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Questions...Answered in Indianapolis and the Stars of the Weekend

Annually, the Combine provides opportunities for college prospects, teams, etc...to answer major questions that come their way. 2019 was no different so here are some of the prospects that did just that.

Quarterback Kyler Murray, Oklahoma - “Are you big enough?”

Well, he measured at 5-10 ⅛, which still isn’t tall by football standards, but it’s not 5-9. That’s what some expected, or feared. Those with a top pick in the draft certainly didn’t want to see a 5-9 number at all. Then, he weighed 207.

Answer - “Big enough”

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Wide Receiver D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss - “Are you the new Freak?”
Tennessee Titans pass rush star Jevon Kearse is the one and only player to earn the Freak moniker, but it’s time to add Mr. Metcalf to the mix. His Combine performance was SICK - He put up 27 reps of 225 on the bench on Friday, then ran 4.33 in the 40 and posted a 40.5-inch vertical plus a 11-2 broad jump. He did all of that at 228 lb...as a RECEIVER. Are you kidding me? Some might get hung up on his less than stellar change of direction times, but c’mon, those are sick numbers.

Answer - “Oh yeah!”

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Cornerback Deandre Baker, Georgia - “What did the watch say”

Most people seemed to know the answer to this question, but the Combine confirmed Baker’s lack of outstanding long speed. Some hoped for a 4.4 number but he ran 4.52, which is sort of a no man’s land in the cornerback world. Faster and he’s a lock in the first. Slower and he probably becomes a cover safety. 19 corners ran faster than the 5-11, 193 lb. All-American from Georgia. In the end, some teams may not see a perimeter cornerback worthy of a first round pick at that speed. Now, he has some length (32-inch arms) and that’ll help his evaluation and he’s a true football player. But, the speed probably didn’t wow those in attendance with a need at the position.

Answer - “It’s Complicated.”

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Edge rusher Montez Sweat, Mississippi State - “Did you win the Combine?”

If he didn’t he was certainly on the medal stand. At 6-6, 262 lb., Sweat blazed a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. To put that number in context, Sweat’s time would make him the fifth fastest CORNERBACK at the Combine. Of all the participants, 332 in total, only 15 ran a faster 40-yard dash than Sweat. Then, after he ran his 40, he posted a 36-inch vertical and a 10-5 broad jump. Oh by the way, he threw up 21 reps of 225 lb. on the bench with nearly 36-inch arms! He might as well have printed money after the Combine because he just entered a whole new tax bracket with each test.

Answer - “Winner, winner Bulldog dinner!”

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Wide receiver Andy Isabella, U Mass - “Did a clock malfunction steal your thunder?”

Oh man, there’s no doubt. On NFL Network, the clock started before Isabella ran his 40-yard dash so it was shown that he ran 4.54. That’s not enough to create buzz at all but in actuality he ran 4.31, the third fastest time at the Combine. Had there been no clock malfunction, Saturday might have been spent talking about D.K. Metcalf AND Isabella. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and Isabella’s thunder was somewhat stolen. He’ll get it back on Draft weekend, though.

Answer - “Duh.”

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Houston defensive front seven star Ed Oliver - “Say, how about an extra donut?”

It’s real easy to pack on weight as one gets older. That happens in a blink, but at 21 years of age, it can be a little tougher. Oliver took that challenge and packed on weight to get to 287 lb., perhaps the heaviest he’s ever been in his career. But, he decided to not do any running tests at his newfound weight. I heard more than a few people in Indianapolis, and elsewhere, that weren’t surprised that he didn’t run at his new weight. He’ll save any running and position drills for his Pro Day in Houston later in March, of course, after he’s lost a few lb. What he did do, WOW - 32 reps of 225 lb. on the bench, 36-inch vertical jump and 10-0 broad jump. Now, he did those at 287 lb. But, it’s time to get ready to run that 40, so he’ll probably slim down to get ready for that in late March.

Answer - “Not anymore, in training.”

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Ohio State edge star Nick Bosa - “You okay?”

This one is easy.

Answer - “Yep”

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Question - Who won the day at each position?

Answer:

Quarterback - The Trophy Kyler Murray for stepping on a scale.

Running back - Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill for reminding everyone not to forget about him - 4.40 in the 40, 21 reps of 225 on the bench, a 40 (!!) vertical jump and a 10-10 broad jump.

Wide Receiver (not named Metcalf or Isabella) - Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin nearly jumped through the Lucas Oil Stadium roof. His 43.5-inch vertical was nearly a record and his 11-8 broad jump was a record for an offensive player at the Combine. But, BUT, he also posted an insane 6.77 3-cone drill, in addition to a 4.07 short shuttle. W. O. W!

Offensive Tackle - Washington State’s Andre Dillard...sadly. Why sadly? There’s no way he’s getting to No. 23 now for the Texans.

Interior Offensive lineman - NC State’s Garrett Bradbury

I wrote about both on Friday, so I’ll move on.

Interior defensive lineman - Alabama’s Quinnen Williams was the nation’s best defensive player and he followed that season up with a stellar Combine performance. He ran a 4.83 at 303 lb., posted a 30.5-inch vertical and a 9-4 broad jump. That was it for his testing and, honestly, it was all he needed to do. He should hear his name called within the top three picks, unless a team (or teams) gets antsy for a quarterback and trades into that top three.

Edge (not named Sweat) - Michigan star Rashan Gary ran a 4.58 at 277 lb. That shouldn’t be legal. He also hit 38-inches on the vertical and 10-0 on the broad jump. He should hear his name in the first seven picks of this draft.

Stack/Off the ball linebacker - The top two going into the Combine were Devin White (LSU) and Devin Bush Jr. (Michigan). They will remain the top two after Sunday’s performance at the Combine. White ran 4.42. Bush fran 4.43. White did 22 reps of 225 on the bench. Bush did 21 reps of 225 on the bench. White posted a 39.5-inch vertical. Bush nailed a 40.5-inch vertical. White posted a 9-10 broad jump. Bush posted a 10-4 broad jump. White had a 7.03 short shuttle. Bush broke seven seconds with a 6.93 short shuttle. There’s really not much to separate those two at all. Tremendous workouts.

Cornerback - Auburn’s Jamel Dean measured 6-1, 206 lb. and ran 4.30 in the 40 on a day in which most of the big names ran in the 4.5 range. That might be enough to push him into the top 40 of this draft.

Safety - Virginia’s Juan Thornhill strung together a STUPID good workout. He ran 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at 6-0, 205 lb. then posted a Combine-high 44-inch vertical and a 11-9 broad jump. He might look wiry, bordering on thin, on tape, but anyone that throws up 21 reps of 225 lb. on the bench is certainly not going to be labeled as such. What a day!

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Question - Who were some sleepers that’ll have teams’ film departments scrambling to get additional tape on them?

Answer:

Edge Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan - Maybe it was the skull cap, but Crosby was outstanding in Indianapolis. His decision to declare early for the Draft made more sense after seeing his workout. At 6-5, 255 lb, he ran a 4.66 in the 40, posted a 36-inch vertical, a 10-2 broad jump and an outstanding 6.89 second 3-cone drill.

Safety Zedrick Woods, Ole Miss - All Woods did was run the fastest 40-yard dash in 2019 - a smoking 4.29. Ole Miss may have won the Combine with the performances of D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Woods and Ken Webster. Ohio State’s receivers might have something to say about that, though...Speaking of the Buckeyes…

Ohio State’s receiving corps - Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin - The slowest 40-time of the three was a blazing 4.41. They ran three of the eight fastest 40s in the receiver crew with Campbell running the fastest at 4.31 (tied with Andy Isabella from U Mass). Throw in running back Mike Weber’s 4.47 and it was clear how talented this skill group was that helped make Dwayne Haskins the star that he was in 2018.

Missouri receiver Emanuel Hall - the former Missouri star was nearly pulled from testing on Saturday due to a sports hernia injury. But, he worked out and made some significant money in the process. He ran a 4.39 at 6-2, 201 lb., posted a 43.5-inch vertical jump and a 11-9 broad jump. He’s the one guy that I knew should’ve been in the Harris 100 as soon as I posted it. He will be on the next iteration.


Penn State running back Miles Sanders - The former Nittany Lion star was in the shadows of Saquon Barkley for the first couple of seasons in his career. But, he broke out in 2018 and followed that up with a STRONG Combine performance in Indianapolis. He ran 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and that was just the start. He posted a 36-inch vertical jump, in addition to a 10-4 broad jump. His change of direction drill times were really good as well - 6.89 in the 3-cone and 4.19 in the short shuttle.

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More Standout sleepers by position

Quarterback

Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (threw ball well during on field drills, 4.65 in the 40-yard dash)


Running Back

Travis Homer, Miami (4.48 in the 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical, 10-10 broad)

Alex Barnes, Kansas State (4.59 in 40-yard dash at 6-0, 226 lb., 34 reps of 225 on bench)

Wide Receiver

Gary Jennings, West Virginia (4.42 in the 40 at 214 lb., 37-inch vertical, 10-7 broad)

Hakeem Butler, Iowa State (4.48 in the 40 at 227 lb., 36-inch vertical, 18 reps of 225 lb. on bench)

Interior Offensive line

C Erik McCoy, Texas A&M (4.89 in the 40-yard dash at 303 lb., 31-inch vertical)

OG Sua Opeta, Weber State (5.02 in the 40-yard dash, Combine high 39 reps of 225 lb. bench)

OG Chris Lindstrom, Boston College (4.91 in the 40-yard dash at 308, 30.5-inch vertical)

Offensive tackles

Kaleb McGary, Washington (5.05 in the 40-yard dash at 6-7, 317 lb., 33.5-inch vertical)

Oli Udoh, Elon (5.05 in the 40-yard dash at 6-5, 323 lb.)


Interior defensive linemen

Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame (4.93 in the 40-yard dash at 6-6, 295 lb, 32-inch vertical)

Trysten Hill, UCF (5.04 in the 40-yard dash at 308 lb., 35-inch vertical, 28 reps of 225 lb. on bench)


Edge

Chase Winovich, Michigan (4.59 at 256 lb., 6.94 3-cone, 4.11 short shuttle)

Brian Burns, Florida State (4.53 at 249 lb., 36-inch vertical, 10-9 broad, 7.01 3-cone)

Stack/Off the ball linebackers

Blake Cashman, Minnesota (4.50 in the 40-yard dash, 37.5-inch vertical, 6.95 3-cone)

Gary Johnson, Texas (4.43 in the 40-yard dash, 10-1 broad jump, 33.5-inch vertical)

Cornerbacks

Mark Fields, Clemson (4.37 in the 40-yard dash, 18 reps of 225 lb. on bench)

Derrek Thomas, Baylor (4.44 in the 40-yard dash at 6-3, 39.5-inch vertical, 10-11 broad)

Safeties

Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland (4.36 in the 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical, 10-6 broad)

Amani Hooker, Iowa (4.48 in the 40-yard dash, 37-inch vertical, 10-3 broad, 6.81 3-cone)

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20 Questions from the NFL Combine - DEFENSE

For the past year, and some change, everyone with a draft pulse talked about the potential in this defensive line draft class and there’s little question that there’s more depth at this position than any other on the defensive side of the ball in 2019. But, like all the defensive units in this draft class, plenty of defenders have something to prove in some way, shape or form in Indianapolis. Here are those that I think could move around draft boards as the “answers” to these “questions” are revealed.

Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver - “...and the scale says what?”

Oliver will probably come in around 280 lb. That’s not tremendous. It’s not a red flag. It honestly can be both. I get the feeling teams know exactly what he is and at what weight he plays best - no more than 280 lb., light and agile, violent and active. Once his weight is confirmed teams will need to get comfortable with what exactly to do with him, where does he play on a regular basis? Unfortunately, I can’t name one interior defensive lineman under 290 lb. and that’s an issue. Listen, I watch quick, agile 300+ lb. defensive linemen get moved off the ball in this league with regularity. Oliver is a special player, but it’s hard to fight the laws of nature and a 280 lb. interior defensive lineman will be an issue at some point. When it’s time for Oliver to weigh-in, all eyes/ears will be perked up, no doubt.

La. Tech edge Jaylon Ferguson - “So, baby, how bad is it?”

Ferguson, college football’s all-time sack leader, was uninvited to the Combine then he was invited then he was invited for appetizers. Honestly, I don’t even know where it stands for Ferguson at this point, but teams need to know that the previous off-field incidents are not indicative of his overall character before writing his name on a draft card. The incident in question apparently happened four years ago while he was a freshman at La. Tech. Given the way teams comb through prospects’ history, that incident demands explanation. Especially if it was worse than we all know or have been led to believe. Ferguson will have to answer that question honestly and then prove to a team that it’ll never be an issue again.

Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker - “What’s the watch say?”

It’s clear. For Baker to be a top 20 player in this draft, Monday’s stopwatches will tell the whole story. If he runs in the low 4.4 range, he’s a lock for the first round (unless something in his medicals/past character arises out of the blue). If he’s in the mid-high 4.4 range, it may be enough to lock up a first round spot. If he runs in the 4.5s or worse, then teams might see “zone corner” (not that there is such a thing, really). Corners in past years have been able to run in the 4.5s, with amazing change of direction times and explosive drill times, and still gotten the call in the first round. But, those are rare. Furthermore, the one question about Baker this entire year/offseason is whether he’s truly fast enough to run with receivers in the league. He’s got the attitude and demeanor of a south Florida defensive back (he’s from Miami Northwestern High School) so teams that need a cornerback will be hoping/praying for a nice 4.43 on Monday.

Florida State edge Brian Burns - “Can you move like an outside linebacker?”

The more I think about Burns, the more I wonder whether he’s going to hold up successfully against the run. College run and Pro run games are diametrically different, from a scheme standpoint, sure, but in a more “that’s a really big tight end about to block me” sort of way. Burns will get an early baptism in that way. As such, he must move to a full-time 3-4 outside linebacker spot, so he’s going to have to prove he can drop, move, redirect out in space. If he can prove that to the scouts/teams, his stock should shoot up, given how skilled he is in getting to the quarterback.

Texas cornerback-soon-to-be-safety Kris Boyd - “So, how about some safety drills?”

Let me be real clear, Boyd would never play cornerback for my team. Ever. I know he has the dimensions and may have the straight line speed, but he’s not an NFL cornerback. There’s value, no doubt, just not at that position. So, safety? Yes, safety. Given the fact that he has cover experience, it would make some sense in quarters or man coverage on inside receivers and he could play the middle of the field well with his range.

Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye - “What’s the 40 time?”

I didn’t put Oruwariye in the Harris 100 as he was one of the final seven or eight prospects left off. Listen, he’s got size. He’s strong. He’s polished. He’s earned All-B1G honors. I saw him at the Senior Bowl and was unbelievably impressed with how good he looked on the hoof. But, I did not like him in coverage at all. He seemed to lack an extra gear to stay matched with receivers in coverage. And, I wanted to love him, oh I really wanted to, but I didn’t. That said, if he runs a 4.4 at his size, he’s going to get some added attention to say the least.

Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence - “Straight up, did you know what you were taking?”

Lawrence failed a drug test prior to the Tigers semi-final playoff game against Notre Dame and subsequently missed the national championship game against Alabama. Those would’ve been two huge games in Lawrence’s evaluation given the competition level of those two squads. So, why? What happened? Lawrence’s interview will be as important as his showing on the field in drills and the sort.

Michigan Edge Chase Winovich - “Are you an elite athlete? Show us.”

There are so many compelling aspects to Winovich, on and off the field, and I really gave him strong consideration for Harris 100. I love the way he constructs his rush strategy. He really has a plan for attacking the quarterback. He’s tough, relentless and plays his a-- off. But, he seems to lack the true athletic traits that a team wants in its edge rushers/outside linebacker types. If he tests well, especially in the 3-cone and short shuttle drills, he could really change opinions, especially mine. I want him to, honestly, as I really like him as a player, but ultimately, I think the lack of elite traits on the edge could force him into day three.


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20 QUESTIONS FROM THE NFL COMBINE - OFFENSE

With the eve of the 2019 NFL Combine here, the most important job interview for 300+ former college stars is at hand. Each participant going to Indianapolis knows his weakness and what he must prove. For some, it’s on the field. For others, it’s in the interview room. For others, there are going to be some things they can do nothing about. Kyler Murray can’t study or work at being taller. Some others can’t go back and undo a bad incident or a bad game. But, knowing one’s weakness is vital for teams to unlock the true essence of the player. Teams have done their homework and now it’s time for the players to answer the questions. Here are offensive players that I want to know more about and the one question I want answered for each one.

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray - “Is baseball truly out of your system?”

I was asked that question a few weeks ago on radio whether I thought it was out of Murray’s system. The one thing I came back to was that Murray could easily be in balmy, beautiful Arizona for A’s spring training and bathing in his $4.5M signing bonus that he got as a top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. But, he’s going to be spending the week in Indianapolis being poked, prodded, interviewed, cajoled and jostled in 20-30 degree weather as he prepares to play one of the most violent sports on earth. THAT alone, his presence, should answer that question but in his interviews, I’d really want to know straight from him whether it’s truly dead or whether a few tough games in November will make him yearn for baseball in February. Honestly, I don’t think it will, but I’d love to hear his private answer to that question.

Michigan State running back L.J. Scott - “Do you love football and why?”

Outside of nagging injuries over his last campaign at Michigan State, this one sits in my craw. I read an interview where Scott noted that he didn’t really love football. Now, there are a lot of people that don’t love their jobs, but in this sport, considering the pounding that running backs take, it’s imperative that there’s a desire to play this game at the highest level. I’ve seen plenty of pros over the past five years that should’ve never played in an NFL game, yet they’ve found a way because they just couldn’t stand to miss the competition. Scott can be a banger and a really intriguing NFL back but if he’s aloof or dismisses this aspect, he’s not going to be on some teams’ draft boards.

Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf, part one - “How’s the neck?”

The medicals will continue to tell Metcalf’s story. His 2018 season went up in smoke due to a neck injury so what story will his medicals tell teams? Presumably, he’s 100% healthy at this point, but his medicals will still be appointment viewing for interested teams. Now, on to something a bit sexier...

Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf, part two - “How fast will you run the 40?”

I mean, look at the man’s body. I saw him in Houston when Ole Miss was here for the Advocare Texas Kickoff v. Texas Tech and I was shocked when I found out it was him. Then, a photo circulated on social media and Metcalf was immediately pinned as a younger version of David Boston. Now, I don’t really care about how much he benches or any of his strength tests but if he rolls out a 4.4 at 235 lb., shut it down. He’ll be a top 15 pick. Or should be.

Missouri receiver Emmanuel Hall - Same question - “What’s your real 40-time?”

Hall strikes me as a guy that could really see his stock go through the roof because of his speed. That game speed is effortless and he runs by guys with, or without, the ball in his hands. But, what’s the real number? If he’s in the 4.3 range, with his size (6-0, 6-1, 195 lb.) he could easily get into day two territory. I see it with Will Fuller (Texans) when he’s healthy. He scares every defensive back on the field, perhaps even more so than DeAndre Hopkins, who just happens to be the best receiver on the planet. Hall has that same smoothly, explosive speed and the Combine gives him an opportunity to really show it off.

Northwestern State receiver Jazz Ferguson - “What happened at LSU?”

Ferguson is a a 6-5, 221 lb. pass catcher with feather-soft hands and a world of potential. LSU is a team that constantly needs a receiver of his ilk. In the worst way, really. Yet, Ferguson departed LSU for Northwestern State for his final year of college football. Why? I called one of Ferguson’s games this year and it’s clear he has next level assets but getting to the bottom of that question during interviews will provide a team some much needed guidance on Ferguson.

Iowa tight end Noah Fant - “How high can you go?”

It’s been rumored that Fant has posted a vertical jump of 42-inches, which if that happens, it’ll send a cosmic tidal wave through the midwest. He’s already 6-5 and he should test extremely well, but posting an NBA-player like vertical jump would solidify him as a first round prospect, given solid testing in all other areas.


Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta - “What happened in 2017?”

On the low, I really like Nauta and have ever since his days at IMG Academy. After a strong freshman season in which he caught 29 passes, he caught NINE passes in 2017 for the Bulldogs, a team that went all the way to the national championship game. So, that was a 15 game season and Nauta didn’t miss one...and he caught NINE passes? He rebounded to catch 30 as a junior (third on the squad) but his speed and athleticism shine on tape so nine catches in a 15 game season is a head scratcher.

Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard - “Can you maintain 300 lb. regularly?”

I’m one of the charter members of the Dillard fan club, even in his 275/80 lb. days at Washington State. He told me at the Senior Bowl that he hit 310 lb. which was his goal. He didn’t look worse for the wear or sloppy with the added weight, but can he hold at that weight? I see 315 lb. dudes get thrown on their you know what with regularity against the pass rushers in this league so it’s imperative that Dillard maintain that build/bulk.

Wisconsin offensive tackle David Edwards - “How much did the injuries change/impact you?”

Edwards was a hot name on early, EARLY mock drafts just after last year’s Draft took place. But, 2018 was a nightmare season for Edwards. He didn’t play well at all, but he played with myriad of injuries, including, but not limited to, a left shoulder injury in which Edwards suffered nerve damage. He kept playing, even though he wasn’t playing well, which told me something about Edwards. Before knowing fully about the injuries he suffered, I wasn’t a huge fan of Edwards, but when I went back and watched prior to the bowl game in 2017, I saw plenty to like about him. So, what kind of player can he be fully healthy? Furthermore, are the injuries of a recurring nature that’ll keep him off the field at this level?

Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary - “So, white tackles can jump?”

Woody Harrelson has no business here, that’s for sure. At the Senior Bowl, McGary told me that he would test well athletically; in fact, he mentioned to me that he did a 32-inch vertical jump at 6-7, 321 lb. when he first started training for next year and the Combine. If he does THAT this week? Oh boy! That said, if he tests as well as he anticipates, he could really blow the roof off. Say he does 30+ reps on 225 on the bench press, 31+ inches on vertical jump and 5.1 or better 40-yard dash (his trainer thinks he can go 4.8 in the 40) and he’s going to have some tackle-needy teams taking a long look in the first round because they know he’s not going to be there in the second round with those measurables.

Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams - “What happened on the night of 1/7/2019?”

Williams was back in his home state of California for the first time as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was his last game. It was a soon-to-be coronation for the 15-0 Crimson Tide. It was the National Championship game v. Clemson. Then, Clelin Ferrell happened to Williams. These two faced one another all night long and it ended with Williams on social media on skates. GIF video of Williams getting stabbed right back into his quarterback’s lap made its way across the online landscape and it didn’t paint Williams in his best light, that’s for sure. It was a rare bad night or was it? Was it an indication of what/who Williams is at this point in his career? What happened? I can guarantee his interviews may not start with this question but it won’t be long before a team gets to it.

- John Harris 2/26/2019

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