. Okay. Jimmy as I've showed him just the other day, I made a big cut up tape of Tommy Brady moving in the pocket. Now Tommy's never been known to be the fleetest of foot, but he's the best I've ever seen probably the best since (Dan) Marino that I've seen of moving in the pocket. Know where the pressure is, being able to slide to your left or slide to the right or step up or step back without bailing out of there. Then being able to look down field and see where your receivers are and still be able to throw them the ball.
I think specifically, for him to take it to the next level, okay, those are two issues that he's going to have to work on. Be patient when people are playing soft zone, okay, and then him, for Jimmy in particular, to work on movement in the pocket. Not from the pocket, but moving in the pocket.
Q. How about Dayne, what is his role this year? Competing with Jimmy or still trying to work himself in?
COACH WEIS: I don't think that Dayne wants to sit there and wait till Jimmy graduates to say it's time for me to play. So I think Dayne is coming into the spring to try to make it tough on Jimmy. And I think that's exactly what he should be doing.
I mean, Dayne's mentality, he understands. Jimmy is the starting quarterback, he's number two. He understands that if he intends to beat him out, he's going to have to play better than him. That's a nice problem to have to deal with.
Q. Lack of consistency with the running game, obviously it's been a major topic the last couple of years. One of the topics brought up possibly I'm sure is near and dear to your heart, zone blocking things like that. When you did the self scouting over the winter, you evaluated the running. What percentage did you put it on on the blocking is where the break down is occurring, or perhaps maybe the vision of the back?
COACH WEIS: Well, that question would probably take about 20 minutes to answer. You know, it really would. So if you want, we'll set up a little pow wow with you and I, and we'll go over that answer. Because I don't want to take 20 minutes, and I will give you my answer of that question in depth, but it would take about 20 minutes to answer.
It's a very, very involved answer. It goes back to personnel, personnel of the offense, offensive linemen, what your running backs can do, schematics, there's a lot of factors that go into that. But I'd be more than happy to give you that answer.
Q. Frank Verducci has the title of the running game coordinator, how did the dynamics of that work?
COACH WEIS: When we put in running plays, he'll put in the running plays. Whereas if it's a run pass check with me, I would put that in because it involved everyone. But it's a running plays, you know, they're going to hear his voice, and, you know, between he and Tony (Alford) and a little bit of Bernie (Parmalee), you know, because Bernie at that tight end position, you have to go back and forth between both factors right there.
But on a weakly basis, these guys are going to have plenty of input on here's what we can do best against these guys to get this going. Right now it's much more generic. But players are going to start hearing his voice as early as today when we start putting this had stuff in.
Q. From the outside looking in, are there going to be a lot of cooks in the kitchen?
COACH WEIS: Oh, no, there's one cook. You can he erase that vision. There's one cook, there are some helpers. There's one cook. Let's get that out of the way now.
Q. Can you talk about Jimmy a little bit? Obviously, he came in here with a little bit of fanfare.
COACH WEIS: Touche'.
Q. The injuries in the freshman season and last season, I guess what is set for him going forward this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, fortunately/unfortunately he pitched a perfect game his last game. So that's the bar. I mean, he threw 26 passes, completed 22 with four dropped balls. It doesn't get any better than that. That might be the best game he ever plays. You don't play any better than that.
I mean, you throw 26 passes, you hit the guys in the hands 26 times, a bunch of touchdowns, a bunch of yards. So that's the last vision he has of playing. So what you want to do is shoot for that performance. You want to shoot for that performance every game. I don't know how many guys throw two perfect games, but that was one of them. So I think that's the bar.
I think that you can't do anything other than shoot for that every time you go to play. Because we've all season vision, both myself and you, for that matter, you've seen that happen, you're counting on being closer to that and being closer to that flip side that we've seen as well.
Q. Moving on to Steve Filer, is it time for him to kind of be in there?
COACH WEIS: Well, he's never played a meaningful down at the linebacker position, and we're putting him in there first to give him every opportunity in the spring to let's see what we've got here. Put him we could put him at Sam, we could put him at Mike, we could put him at Will, we're trying to put him in a position where he has a chance to compete to be a starter.
Q. With Fleming, what did you like last year?
COACH WEIS: He's very athletic. But like most freshmen that come in here, you know, most freshmen that come in are they lost in the system. I don't think that's what we should expect from him anymore. Because when a very athletic guy is lost, they play a lot lower than when they know what to do. If they don't have to think about what to do, they turn it lose, and that athleticism can come to fruition. So that's what we're hoping to do this spring.
Q. I see Trevor Robinson as listed as somewhat limited, but do you anticipate them competing at left tackle? Or do you still see them as a guard?
COACH WEIS: Well, right now I think that the two possibilities let's start briefly with Trevor and Chris Stewart first of all. Trevor is a little limited, Chris is starting at right guard. If Trevor is in the position that he's most comfortable at at this point would be right guard. So if he can beat Chris out at right guard, then he'll play right guard. If he can't, and he's one of our five best guys, I wouldn't be opposed to putting him in another position.
Q. Previously when Brady was here, he was definitely the starter, he was the guy. Do you see Jimmy in that role now? That he is definitely the starter?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely, Jimmy is the starter. It's his job to lose. Now, Brady didn't have any competition when I was here either. There was no one close for second either year that I was here. The third year I was here we really were trying to find who the quarterback was. Last year, really, the competition wasn't very close either.
I think the best thing that's going to happen for Jimmy is the fact that he's got a guy pushing him. The guy pushing him that's trying to unseed him. And I think that that will only make him better as well.
Q. What about the Bill (Belichick) and Charlie (Weis) World Tour?
COACH WEIS: Touche'. Anything for charity. Anything for charity (laughing). I can be sold, I can be bought for charity. When it comes to charity I'm willing to do that.
Q. Is this a spring where you talk to Jimmy more about taking on the leadership role? Is that something you're talking about?
COACH WEIS: We've had that conversation, Tuesday afternoon as a matter of fact. But I had Dayne in that conversation as well.
Q. What types of things do you talk about?
COACH WEIS: I talk about what great quarterbacks have. And what guys that aren't great don't have. You know, I've said that great quarterbacks are perceived by not only the receivers, the guys that are getting the ball in their hands but by the offensive linemen, by the running backs, by the tight ends, by the defensive backs, by the linebackers and everyone else.
Great quarterbacks are guys that the whole team has confidence in. That you're going to lead us to win. That was a conversation, not just one, but they were both in for that conversation.
Q. You said it's going to be a tough spring on the quarterbacks. Is Jimmy a kid that you have to kind of step on on, or do you have to kind of put your arm around him?
COACH WEIS: It won't matter this spring, because this is going to be a pedal to the metal spring for the quarterback position.
Q. Can you have a great team if the quarterback's not the guy people look to?
COACH WEIS: Well, there's been quarterbacks that are serviceable. You know, you don't need to be the best player on the team. But you need to be perceived by your teammates as the leader of the team.
So the answer to your question might be, yes, I'm not sure exactly the answer to the question. But I can tell you that if your teammates don't believe that you can lead them to victory, even whether it's handing it off or just whatever it is doing, then usually you don't have much of a chance.
Q. I remember talking to the guys on defense last year, and asked them, who do you guys look to? And everyone said on offense, but nobody really knew on defense.
COACH WEIS: I think there's multiple guys on offense this year that weren't in that position last year. Let's not take away anything from David Grimes. He was quiet, but he was a clear cut leader in the offense.
But David gets hurt earlier in the year. He's hurt at Michigan State, and he's barely playing the rest of the year. It's really tough to lead when you're on the bench, which is really what David went through the whole year.
So I don't want to sleight David in that, but there are several candidates, and some of them are younger guys that have stepped up as well. It doesn't just have to be Sam Young or Eric Olsen, for example. It could be Armando Allen, it could be Kyle Rudolph. Guys that basically have played a whole bunch of plays. It could be Michael Floyd, for that matter.
So there I'll give you three young guys, Armando and Kyle, and Michael. Those guys are all going to be playing a whole bunch. So it doesn't have to be just a senior or a fourth year guy to be in that position. Or it doesn't just have to be the quarterback, there are a lot of guys that can come into play there.
Q. I know you expect to play nickel, but can you talk about the cornerback competition?
COACH WEIS: Well, going into start it off with Darrin (Walls) first coming back. Obviously, it's only right with R.J. (Robert Blanton) and Raeshon (McNeil) to be out there first. But I think that that rotation will get going in a hurry. Plus we're really high on Jamoris Slaughter. That is another guy who gets into the mix.
So we've got that other guy who will be back here in the summertime, so, you get another guy back in the mix. Now all of a sudden that position becomes the position of strength, knock on wood, as long as everyone stays relatively healthy.
Q. In terms of keeping the team's confidence high, how much do you reference what the Hawaii Bowl and what went on there? Do you see that as this is the new bar? Do you caution them that, hey, it happened one time, that doesn't mean It's going to happen every time?
COACH WEIS: No, I think the most important thing from that game is they left with such a good taste in their mouth. You know, I think that's thee most important thing. As miserable as I was, because I was miserable, I never saw them any happier since I've been here. I don't know if I've seen them any happier.
There were some happy moments since I've been here. I mean, I go all the way back to the Stanford game at the end of the game my first year there when it meant going to the BCS, how happy they were then. UCLA at the end of the game, you know, how happy they were then. But for these young guys, you know, it was the first time they really felt good. It was a good Christmas Eve for a lot of those guys. That hasn't gone away, which is a good thing.
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