8/3: Muschamp on Hill, Hamdan, leadership

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following the first day of fall practice for the Florida Gators. Muschamp spoke about a number of hot topics concerning the coaching staff and personnell heading into the season.

HILL’S RESIGNATION WAS “VERY SURPRISING”

Though Muschamp did not want to go into too much detail about the departure of wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill, he did say that he informed the team of his resignation on Thursday night and was ultimately surprised by the decision.

“Obviously disappointed in the situation,” Muschamp said. “I really don’t have anything more to say. It’s a personal situation with Aubrey. It has nothing to do with the University of Florida, and we wish him well and he’ll always be a Gator.”

He also complimented Hill and said that he does not hold his decision against him.

“Aubrey’s a good man, a good football coach, a good guy and a great Gator. He felt like this was something he needed to do and that’s what we did,” Muschamp said.

FILLING IN FOR HILL ON THE FIELD, IN THE OFFICE

Hill’s departure leaves what many would believe are two glaring holes in the Florida coaching staff considering the fact that he held two positions. Muschamp was quick to point out, however, that “recruiting coordinator” is not one that needs to be filled because, at the end of the day, it all falls on his own shoulders.

“You’re looking at him. Every day,” Muschamp quipped when asked who would replace Hill as recruiting coordinator. “That title don’t mean a whole lot to me. I’m the recruiting coordinator. I handle all the recruiting; I’ve recruited every player we have.”

He did, however, expand on who would be coaching the receivers and said that duty would indeed fall on the shoulders of graduate assistant and former Boise State quarterback Bush Hamdan.

“He’s a guy that is a really good young football coach,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very mature guy, an outstanding football coach. As we move forward, I will make a decision in December about that position.”

Muschamp appeared solid in this decision, noting that he has “all the confidence in the world [Hamdan] will do an outstanding job for Florida.” He also said that offensive coordinator Brent Pease would be helping him out just like he would any other coach.

“When you’re the coordinator, you wear a lot of hats. So it’s not like all of a sudden it’s a new responsibility being thrown on top of you. He was very comfortable with what we were doing anyways,” he said of Pease.

“I feel very comfortable about that situation. I’m not at all worried. I never blinked. We were going to be fine; I knew what we were going to have to do.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On how he felt after practice: “A lot of really good retention on both sides of the ball; very pleased with both of the retention. Obviously they’ve worked hard this summer knowing their assignments and the things that they do. [...] The younger guys went tonight…that was good, good effort. It was interesting. We lined up in some defenses I didn’t know we had. No, they did a good job. They did. It was good effort and energy and excitement, anxiety and all the stuff that you couple into a young guy going out.”

» Muschamp said that defensive backs sophomore Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Valdez Showers both practiced with the younger players in the evening session not because they needed work on learning the system but because he wanted to make sure each got as many reps as possible.

» On if he saw increased toughness from his team on Friday: “You play in pads and we’re out there in helmets. Everybody looks tough and everybody’s got courage in helmets. Some of the courage doesn’t show up as much when you get into full gear, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

» On if players are able to determine leaders before coaches do: “At the end of the day, the players before the coaches normally know who the leaders are. I see them on the field, I see them in the locker room, I see them in the weight room. I have a pretty good idea of the personality they have and the type of person they are. But unless I’ve been around them for 2-3-4 years, sometimes you may miss on some guys. But they’re with them in the social settings and they understand the guys that are real and the guys that aren’t real at the end of the day. There’s no question that our players probably identify better early on who the true leaders are and who the real guys are and who the guys are that want to talk about it. You know, you got to walk the walk as well.”

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Florida Gators, WR coach Aubrey Hill part ways

Florida Gators wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill has resigned from his position with the team, the school announced on Friday.

Hill, who has been twice named by Yahoo! Sports in connection with major recruiting violations in his former position with the Miami Hurricanes (Aug. 16, 2011 | July 20, 2012), resigned for “personal reasons” according to head coach Will Muschamp.

“I have too much love and respect for this program to become a distraction as I deal with some personal issues,” Hill said in statement released by the school. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Coach Muschamp, a tremendous staff and great group of players. The future is very bright here and the University of Florida will always have a special place in my heart. Go Gators.”

Muschamp said in a release that he appreciated Hill’s decision to move on.

“Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida,” he said. “Aubrey didn’t want to be a distraction to our team and our football program and he thought it was best for him to move on. I appreciate Aubrey’s efforts and wish him the best moving forward. He will always remain a Gator.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three SEC titles. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and coached wide receivers at four stops over 12 years before being hired by Florida. He also served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season, his last year with the team.

Filling in for Hill at least temporarily will be offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also coaches the Gators’ quarterbacks, and offensive graduate assistant Bush Hamdan. Pease previously coached wide receivers at Boise State from 2006-10, and Hamdan was a backup quarterback in his offensive system.

Muschamp will likely hire a new coach after the season.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is an early candidate to take over Hill’s recruiting coordinator duties; Florida already has 21 players verbally committed for the 2013 cycle as of press time and has an early jump on its 2014 class.

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Hill again named in Yahoo! report on potential recruiting violations occurring at Miami

For the second time in as many years, a report released Friday by Yahoo! Sports concerning potential recruiting violations occurring within the Miami Hurricanes football program includes the name of current Florida Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill.

Writes Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson:

Less than one week after the University of Miami hired Al Golden as coach, members of Golden’s coaching staff began using Sean “Pee Wee” Allen – a then-equipment manager and onetime right-hand man of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro – to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players.

He adds that Golden “had direct knowledge of Allen’s improper involvement with Miami recruits” and that “Allen has become a focal point into the [NCAA’s] probe into Miami athletics” with a focus on how he provided “impermissible benefits to Hurricanes players, as well as his contract with Miami recruits.”

One of those so-called “recruiting infractions” took place with the assistance of Hill, according to Robinson’s report.

On Dec. 17, 2010, five days after Golden was hired as Miami’s coach, Allen testified that he was summoned to the restaurant Dan Marino’s in South Miami to pick up Miami Northwestern High school quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. [...] Allen testified that Bridgewater, Golden and other Miami coaches were at the restaurant during an unofficial visit and that a member of the coaching staff asked Allen to pick Bridgewater up. [...] Allen’s phone records show eight calls exchanged with Bridgewater that afternoon and early evening, as well as four calls exchanged with Hill. The former Miami staffer told Yahoo! Sports that Hill, a then-Miami assistant, was present at the restaurant and arranged for Allen to pick Bridgewater up and transport him home – a violation of NCAA rules.

Hill was one of seven coaches specifically named in Robinson’s 2011 report on the Miami football program being infiltrated by booster Nevin Shapiro. He was accused of ushering recruits (including eventual Gators commitments wide receiver Andre Debose and offensive lineman Matt Patchan) to “Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them.”

Hill coached the Hurricanes wide receivers from 2008-10 and added the role of recruiting coordinator in his final season. He was hired away from Miami by Florida head coach Will Muschamp just three weeks after Golden took the job in South Florida.

Neither Hill, Debose nor Patchan suffered any penalties or punishments after being named in the 2011 report. Hill, through the University of Florida, declined comment prior to the publication of both the 2011 and 2012 reports.

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Legacy Kelvin Taylor commits to Florida Gators

Eighteen years after his father first donned an orange and blue uniform and ran out onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, four-star running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) announced that he would follow in his dad’s footsteps by committing to play football for the Florida Gators in 2013.

The son of University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame running back Fred Taylor, he has been around both football and the Gators his entire life. And like his father, his immensely successful high school football career earned him a scholarship offer from Florida, which he chose over Alabama on Saturday.

Kelvin Taylor (5’10” 205 lbs.) actually began playing as an eighth grader, starting for the Glades Day High School varsity team and running for 1,692 yards and 27 touchdowns. He followed that up by amassing 2,691 yards and 47 touchdowns as a freshman, breaking former Gators running back Emmitt Smith’s career Florida high school record of 8,804 yards two years later at the end of his junior season in 2011.

With 9,698 career yards to his credit (only 8,114 of which count nationally), he has an opportunity to break the all-time record of 11,232 yards, which was set back in 1953. He has also produced 148 touchdowns in four years of playing high school football.

Taylor undoubtedly has his sights set on the NFL and can only hope to be as successful as his father, the No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fred Taylor rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns (adding 2,384 receiving yards and eight receiving scores) over 13 seasons as a professional.

His name can also be found throughout Florida’s record books as he still holds the Gators’ single-season record for yards per carry (6.0 in 1997), led the team in rushing in both 1994 and 1997, has the sixth-most attempts in school history (537) and is fourth in both career (3,075) and single-season (1,292) rushing yardage.

Even with a strong love for the Gators, Fred Taylor never pushed his son to commit to Florida and said that he just wanted him to be happy no matter which school he chose.

And just because he will be playing for the Gators, do not expect Kelvin Taylor to think the starting job or anything else for that matter will be handed to him.

Reidel Anthony, a former teammate of his father’s and the offensive coordinator at Glades Central, told ESPNU that Taylor is a hard worker who makes his own way.

“Kelvin plays hungry and there’s no sense of entitlement there,” he said. “He doesn’t expect to just walk in and dominate because he’s Fred Taylor’s son. He wants to be a player that earns what he gets.

“And he’s just a humble young man, real quiet like Fred was. He’s not going to tell you that he’s going to run for 350 yards on you, he’s just going to do it. He has the respect of his teammates, his coaches, other coaches and his opposition because of the way he plays the game.”

Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, also a former teammate of Fred Taylor’s and still a close friend of the family, was Kelvin Taylor’s primary recruiter with the Gators throughout the entire process.

With his commitment now out of the way, the younger Taylor no longer has to endure the rigors of recruiting and can instead concentrate on the things that matter the most.

“I’m gonna keep my grades up, work very hard, run track, lift weights and just focus my mind on high school football and trying to get another state title,” he said earlier in the week, according to The Gainesville Sun.

The No. 111 ranked player nationally according to Rivals and a five-star recruit listed as one of ESPNU’s top 100 prospects in 2013, Taylor gives Florida their second big-time running back commitment in the 2013 class. He joins four-star Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL) as two of the Gators’ five pledges as of press time.

He is currently attending Florida’s second Junior Day this weekend in Gainesville, FL and intends to enroll at UF in January (as does Lane).

Taylor’s commitment was first reported by Andrew Spivey of Gator Country.

RELATED: 2013 LB Powell chooses the Gators at Junior Day | WR Rodney Adams makes the call for Florida

Photo Credits: Stuart Browning, Unknown

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Four Gators coaches strap on the pads in practice

Call it a fun exercise to get the players hyped for the game or a moment to try to rekindle some glory from their playing careers but there were smiles all around during practice for the 2012 Gator Bowl when four Florida Gators coaches threw on pads and jerseys and went head-to-head on the field.

In the video below from the University of Florida’s GatorVision, wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill takes on defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and defensive line coach Bryant Young competes with tight ends coach Derek Lewis.

“[Lewis] threw on 82 and I threw on 97 and we had helmets and shoulder pads on,” Young told the school’s website. “Both of us realized, ‘What are we doing?’ Thank God nobody got hurt. We had some pretty tough physical practices and it was kind of way to get juiced up before we got started and even got the coaches going a little bit.”

(Interim offensive coordinator Brian White gets left hanging for a high-five for nearly six seconds starting at 1:52.)

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FOUR BITS: Finley, Marotti, Tebow, Brewer

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Dee Finley confirmed to OGGOA Thursday night that he has chosen to transfer and finish his collegiate football career with the Division II North Alabama Lions. Finley, who decided to leave Florida on Oct. 12, will return to his home state and attend a school just four hours north of his hometown. Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins transferred to play for the Lions after being dismissed before the season by head coach Will Muschamp and has done very well during his time at North Alabama this year.

2 » Two former Florida players have told OGGOA over the last couple of days that Gators strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti is indeed headed to Columbus, OH to team up once again with head coach Urban Meyer at his new post with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Despite reports that Meyer was also after linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin, OGGOA has learned that Durkin plans to stay put and remain with Florida for 2012. However, as the Columbus Dispatch noted on Thursday, Meyer is also interested in bringing over UF wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill. Hill joined the Gators staff under Muschamp after Meyer left.

3 » Former Florida teammates quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin will do battle this weekend when their respective teams – the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings – do battle this week on the NFL gridiron. Harvin, who obviously has plenty of experience playing with Tebow, has been helping Minnesota game plan this week for the Heisman Trophy winner. The Vikings are using backup QB Joe Webb as a Tebow clone in practice in an effort to stop the Tebow train and (5-1 as a starter this year) and lead Minnesota to just its third victory of the season. The Vikings, however, have the ninth-ranked run defense in the league, so Tebow and broncos head coach John Fox may have to use his arm to succeed this week.

4 » After bouncing around between a number of teams of last season, former Gators forward Corey Brewer hopes to have found a more permanent home with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. While head coach Rick Carlisle told Brewer that he is pleased with his effort, rebounding and ability to attack the basket, he pointed out that Brewer must improve his jump shot going forward. “We were shooting a lot trying to get my jump shot to be consistent,” Brewer said in mid-November, according to ESPNDallas.com. “All the other things I do well, but I need to be a consistent jump-shooter, especially in our offense. The way we pass the ball you get a lot of open shots.” Brewer may not have done much to help Dallas win last season, but he hopes to be an integral part of the team winning its second title in 2011-12. “I always felt like this was a good move for my future. We have a lot of guys that are aging and I feel like I’d get a chance to come here and help,” he added. “I was happy to be on the team last year and I helped as much as I could, but I knew I wasn’t going to get much time. But now, it’s a new year.”

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FOUR BITS: Taylor, Jeroloman, Sidner, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Travis Taylor recently returned to the University of Florida to finish his degree in sports management and has simultaneously decided to work for the football program as an undergraduate student assistant. According to UF senior writer Scott Carter, Taylor contacted former teammate and now Gators WR coach Aubrey Hill about the opportunity and is excited about how he can help the team going forward. “I had not talked to Aubrey in 10 years,” Taylor said. “He was like, ‘Man, whatever I can do for you just let me know. I’ll definitely run it by Coach [Will] Muschamp.’ Everything kind of fell into place. I came over to learn about the process and got it done. They embraced me to come in and I’m having a great time.”

2 » Former Florida catcher Brian Jeroloman, who has spent approximately five years toiling in minor leagues throughout the country, was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday potentially for the remainder of the season. He will officially be the seventh former Gators baseball player in the MLB this year.

3 » As noted by the Twitter account for Florida volleyball, anyone who has been watching CNN’s coverage of unrest in Libya has undoubtedly seen reports from network correspondent Sara Sidner. On-site in Tripoli as rebels attempt to usurp power from dictator Muammar Gadhafi, she was actually inside a compound still controlled Gadhafi on Tuesday. “We have had to run from Gadhafi Compound,” she tweeted at approximately 6 p.m. (ET). “Gun fire coming towards us from outside compound.” A former Gators volleyball player, Sidner is CNN’s New Delhi-based international correspondent covering India and South Asia and has been with the network since 2008. She graduated from UF in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree in telecommunications.

3 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps learned Tuesday that his name was placed on the candidate list for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given each year to numerous student-athletes who achieve greatness in four key areas: community, classroom, character and competition. Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is the only football player representing Florida to ever win the award (2009), which has only been presented since 2008.

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8/20: Muschamp discusses injuries, names position leaders, rewards walk-ons

With the Florida Gators now having completed training camp and headed into fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media early Saturday to provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic.

STATEMENT ON COACH HILL

As allegations from a Yahoo! Sports report suggesting he could have been involved in the illegal and illicit recruiting of players while with the Miami Hurricanes, Florida wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill received a vote of confidence from Muschamp on Saturday. “I’ve talked to Aubrey after the article came out. I feel very comfortable with he and I’s conversation,” he said. “I support Aubrey 100 percent. I’m glad he’s here at Florida, and that’s all I’m really going to comment on.”

BROWN INJURED, BACK SOON; BRANTLEY AND REED RESTING

Confirming a report from the Independent Florida Alligator, Muschamp noted that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has indeed been out with a knee injury but is respected to return to practice next week. “I expect him probably next Wednesday or Thursday of next week,” Muschamp said.

He also said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley got the day off to rest his sore back and will return to action for the team’s scrimmage on Wednesday, while redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed returned to practice Saturday after missing 3-4 days for a sore hamstring. “[Brantley] has had a very productive camp,” he said. “We felt like Wednesday’s scrimmage was much more important as far as progressing our offense further to get ready for game plan than this one and if we needed to take a day off, [Saturday] was the best day to do it.”

LEADING FOR STARTING JOBS

Plenty of positions are up for grabs this fall due to graduations, players leaving early and the new coaching staff implementing difference schemes than a year ago. On Saturday, Muschamp explained that a few more starting jobs have been coming into focus over the last week of camp.

Senior punter David Lerner is currently set to start over freshman Kyle Christy. Lerner, a walk-on who learned in late July that he has Chron’s disease, has been practicing through the health issue and was put on scholarship by Muschamp this week. “Kyle Christy has done some really good things, has got a tremendous leg,” he said, “but David has punted consistently better.”

Redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan, who had been competing with redshirt freshman Chaz Green for the starting gig, has currently taken the lead and the chance to solidify the right side of the line.

With junior Xavier Nixon holding down the starting left tackle job, redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne (who was backing him up) has been moved to left guard and quickly jumped ahead of redshirt freshman Ian Silberman and redshirt senior James Wilson, both of whom were competing for the position.

Florida’s starting offensive line (for now) consists of: LT Nixon, LG Koehne, C redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, RG redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio, RT Patchan.

WALK-ONS REWARDED

Three other Gators walk-ons in addition to Lerner earned scholarships from Muschamp this week. The coach informed redshirt sophomore safety Tim Clark, redshirt junior linebacker Scott Peek and senior OT/TE William Steinmann that they had all received the honor after performing well during the spring and summer. Muschamp, a former walk-on himself, described them as, “Four guys that have all been in our program for a number of years, have both demonstrated themselves well on-and-off-the-field, academically they’ve done an outstanding job.” Muschamp said they made the announcement in front of the team and it was very emotional for all involved.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On practices being closed: “It was hot out there today. Ya’ll glad it was closed today?”

» Muschamp said the team got in a lot of good work in Saturday including stuff in the red zone, on third down and with all four special teams units. He said the band was at practice (so it was not totally closed) and the team worked an end-of-game scenario with 5:18 left on the clock. The Gators were in “full game day operation,” which Muschamp said resulted in a “very productive day.”

» The team will take pictures on Sunday and have its next scrimmage on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are when the Gators will start preparations for the Florida Atlantic game on Sept. 3.

» Muschamp said sophomore safety Matt Elam had an interception on Saturday and is easily the most consistent player at his position. Everyone else has “shown flashes” but is still competing and trying to earn a spot.

» On the defensive line: “I really like our guys, but we don’t’ have any depth. [...] I feel very good about our talent level; we just don’t have any depth.”

» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose’s recent improvement: “Andre made a nice catch on a deep ball today. Andre, really the last couple of days, has taken a step forward. [...] I was very pleased with Andre today. He made a nice play on the side – well-covered, well-thrown ball. He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased.”

» On the AP Top 25 preseason poll: “I could care less about the poll.” When told the phrase is “couldn’t” care less: “I was never very good in English, I’ll be honest with ya.”

» On offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: “Charlie’s experience speaks for itself, and his track record – you all know that. From the standpoint of him working with the players is probably his strongest point. You really talk to people that played for him – whether it was at Notre Dame, New England or Kansas City – the players have a great respect for him because he’s all about the players. He’s hard on them, he’s tough on them, it’s tough love, but they have a great respect because he has answers when things don’t go right.”

» On closing practices to hide details: “That’s why we’ve closed everything. I do think it is an advantage for us this season. [...] We put a wild rumor out there about Wildcat. [...] That’s why we’ve closed things.”

» On redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar’s improvement this offseason: “The hardest thing for a young player is to consistently perform every day. You try to explain to them it’s your consistency in your performance [that’s important]. We’ve really challenged Quinton as far as, ‘OK, you want to be a starting receiver, I’m good with that. But to add your value as a player to this football team, you need to be on special teams.’ So when we have scout-look teams as far as our special teams, Quinton Dunbar’s the first guy that jumps in there if he’s not already on the special team. That to me shows tremendous strides and commitment to help our football team. He’s willing to go in there and give our guys a good look.”

» On comparisons between freshman QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett: “Well, I think they are very similar. They’re both athletic, big, strong, big arms, good decision makers. They both have a certain command about themselves as quarterbacks. Jeff’s probably a little more of a scrambler and a runner, as opposed to Jacoby. But they are very similar quarterbacks. Their skill set is very similar. Talking to Charlie about our plan as we move forward is – will be a very similar plan as far as gaming for them and putting them in situations to be successful.”

» On his demeanor at practice: “I’m just myself. There is a key to every young man and you have to find that key. I’m going to be who I am, and I don’t plan anything. I just kind of do what I do.”

» On freshmen playing early: “I always feel like the further your position is away from the ball, the better chance you got to play because your athleticism takes over quicker as opposed to you being close. I think it’s hard for offensive and defensive linemen – I’m not saying it’s impossible because I’ve had guys do it – to come in and play because the bodies are bigger, it’s a faster game, it’s a more complicated game than they’re used to.”

» On if he thinks the team is coming together: “I do. I’m cautiously optimistic when I say that form the standpoint of, what real adversity have we faced? I do think that we’ve battled through some tough practices heat, exhaustion, fatigue; I think we’ve managed that. I wouldn’t say we’ve passed with flying colors, but we’ve managed that. What’s going to happen when we get down 14-0? How are we going to respond to that? That’s when you find out a lot about your team.”

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