Notre Dame Football: DaVaris Daniels

Irish lunch links

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
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Does UConn win it again tonight? Or do the Irish get it done?
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock coached outside receivers the past two seasons, so he dealt with DaVaris Daniels more than most. With Daniels exiled for a semester because of academic reasons, Denbrock remains in touch with the receiver on a near daily basis, and he hopes the redshirt junior sports a new and improved mindset if and when he returns to school this summer.

"I'd rather not DaVaris make too many decisions on his own," Denbrock said. "I've been very close to that situation. We're in touch at least three or four times a week, if not every day, just to make sure he knows we're thinking about him and we're keeping an eye on him and what our expectations while he's away from here are, including what our expectations for him are going to be when he comes back."

[+] EnlargeDaVaris Daniels
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDaVaris Daniels caught 31 passes from Everett Golson in 2012.
Denbrock wouldn't get into specifics about expectations for Daniels upon his return, but Daniels' role in the offense should be fairly clear.

The Vernon Hills, Ill., native would be the Irish's leading returning receiver, having made 49 catches last season for 745 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Daniels would also be the only pass-catcher holding any semblance of chemistry with returning quarterback Everett Golson, as Daniels caught 31 passes for 490 yards during both players' redshirt freshman campaigns in 2012.

Like Golson, Daniels was suspended from school for a semester because of academic reasons, though Daniels had told CBSSports.com that his gaffe was simply failing to keep his grades up. (Golson had referred to his own violation as an integrity issue.)

Daniels is expected to return to school and to the team this summer. He has been training at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park, Ill.

"I would hope it would be," Denbrock said of the light now clicking on for Daniels. "I guess I won't know the answer to that exactly until he's really back here in the middle of it and it's the fourth double session and he's still going as hard as he was the first time he set foot back on the field after -- good Lord willing -- being reinstated. I think time will tell. Right now, I think his mind's in the right place, I think he's excited about getting back with his teammates whenever that's possible to do and get this thing going."
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly wants more out of all of them, because that's just the way the head coach is wired. Mike Denbrock is not displeased with any of them, because six practices into spring ball would be an awfully early time for the offensive coordinator to heap any significant praise on a green group.

If Notre Dame's offense is going to break out in the fashion all expect now that it has a proven, dynamic quarterback in Everett Golson, it's going to need its receivers to take the next step. And these final three weeks of spring practice will probably go a long way in determining whether such a leap can occur, especially with headliner DaVaris Daniels exiled until the summer because of an academic matter.

"Now, it's kind of been funny, when I have a question, I have to figure it out as opposed to last fall," Corey Robinson said. "DaVaris played 'W' a lot -- whenever I had an issue, I'd go to him and he'd help me out, or I'd go to TJ [Jones]. Now I have to figure it out, and some of the younger guys who didn't play last year are coming to me and asking me what to do. That's really forced my hand -- and I know it's the same for Breezy (Chris Brown) and C.J. (Prosise). We have to know the offense better and it kind of puts pressure on us to do that so when questions are asked we can help out."

Robinson has raised eyebrows for the second spring in a row, this time for more than just his frame. The 6-foot-4.5, 205-pound son of hoops Hall of Famer David Robinson has asserted himself more after a nine-catch, 157-yard, one-touchdown rookie campaign, with Kelly saying the sophomore has pleased him more than anyone else at the position.

"He does exactly what I ask him to do all the time," Kelly said, loud and deliberately. "And he does it right. Now he may screw it up the first time, but you coach him and he does it right the second time. I love that kid.”

"They try to do it right," Kelly later added of the others when asked. "They all try to do it right. He does it right the second time. He's fun to coach."

Denbrock said the experience of Brown has made him the steadiest of the bunch, as his junior status and 17 career grabs for 265 yards and a score are all tops on the current roster.

It helps that youngsters like Robinson and
Will Fuller
(six catches, 160 yards, TD) got their feet wet last season as freshmen, but there are still projects in spring enrollee Justin Brent and Torii Hunter Jr., who redshirted last season while recovering from a broken left leg suffered in high school.

"If you look at those other guys, it’s still new to them," Denbrock said. "We’re really working hard at all positions on offense because of our youth and gaining that type of consistency play in and play out that you need to control the game from the offensive side of the ball."
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Everett Golson has a pretty good idea of what DaVaris Daniels is going through. Together, the redshirt juniors have been cast aside from Notre Dame in consecutive semesters because of academic shortcomings, with the quarterback missing the 2013 season and the receiver gone for this spring.

So in a sense, Golson has provided a blueprint for Daniels to return this summer and be ready to go when fall camp opens in August.

[+] EnlargeDaVaris Daniels
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDaVaris Daniels finds himself in the position that Everett Golson did -- having been kicked out of Notre Dame due to academic shortcomings.
"He was actually up here last weekend, so he came over and we were talking," Golson said. "I rapped with him a little bit, just going through kind of the same situation, encouraging him, letting him know everything is going to be fine. He's good. He's working out and doing his thing. I just can't wait to get him back."

Daniels' suspension became public in January, as he released a statement saying he planned to work his way back after a few months away. He spoke last week with CBSSports.com, detailing the pressures of mounting injuries and academic probation eventually leading to his GPA slipping below 2.0 in the fall.

The Vernon Hills, Ill., native is now working out at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park, and he will be immediately counted on if and when he returns to the Fighting Irish, who said goodbye to other top targets TJ Jones (graduation) and Troy Niklas (draft) after last season.

Daniels' 49 catches for 745 yards and seven touchdowns last season all were good for second on the team. He grabbed 31 passes for 490 yards in his first season of action in 2012, with Golson as the primary signal-caller.

The two connected six times for 115 yards in the BCS title game loss to Alabama, one of the few bright spots in the 42-14 defeat.

For now, Golson is left to work with a new cast of receivers this spring, with Ben Koyack (one catch, 5 yards) and Chris Brown (one catch, 50 yards) being the only active players who have recorded receptions from him in the past.

"As long as [Daniels] takes care of the admissions process and getting back and he's readmitted, he'll be back here this summer," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "Now, he's got to take summer school when he gets back here and he's got to get his classes taken care of, and as long as he takes care of his classes this summer, he'll be eligible for all the games next year."

Notre Dame spring preview

March, 5, 2014
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The keys to Notre Dame's future arrived Monday, when Everett Golson took the field for the first time in nearly a year as the Irish opened their fifth spring practice under Brian Kelly.

[+] EnlargeEverett Golson
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesThe Irish offense hopes to benefit from the return of quarterback Everett Golson.
This spring will probably not look all that different from last spring, when Golson, coming off a redshirt freshman season that ended in the BCS title game, was officially handed complete control of the vehicle that was Kelly's offense before being exiled the following fall for an academic mishap. Yet the Irish may be shorter on all-around playmakers this spring than they were last year.

But with Golson back -- 15 pounds heavier and seemingly much more mature after spending two months with well-known quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. in San Diego -- it is finally all in for Notre Dame. Its fan base has been anxiously awaiting the offensive theatrics that a Kelly team last displayed five years ago at Cincinnati, and the most important component to that is Golson.

"Absolutely," Kelly said, speaking about the quarterback position, specifically. "Your offensive line has to play well; it has to protect the quarterback. We've got to run the ball effectively, take care of it. But I think we all know college football and where it is: The quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense and the way we run it. It's going to fall on him.

"We all live in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback. We're going to heap a lot on this kid's shoulders. And he knows that. That's why he came back to Notre Dame, because he wants that. Clearly, he's going to be the one that drives this for us."

Replacing the top protectors of Golson (and every other QB of the Kelly era) is paramount, as stalwarts Zack Martin and Chris Watt are gone after manning the left side of the line so well together for more than three years.

Finding reliable weapons in a passing game down its top three pass-catchers from last season is important, too. (One of those targets, DaVaris Daniels, is expected back this summer after making a Golson-like academic gaffe.)

Defensively, potential first-round picks Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are gone, as are three of the four starting linebackers. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco -- along with offensive playcaller Chuck Martin -- are gone, and longtime college and NFL veteran Brian VanGorder brings aboard the potential for a more aggressive defense, which should complement a much more aggressive offense.

A running game that lacked punch at times last year will be greatly strengthened by the dimension presented by Golson's legs, which he says got quicker despite the added weight.

It is weight his body and mind are ready to carry as he looks to bring Notre Dame's offense to a place it has longed for.

"I think if leadership ability is in you, it'll show eventually when you're called on," Golson said. "I think only being a freshman, I was still leading to a certain extent. I think now it's more heightened, I would say, because our team is so young this year. But it's been great. That's the spot that I want to be at and I was kind of born to be at, I would say, in a sense. So when it happens, leadership steps to the front."

Irish's lunch links

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
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Spring is in the air ...
Duke and Tulane already opened spring ball this past Friday. Notre Dame is moving things up this year, too, as the Fighting Irish will start their spring season on March 3. With that in mind, during the next few weeks, we'll start taking a look at players, position battles and more to watch as spring ball rapidly approaches.

This week we'll look at the top five players to watch in spring, starting today at No. 5.

5) Freshman WR Justin Brent

It was just a year ago that rising sophomore wide receivers Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson announced their intentions to transfer during spring ball. Who did that benefit most? Early enrollees Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, who received increased reps and parlayed that into more playing time during their freshman seasons with the Irish.

Now Notre Dame welcomes in another early enrollee at receiver in Brent, who certainly has the physical tools to compete immediately at the next level. What's more, the Irish took a number of unexpected hits at the position this offseason, with top returning target DaVaris Daniels receiving the Everett Golson treatment for what he said is an academic violation and tight end Troy Niklas declaring for the NFL draft. Daniels has said he plans on returning in the summer, but in the meantime, there are passes to be caught, passes to be thrown by Golson in his return to school.

Brent, one of just two Irish signees to enroll early, has already drawn attention for his 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame.

"When I got a chance to see him work out this morning, the first thing that stood out to me is that he does not look like a freshman," coach Brian Kelly said on signing day. "He had his shirt off this morning and he was running around, and he looks like a senior. He is a physically gifted young man. You can see a lot of the accolades that are out there with him in terms of where he was ranked.

"But what we were looking for specifically, and there were some really good players at this position, we were looking for a physical player at this position, somebody that could impose their physicality, could run after the catch. His ability to run after the catch was very impressive for us and had, for us, some of the things, the traits that we were looking for at that particular time and that position."

The opportunity will be there for Brent to make an early impact. And based on accounts of his pre-Notre Dame work ethic, he sounds ready to step up to the challenge.
We are one day away from national signing day, an occasion packed with promise. As we noticed last week when looking at the Ultimate 300, some prospects meet their potential better than others.

Recruiting is an inexact science, as projects such as the Ultimate 300 reveal, and as many rosters filled with blue-chip prospects show, too.

[+] EnlargeJaylon Smith
AP Photo/Scott BoehmJaylon Smith was the only five-star recruit among Notre Dame's starters last season.
Look no further than Notre Dame, which currently has Recruiting Nation's No. 11 overall haul for the Class of 2014, down from No. 4 last season. The Irish were No. 9 in 2012, No. 9 in 2011, No. 21 in 2010 and No. 14 in 2009.

The 2009-13 classes made up the 2013 Notre Dame roster. So, using Recruiting Nation's rankings, we will take a look back at this past season's (general) starters to see where they stood as recruits.

The numbers? Notre Dame had one five-star recruit, six four-star recruits, 11 three-star recruits and one two-star recruit.

(Note: ESPN did not use the star system until 2010.)

Offense

  • QB Tommy Rees, Lake Forest (Ill.) High: Three stars, No. 19 QB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • RB: George Atkinson III, Granada (Calif.) High: Three stars, No. 40 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 79
  • WR: TJ Jones, Gainesville (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 68 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • WR: DaVaris Daniels, Vernon Hills (Ill.) High: Four stars, No. 65 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 81
  • WR: Chris Brown, Hanahan (S.C.) High: Three stars, No. 66 WR, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 78
  • TE: Troy Niklas, Servite (Calif.) High: Three stars, No. 19 TE, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 79
  • T: Zack Martin, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High: No. 109 overall prospect, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 81
  • T: Ronnie Stanley, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High: Four stars, No. 34 OT, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 79
  • G: Chris Watt, Glenbard West (Ill.) High: No. 68 overall prospect, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 82
  • G: Christian Lombard, Williams Fremd (Ill.) High: Three stars, No. 20 OT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • C: Nick Martin, Bishop Chatard (Ind.) High: Three stars, No. 39 OT, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
Defense

  • DE: Stephon Tuitt, Monroe (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 90 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 81
  • DE: Sheldon Day, Indianapolis Warren Central High: Four stars, No. 143 overall prospect, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 80
  • NG: Louis Nix, Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines High: Four stars, No. 64 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • LB: Prince Shembo, Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell High: Three stars, No. 47 DE, Class of 2010, Scout grade: 78
  • LB: Dan Fox, Cleveland St. Ignatius High: No. 76 OLB, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76
  • LB: Carlo Calabrese, Verona (N.J.) High: No. 12 ILB, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 78
  • LB: Jaylon Smith, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers High: Five stars, No. 7 overall prospect, Class of 2013. Scout grade: 90
  • CB: Bennett Jackson, Hazlet (N.J.) Raritan High: Three stars, No. 97 WR, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 77
  • CB: KeiVarae Russell, Everett (Wash.) Mariner High: Three stars, No. 28 RB, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 79
  • S: Matthias Farley, Charlotte Christian (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 92 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 77
  • S: Austin Collinsworth, Highlands (Ky.) High: Two stars, No. 121 S, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 74
Special Teams

  • K/P: Kyle Brindza, Plymouth (Mich.) High: Three stars, No. 6 K, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 79
ESPN Insider KC Joyner sees plenty to like about Notre Dame as he looks ahead to the 2014 season and beyond . Yes, there are massive personnel losses on both sides of the ball. And no, the schedule is not exactly filled with cupcakes. But the early success and stability brought by the Brian Kelly regime suggests more good things are on the horizon for the Irish in Year 5 of the Kelly era.

Offensively, Joyner sees a quarterback in Everett Golson who was great at minimizing negative plays with the ball in his hands. Nearly as important is the chemistry he had developed with DaVaris Daniels, who plans to return after his spring-semester suspension. And he sees a running game that may have been much more productive than many had thought, citing the backs' penchant for avoiding losses and the wealth of experience many underclassmen gained last season on the offensive line.

Joyner also has some good things to say about the defense. The piece is on Insider, so you have to register to read it. But it makes a strong case for why Notre Dame likely isn't going anywhere but up so long as Kelly is around.

Notre Dame mailblog

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
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It has been a while. What's on your minds?

Scott from St. Joseph, Mich., writes: Matt, disagree about Michigan State easily being the highlight of the season. The game was marred with questionable penalties and calling by MSU's staff. To me the highlight of the season was the second-half defense against USC. Being able to beat your biggest rival basically without a functional QB and on the hands of a defensive performance remnant of '12 was the highlight of the year for me.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame Celebration
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPulling out a victory over Rose Bowl champion Michigan State was the biggest achievement for Notre Dame in 2013.
Matt Fortuna: I think both performances, to be fair, were far from aesthetically pleasing. And yes, we have to give Notre Dame's defense plenty of credit for its play in both games. But the circumstances are too big to ignore here. By beating Michigan State, Notre Dame helped reshape the national title picture. It was the only team to beat a very good Spartans squad, one that ended up winning the Rose Bowl. While it's always big to beat your archrival, let's also remember that USC was without Marqise Lee for the second half, committed 11 penalties and missed two field goals (from 40 and 46 yards), too. And I just can't erase the memory of the Fighting Irish offense coming to a standstill once Tommy Rees went down. No points from either team in the final 30 minutes of a primetime game? No thank you.

Matt from Pittsburgh writes: Matt, O-line starting 5 from LT-RT: Elmer, Hanratty, Martin, Lombard, Stanley? Also how do you see the D-line and linebackers forming out?

Matt Fortuna: That would probably be my early guess, though I'll keep a close eye on that group this spring since Martin will still be out. Matt Hegarty started at center in his place but provides plenty of flexibility, too, so it will be interesting to see where he fits into the picture next fall. My guess for defensive line would be Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell, only because I don't know how ready Tony Springmann (ACL, infection) is. If he's 100 percent, it's easy to see him starting. And I'm anxious to watch Chase Hounshell, who saw the field as a true freshman in 2011 but has missed the last two seasons with shoulder injuries. Same with Jarrett Grace at the mike linebacker position (probably not this spring), with possibly Kendall Moore starting next to him. Jaylon Smith (dog) and Ishaq Williams (cat) will be expected to start if and when Brian VanGorder employs a 3-4 scheme, though he said last week he had not delved into schematics yet. Could we see Williams and/or Romeo Okwara play on the line some more? And where will Ben Councell fit into the picture once he's back from his ACL tear?

Jim from Chicago writes: Matt, What role do you see Torii Hunter Jr. having next year? Seemed to be the most athletic freshman WR before the injury. Can he work his way into the rotation with Daniels out in spring ball?

Matt Fortuna: He's the guy on offense, outside of Everett Golson, whom I most want to see this spring. The opportunities will be there for the taking with Daniels gone until the fall, and Hunter was able to battle back from that nasty leg injury to win offensive scout team player of the year. I'm also curious to see what kind of improvements Corey Robinson can make, given his size and potential. In limited practice viewings he seemed to be always making plays, but in games this season there were times where he looked like he could've used a couple of extra pounds.

Chris Kosiak (@C_K_42) writes: Justin Brent going to push for playing time next year? Or does he RS?

Matt Fortuna: It's probably too early to say, though, like Hunter, he'll have a great opportunity to showcase himself this spring with Daniels out. Last year Robinson and James Onwualu enrolled early and ended up taking advantage of the spring transfers of Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson, resulting in playing time during the 2013 season. Notre Dame's receiving corps was young then and is young again now, so playing time will likely be there for the taking.

Michael Hughes (@designwithmike) writes: More important to ND success in '14: Red-zone execution or finding good to great defensive leadership?

Matt Fortuna: Good question. I'll go with red-zone execution, since I expect this Notre Dame team to rely much more on its offense than it has so far in the Brian Kelly era. And that means the Irish will have to capitalize on more red-zone opportunities and score more points. With Golson back at the helm after a semester spent training with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. and an improving backfield, I think you'll see the Irish take more chances offensively. None of this is to minimize the importance of defensive leadership, but that's just such an unknown factor at this point, especially since we have yet to see these players get coached by and respond to VanGorder, who seems nothing like Bob Diaco from a personality standpoint.
At first it looked like 2013 was the curse. Now? It may just be the month of January.

Rip the page out of your calendar and throw it in the dumpster. Never speak of it again in or around South Bend, Ind. The month has been beyond bad to Notre Dame the last two years, and the worst part is that three more weeks remain between now and February.

From the Alabama beatdown to the Brian Kelly/NFL flirtation, from the Manti Te'o fiasco to all of the craziness that followed in the ensuing weeks, last January was one to forget for the Irish. Now comes a trio of underclassmen departures, plus a fresh academic issue surrounding the Irish's top returning receiver, who will miss spring ball.

To be clear, early defections to the NFL happen regularly around big-time programs. And the odds of a talent like Stephon Tuitt returning for one more year always seemed slim to none anyway. The writing was on the wall with George Atkinson III, while the Troy Niklas news was the biggest surprise, mostly because Brian Kelly had a remarkable track record at Notre Dame of re-recruiting players to get their degrees -- Michael Floyd, Te'o, Tyler Eifert, Louis Nix and Zack Martin among them. (Kyle Rudolph, after Year 1 with Kelly, was the only early departure until this offseason.)

Still, throw the three announcements within a five-day span -- during the first official week of the college football offseason, no less -- and it is easy to understand the fan base freakout. Add in DaVaris Daniels' school suspension this spring for an academic issue, and this is really a lot to digest at once.

Daniels is the biggest surprise, though the redshirt sophomore did his best to quell everyone's worst fears by tweeting that he is not joining the early departures in the pros. Still, for a talented wideout whom Kelly always said needed to work on the little things, missing spring ball will hurt.

Especially as he was set to enter as the Irish's leading returning receiver. Especially as there is now no Niklas to fill the void. Especially as QB Everett Golson returns, two seasons after he developed a quick, reliable connection when the two were redshirt freshmen in 2012.

For now, Notre Dame must hope the early wave of harsh news is the only rush between now and national signing day. Kelly, one of last year's mysteries at this time, has no NFL contact that anyone currently knows about. Golson, the biggest headliner of a bad 2013, is already set to return to classes this month after his fall exile.

New coordinators will come -- eventually, we think -- and new players will follow next month.

Until then, as most Irish fans have come to expect in the depths of winter, bundle up. Just don't hibernate, because things should turn around soon.

At this point, they have to, don't they?

Irish lunch links

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
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Happy finale!

Irish lunch links

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
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Don't worry, tonight's Knicks-Nets contest will be worse than Spurs-Timerbwolves.

Week 13 helmet stickers

December, 1, 2013
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Here are the guys who stood out in Notre Dame's regular-season finale, a 27-20 loss at Stanford.

DaVaris Daniels, WR: It is back-to-back strong weeks now for Daniels, who hauled in five catches Saturday for a game-high 79 yards and had a 14-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter. A week ago Daniels caught six passes for 107 yards and a score, and he has rounded back into form these final few weeks after playing through some minor injuries earlier this season.

Dan Fox, LB: Like Daniels, Fox also has turned in consecutive impressive outings. The redshirt senior tallied a game-high 15 tackles against Stanford, stepping up for a defense that was severely hamstrung all over the place by injuries and suspensions. A week earlier on Senior Day, Fox had nine tackles, including two for a loss, in a win over BYU.

Austin Collinsworth, S: I guess we're going for the consistency theme here, huh? Collinsworth picked off a pass for the second straight week, and he finished second in the game with 11 tackles, including half of a tackle for a loss. Notre Dame certainly has gotten a lot out of Collinsworth after he dealt with neck trouble earlier this season, and his performance again was crucial considering both players the Irish kept at home (Eilar Hardy, Elijah Shumate) were safeties.

Irish's lunch links

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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Safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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