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Recruiting reporters Jeremy Crabtree, Erik McKinney, Derek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren join ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down four- and five-star prospects deciding between bitter rivals.

Kyler Murray: Heart with Texas A&M

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
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Gatorade National Player of the Year and No. 1-ranked quarterback Kyler Murray has ended his recruitment and remains committed to Texas A&M.

After a nervous week for the Aggies amid Murray's unofficial visit to the Texas Longhorns nine days ago, a collective fan base and coaching staff can breathe a sigh of relief.

"Texas A&M is where my heart is at," Murray said late Thursday night. "Coach [Charlie] Strong and Texas is a great opportunity, but I felt that A&M was the place for me. Not because of my dad having played there, but just the right place for me."

The finalization for Murray came after a Thursday night in-home visit by Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital.

"It went well," Murray said. "All my questions were answered. I just can't wait to get this all over with and get back to playing ball."

Murray's decision comes three weeks after Texas A&M granted quarterback Kenny Hill his release to transfer to any school of his choice.

Hill was replaced late last season at quarterback by freshman Kyle Allen, who helped the Aggies salvage an 8-5 finish.

Murray will sign his letter of intent to Texas A&M on Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET in a ceremony at Allen High.

Murray's father, Kevin, was a two-time All-American at Texas A&M. But Kevin Murray said that mattered little in his son's decision.


(Read full post)


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National recruiting director Tom Luginbill and national recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert join ESPN's Matt Schick to break down Big 12 recruiting efforts with less than one week remaining before signing day.
It's been a while since Texas A&M and the University of Texas have been locked in a handful of major recruiting battles. A rivalry that was once played on the field is now playing out in high schools and living rooms with six days left until national signing day. While Longhorns fans are in a state of frenzy due to rumors and chatter, the Aggies remain the "cool school" in the Lone Star State and hold the momentum headed into the first two of five announcements that could flip that perception within the state lines.

What exactly is on the line for both programs beginning with Friday's announcements by ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd? The Longhorns' shot at starting a wave of momentum of their own, and the Aggies showinging their ability to make a late push on two prospects Texas has recruited as priorities.

Position that needs improvement: Texas

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
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This week, we're taking a closer look at one specific area each Big 12 team needs to improve before 2015. We continue the series with Texas, which must resolve its concerns up front regardless of who plays quarterback for these Longhorns.

Position to improve: Offensive line

Why it was a problem: Going into the 2013 season, Texas had the most experienced offensive line in the country. Just a few games into the 2014 season, Texas had perhaps the least experienced line in the country. Losing senior center Dominic Espinosa to a season-ending injury after one game was a devastating blow. The projected starting tackles, Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle, were kicked off the team. What remained was a group that redefined the label "patchwork line."

Left tackle Marcus Hutchins had never started a game and was a reserve defensive tackle a year earlier. Five different players earned at least one start at right tackle. Taylor Doyle made his first-ever start at center in the Oklahoma game. Only one player -- left guard Sedrick Flowers -- held down the same job for the full season. In all, Texas tried six different offensive line combinations over 13 games and had the No. 94 rushing attack in FBS despite featuring two five-star running backs.

How it can be fixed: Addition and competition. Joe Wickline, hailed as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches when he was hired away from Oklahoma State, must have been as frustrated as anyone by what he witnessed in 2014. He’s assembled a nice recruiting class which features several linemen who can help immediately. Juco transfer tackles Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson are on campus and will be given every opportunity to become starters. Two more freshmen have already enrolled, and ESPN 300 guard Patrick Vahe might be the best of the bunch. The newcomers must push the seven linemen with starting experience who are slated to return. Texas had no depth and few options last season. Every starting job is probably fair game.

Early 2015 outlook: Flowers, Doyle and guard/tackle Kent Perkins probably stand the best chance of retaining their spots this fall so long as they stay healthy. There will be pressure on Hodges and Nickelson this spring. They need to prove they can provide at least starter-caliber play. Then it’s all about finding out who raises their game. Can guys who were in and out of the lineup like Camrhon Hughes, Darius James and Jake Raulerson take a big step forward? Can Hutchins improve off 13 starts? There are a lot of question marks to be addressed over these next seven months.

Kevin Hart visits Longhorns

January, 29, 2015
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Texas had an interesting visitor Wednesday.

Actor/comedian Kevin Hart met with the Longhorns. Then he worked out with them. I wonder how many times that will be mentioned to the several blue-chip recruits still out there the Longhorns are attempting to close on.

Here's the photographic evidence of Hart's visit:

More photos from the visit by @KevinHart4real in weight room and @Strong_TexasFB's Office. #hookem

A photo posted by Texas Football (@longhornsfootball) on

What a 2014 season it was in the Big 12. The league featured major upsets, thrilling finishes and a pair of elite teams in TCU and Baylor who staged a shootout classic in Waco.

Below is a look back on the 13 most memorable Big 12 games of 2014:

No. 1: Oct. 11 – No. 5 Baylor 61, No. 9 TCU 58
Not only was this the game of the year in the Big 12, it might have been the game of the year in college football. TCU led by 21 in the fourth quarter after Marcus Mallet 's interception return for a touchdown. But the Horned Frogs couldn't hold on as Bryce Petty took over the rest of the way. The fourth quarter in Waco proved to be the difference in TCU not making the playoff.

No. 2: Nov. 1 – No. 7 TCU 31, No. 20 West Virginia 30
Carrying a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers were on the verge of throwing their hat into the Big 12 title race. Instead, West Virginia got conservative offensively, allowing the Horned Frogs to come back and nail a 37-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. The Mountaineers never really recovered and wound up losing four of five games to end the season.

[+] EnlargeKD Cannon
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsKD Cannon and Baylor won in what turned out to be arguably the most pivotal game in the country this season, a shootout victory over TCU.
No. 3: Dec. 6 – Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35
Once again, Bedlam delivered in the drama department. Behind two touchdowns late in the game, true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph led the Cowboys to an improbable rally, capped by Tyreek Hill's 92-yard punt return touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Pokes prevailed. The result had an impact on the trajectory for both programs, as Oklahoma State became bowl-eligible and the Sooners went on to get blasted in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

No. 4: Jan. 1 – No. 5 Michigan State 42, No. 8 Baylor 41
After TCU's 42-3 waxing of Ole Miss the previous day, the Big 12's top two teams were on the verge of sending a powerful message to the playoff committee. Instead, even though Petty set a Cotton Bowl Classic record with 550 passing yards, the Bears squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter to sap their playoff snub argument.

No. 5: Dec. 31 – No. 6 TCU 42, No. 9 Ole Miss 3
Suggesting that they might have been one of the two best teams in the country despite getting snubbed from the playoff, TCU obliterated the Rebels in a game that was over before halftime.

No. 6: Oct. 4 – No. 25 TCU 37, No. 4 Oklahoma 33
After their Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, Oklahoma was the preseason pick to win the Big 12. That began to unravel in Fort Worth as the Sooners went in the tank offensively late. Paul Dawson's interception of Trevor Knight and touchdown return was the only score of a fourth quarter that proved to be the springboard for TCU's 12-1 season.

No. 7: Oct. 18 – West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27
The Bears were riding high after their comeback victory over TCU. But the following week, Petty & Co. couldn't sustain that offensive momentum as West Virginia knocked off a top-five team on its third try. On the same weekend his father suffered a heart attack, Clint Trickett was magnificent, with 322 yards passing and three touchdowns as he outdueled Petty.

No. 8: Nov. 15 – No. 4 TCU 34, Kansas 30
The Horned Frogs were on the inside of the playoff as they made the trip to Kansas. That ride almost came to a complete end in Lawrence. The Jayhawks gave TCU quite a scare, holding a 27-17 second-half lead before running out of steam. Still, even though they escaped with the victory, the Horned Frogs dropped out of the top four of the playoff poll the following week.

No. 9: Oct. 18 – No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30
Thanks to a late goal-line stand, K-State turned the Big 12 race on its head for good with a second consecutive victory in Norman. Quarterback Jake Waters spearheaded the upset, throwing for 225 yards and rushing for 51 more in a gutty performance in which he played through a shoulder injury. K-State stuck around in the Big 12 title race until the final week of the season, while the Sooners went on to lose three more times.

No. 10: Nov. 8 – No. 12 Baylor 48, No. 15 Oklahoma 14
Nothing signaled the changing of the guard in the Big 12 more than Baylor's absolute white-washing of Oklahoma in Norman. Petty was serious when he said the week before that he was "ready for OU" as he threw for 387 yards, including 224 to Corey Coleman. Baylor went on to join the Sooners (2006-08) as the Big 12's only other back-to-back conference champ.

No. 11: Oct. 25 – No. 10 TCU 82, Texas Tech 27
This wasn't a great game, but it was a memorable one. After all TCU set a Big 12 conference game record with 82 points. Amazingly, the game was relatively close in the second quarter. Then TCU outscored Tech 49-7 in the second half.

No. 12: Nov. 29 – No. 7 Baylor 48, Texas Tech 46
The Red Raiders ended their season going down swinging as true freshman Pat Mahomes threw for 598 yards and six touchdowns. The 25-point second-half rally came up short, though, after Mahomes was unable to get off a pass on the potential game-tying two-point conversion.

No. 13: Oct. 18 – Texas 48, Iowa State 45
Maybe the most underrated and most exciting finishes of the Big 12 season. Twenty-four points were scored in the final five minutes, including Nick Rose's game-winning field goal from 21 yards out with three seconds to go.

The next best 10 of 2014
West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
Oklahoma 31, Texas 26
Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28
UCLA 20, Texas 17
UCLA 40, Kansas State 35
Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33
Despite making a commitment to Alabama last week, ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said Wednesday he's visiting Maryland and will give the Terps a solid look.


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Recruit breakdown: DT Daylon Mack 

January, 28, 2015
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What he brings: Daylon Mack is a compact, but thickly built and powerful defensive tackle who is capable of being a disruptive force in the trenches. He lacks some in ideal height, but built like a powder keg the five-star can quickly explode off the ball and create problems. With a quick first-step and good snap anticipation, Mack is capable of blowing up plays in the backfield, but strong and with a low center of gravity, he is tough to move and control even when blockers can get a piece of him. He may be closer to his ceiling of development than most of the five-star prospects, but is a pretty darn good player at this stage. If he can continue to refine his technique and manage his weight, he has demonstrated the tools needed to be a handful at the college level and likely can begin causing havoc soon after hitting campus.


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Hidden gems in the Class of 2014

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
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It happens every year.

A recruit goes largely unnoticed on signing day only to outperform highly regarded recruits in the same class during their first seasons in the program. Earlier today we looked at some "can't miss" recruits from the Class of 2014 during their first fall on campus. This afternoon we take a look at six Class of 2014 signees that went largely unnoticed on signing day but started to impact their teams immediately:

Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee: The three-star prospect outperformed several five-star signees during their first semesters on campus. Lee forced his way into the Wildcats' plans with a strong preseason, earning a role as a pass-rush specialist. After a season featuring 19 tackles and 4.5 sacks, Lee looks like a future star for KSU’s defense.

Oklahoma State receiver James Washington: A three-star signee, Washington flashed elite potential several times during his freshman season. His competitive nature when the ball is in the air could elevate him to another level as a sophomore after a true freshman season with 28 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns.

Texas safety Jason Hall: The Longhorns' lowest-rated signee, Hall had the biggest impact as a true freshman. Hall hits like a fifth-year senior and has the potential to become a tone-setter for Charlie Strong’s defense in the next few seasons. The three-star recruit finished with 36 tackles in 12 games as a true freshman.

Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison: The three-star signee led all Tech freshmen in tackles, tackles for loss and pass breakups while starting seven games as a true freshman. ESPN300 member Nigel Bethel II was the Red Raiders’ highly regarded cornerback signee but Madison was second to none among Big 12 true freshmen at the position. He finished his debut season with 56 tackles and seven passes defensed.

TCU receiver Desmon White: The Horned Frogs' lowest-rated high school signee didn’t look like it. White earned a late-season role in TCU’s offense with his terrific open-field ability and quickness in the slot providing another potential option in the passing game. White didn’t have a major impact but he’s setting himself up to be a significant option in the offense as a sophomore. He finished with 14 receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown.

Kansas cornerback Matthew Boateng: A three-star signee, Boateng ended up providing depth at cornerback behind seniors JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald while playing in seven games for the Jayhawks. He finished with nine tackles, five pass breakups, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception as a true freshman. Boateng should play an even bigger role in 2015 with Shepherd and McDonald moving on.

Big 12 morning links

January, 28, 2015
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Prepared a successful salmon dish last night. Tweet me if you want the recipe.
  • The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal got a copy of the contract of David Gibbs, Texas Tech's new defensive coordinator. Not surprisingly, Tech had to pony up to snag Gibbs, who was coveted by other schools. Gibbs has a two-year contract that will pay him $550,000 a year. Mike Stoops (Oklahoma), Josh Heupel (Oklahoma), Tom Bradley (West Virginia), Vance Bedford (Texas), Shawn Watson (Texas), Joe Wickline (Texas) and Phil Bennett (Baylor) were the only Big 12 assistants that made more than $550,000 last year, according to USA TODAY. After years of instability at defensive coordinator and seasons of mediocre defense, as well, this was a hire the Red Raiders needed to make. Even with the cost.
  • Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman delves into the nation's hottest recruiting battle this year, which happens to be between Texas and Texas A&M. The Longhorns and Aggies are duking it out for the nation's No. 1 dual-threat QB in Kyler Murray (more on Murray here from The Sporting News). Murray has been committed to A&M for awhile, but is considering a flip to the Longhorns. "It feels like Murray or Bust for UT," Feldman writes, "especially perception-wise as Strong tries to get some momentum in-state" I can't disagree. We don't know yet what kind of QB Murray will develop into. But we do know what kind of message it would send if Charlie Strong grabbed a prospect of Murray's talent from A&M.
  • Kansas State has enjoyed plenty of success with players from the Sooner State, notably from the Lockett family. Tuesday, the Wildcats picked up another Oklahoman in three-star defensive back Darreyl Patterson, who committed to K-State over the Sooners and Louisville. Patterson visited Manhattan this past weekend.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza crunched the numbers on West Virginia's current scholarship situation. According to Casazza, the Mountaineers have 90 scholarship promised out at the moment, including the incoming recruiting class (the NCAA limit is 85). Even though it sounds bad, this is actually not a bad place to be. Defection strikes every program during the offseason. There's always the chance some recruit flips his commitment elsewhere before signing day. Better to be where West Virginia is then well under the 85-man limit and scrambling to add players in the week leading up to signing day.
  • Oklahoma safety Hatari Byrd was cited on complaints of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of alcohol by a minor early Saturday morning, the Tulsa World's Guerin Emig reported. Byrd will be spending a lot of time with Sooner strength coach Jerry Schmidt in the coming weeks.
Official visits, unofficial visits, in home visits and everything else one can possibly think of is happening with one week until national signing day, Feb. 4. As expected, Twitter is abuzz right now with information flowing constantly all day and night.

Here is a look at some highlights from Tuesday.

@HamiltonESPN: ESPN300 five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson headed to Florida on Tuesday afternoon for an unofficial following a trip to Ole Miss and Alabama over the weekend. In a recruitment that could go a number of different directions, the Rebels and Gators are the best bets to be standing on national signing day unless Auburn can pull the upset. Jefferson is scheduled to visit LSU this weekend, followed by a national signing day announcement live on ESPN.

@HamiltonESPN: Nick Saban was in South Florida on Tuesday, and one of his stops was Coconut Creek High. The reason is simple -- Coconut Creek is home to a trio of ESPN Junior 300 prospects, including top cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who has an Alabama offer.

Kyler Murray isn't the only high-profile Texan who will shape the future of Lone Star State recruiting, as ESPN 300 defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill will announce their decisions together Friday.


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Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
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Could Baylor end up with a quarterback problem? How high could Texas' recruiting class rise? Those answers and more in Tuesday's mailbag. As always, thanks for your questions (way to step up after letting Longhorn nation take over for a week). To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

Chris J. in Houston, Texas, writes: If the playoffs expand to include automatic bids for conference champions, does this affect end of season out of conference rivalries? Do you think coaches might rest or limit players knowing they essentially have a play-in game the following week?

Brandon Chatmon: Man, you leapfrogged a couple of steps here Chris. But if it ever gets to that, I definitely could see coaches making decisions like that because as important as rivalries are in college football, I think winning a national title would rise above them. I really don't see this becoming a major problem anytime soon, though.

James in Wheeling, West Virginia, writes: Can you see the Big 12 being West Virginia's permanent home? If not, where do you think we fit in best?

BC: Ready to jump ship already James? It's only been three years.

Wallace in Cincinnati writes: I hate that football has ended, and I'm not an NFL fan so my season ended January 12th, but I digress. So what needs to occur for the Big 12 to expand from 10 teams to 12? They were already left at the alter by the College Playoff Committee for not having a "true champion." Is it going to take another year of missing out on the playoff? Or having a team like Texas or Oklahoma miss out before Bob Bowlsby realizes he needs to expand the conference to have a conference championship game?

BC: A conference full of athletic directors who want to expand would be a good start. It would probably take a consistent, multi-year trend of missing out on the playoffs before expansion becomes a real consideration. As much as some people want it to happen, expansion is not a priority right now.

Rob in Denver writes: Any idea why TCU isn't in the running to get Devonte Fields back? From his stats in JUCO I'm not sure the Frogs would want him back, but I was curious. At this point, chances of the Frogs landing Daylon Mack?

BC: Why would TCU want Fields back? He had plenty of chances in Gary Patterson's program and the Horned Frogs just won 12 games without him. As far as Mack, it feels like TCU has a decent shot, the Horned Frogs would be making a terrific statement if they landed the No. 6 player in the ESPN 300.

Josh writes: Who do you think will take over the quarterback duties in Norman? Who fits the Lincoln Riley offense better?

BC: Baker Mayfield would be my favorite but it could be anybody's job. I'm not ready to give up on Trevor Knight and we never know how Cody Thomas or Justice Hansen will fit in Riley's offense. It should be a fun spring to watch in Norman.

Stanley Wren in Houston writes: Could you see a scenario whereas a Big 12 team went undefeated in '15 and was not included in the top 4 of the College Football Playoff?

BC: No.

Justin in the UK writes: How do you think all the crazy recruiting possibilities at Texas are going to pan out?

BC: I have a feeling UT will end up with a top-5 class. Charlie Strong is after a bunch of elite recruits during the home stretch and the Longhorns already have a strong class. If they're able to flip Kyler Murray or Kai Locksley and land Daylon Mack or Chris Warren as they close with a bang, UT could become the talk of signing day.

Robert in Tulsa, Oklahoma, writes: Am I the only Baylor fan concerned the Bears have a logjam under center and could end up having all the young ones transfer away? I think people jump to Seth Russell being the answer too quickly and forget that Chris Johnson was the #5 Dual Threat QB when he came out of high school. With Chad President already gone, I'm concerned Jarrett Stidham and Johnson will get antsy and leave? Am I overreacting?

BC: I think so. First, Art Briles is in charge. Enough said. Second, it's never bad to have several quality options at quarterback, most of the Big 12 would love to be in the same position. Third, Baylor isn't going to have a problem attracting talented quarterbacks if someone does leave. Who wouldn't want to trigger that offense?
The fever pitch in the state of Texas on the recruiting trail hasn’t been felt since the 2003-04 recruitment of Adrian Peterson, or even prior. Starting on Friday, it will be the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies duking it out for supremacy in the Lone Star State. A cycle that started with Texas A&M being the "cool school" in the state and seemingly winning every big battle has gotten a lot more interesting after last Wednesday’s unofficial visit to Texas by Texas A&M quarterback commitment Kyler Murray and receiver DaMarkus Lodge.

With what could be a recruiting windfall for either the Aggies or Longhorns, and momentum for the 2016 class and beyond, here are the eight most important recruits remaining in the balance in the Lone Star State.

Kris Boyd, CB, Gilmer High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 241


Boyd is set to announce Friday, along with good buddy and fellow ESPN 300 cornerback Holton Hill. Boyd has dwindled his list to Texas and Texas A&M, where he officially visited the past two weekends. If either the Longhorns or Aggies are to start an overwhelming wave of momentum Friday, it could lead to a near historic finish for the winning school. Boyd played for head coach Jeff Traylor at Gilmer, whose son is a walk-on quarterback at Texas A&M. Boyd is also the cousin of former Gilmer and Texas standout Curtis Brown.

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Holton Hill, CB, Houston Lamar High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 152


As mentioned above, Hill will announce on Friday. Though a Texas A&M official visit over the weekend seemingly put the Aggies in the race, Texas and LSU were the overwhelming favorites headed into the visit, with the closest-to-home Longhorns considered to be the front-runner. Like Boyd, if either Texas or Texas A&M gets both of the ESPN 300 cornerbacks, it could start a tidal wave come National Signing Day. Hill visited LSU on Dec. 5 before Texas and Texas A&M the past two weekends, respectively.

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Chris Warren III, RB, Rockwall High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 102


What looked like a Texas vs. Washington battle has possibly changed with Texas A&M offering recently. In fact, add this to the list of battles between the two rivals if Warren visits College Station before heading to Washington on Jan. 30. Warren is the load-carrying big back who could be a running-game changer for any program. This is likely one of at least four National Signing Day decisions that will have all state of Texas fans closely following, with the Longhorns considered the favorite heading into the final two official visits. Warren made an official visit to Texas Tech over the weekend.

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Prospects Caught In Recruiting Rivalries
Recruiting reporters Jeremy Crabtree, Erik McKinney, Derek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren join ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down four- and five-star prospects deciding between bitter rivals.
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