Why doesn't Kansas run the option?

josephcook

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The halcyon days of Mark Mangino are no more in Lawrence, Kan. More than a decade has passed since the Jayhawks reached bowl eligibility. Four different coaches have led the Jayhawks since Mangino’s dismissal, and none of them have won more than three games in a season.

Turner Gill lasted two years before Charlie Weis was brought in. Weis started his third year, but didn’t finish it and left his successor, David Beaty, in a recruiting quagmire. When KU hired Jeff Long to be athletic director, it was fait accompli he would bring Les Miles with him. But it appears that the modern game has passed the Mad Hatter.

Or has it passed Kansas? Even with a quality RPO-based offense and an elite skill player like Pooka Williams over the past few years, KU could never manage more than one random upset win in the Big 12. They have no true recruiting base. There is no real overall vision for the program. Eventually, apathy will set in and David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium will look as it did prior to Miles’ arrival.

How could Kanas fix this? Running the option.

Utilizing an option offense would be the ultimate zag in the Big 12. A conference with Lincoln Riley, Steve Sarkisian, and Mike Gundy obviously values explosive plays. How do those explosive plays happen when those offenses aren’t on the field because the option is consuming clock?

Ask 2018 Oklahoma, who almost found out the hard way against Army.

The option is a great talent equalizer. A team could have a linebacker corps filled with Malik Jeffersons and DeMarvion Overshowns. But if those Jeffersons and Overshowns don’t know where they are supposed to be, their elite athleticism will be squandered chasing plays instead of stuffing them.

There’s a close-to-home example of option success within the Texas high school football ranks. Just northwest of Austin is the city of Liberty Hill, home of the Panthers. LHHS has run the Slot-T offense for a long time and won two state championships using the option attack.

The average person reading this article might be the size of a starting Panther offensive lineman. The undersized group consistently makes runs in the playoffs against teams that may be bigger, but rarely as crisp in their execution.

Since 2010, only six Panthers even had so much as a 247Sports recruiting profile and no players have attended a Power 5 program. Yet, they succeed. LHHS was 12-1 in 2020, falling in the fifth round to Crosby. 13-2 in 2018, defeating Carthage in the state semis and losing to La Vega in the finals. 10-3 in 2017. 10-3 in 2015.

It has created a pathway to success for a team at a massive talent deficit. Sound familiar, Kansas?

If the Texas high school ranks don’t make a convincing argument, maybe the Jayhawks could look at their in-state rival.

Kansas State walked as the Big 8 cellar-dweller so Kansas could run in the same role in the Big 12’s current iteration. The number of winning seasons achieved by KSU between the formation of the Big 8 and Bill Snyder’s hire was two. The amount of win-less season in the same timeframe was five.

Then, starting around 1991, Snyder began running Purple Wizardry. Quarterbacks were involved in the run game. Tough, local Kansans and other Midwesterners from the then-untapped junior college ranks were brought to Manhattan.

The system hit one of several crescendos in 1997 with Michael Bishop. His big arm and big frame helped the Wildcats sniff around the national championship picture in the late 90s. Don’t forget Ell Roberson, who helped KSU upset Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship game.

Of course, there was some passing principles involved, and adding a player like Darren Sproles to the mix can help dynamize any offense. But Snyder’s swansong proved the value of playing an equalizing offense.

Led by Collin Klein in 2012, Kansas State almost bulldozed its way to the national championship yet again, undone by Baylor in Art Briles’ fifth season. Still, Kansas State’s proclivity for “Snyder-ball” put it on the brink of the BCS Championship.

Meanwhile, Kansas was 1-11.

The Jayhawks shouldn’t expect Snyder-like heights should they adopt an analogous strategy. A run like Snyder’s in Manhattan may not be seen in college football again. But, they can expect to be competitive if only because of the nature of the offense.

The option is a chore to play against. Cut blocks, reads, more reads, and more reads. Real, physical football. It’s not easy to execute. It’s even more difficult to stop.

If anyone should become a pestering nuisance in the Big 12, why not the Jayhawks?

Any better ideas?

The option has not been in the Power 5 ranks since Paul Johnson retired from Georgia Tech after the 2018 season. Johnson helped the Yellow Jackets win one ACC title and play for three more. Eight of his eleven seasons in Atlanta finished .500 or better. He even knocked off powerful Georgia three times during that span.

GT is figuring out what life after the option is like, and the growing pains have been plenty. However, Georgia Tech is in the middle of Atlanta with access to skill and line talent. Kansas is in the middle of America.

The service academies are the most recognized remaining bastion of option football in the FBS. The Army Black Knights have three winning seasons in the past four years, including two with 10 wins. Not to be outdone, Navy has three winning seasons in recent history and have competed for the American Athletic Conference title.

Plus, those teams are annual pains to the likes of Notre Dame, and are scheduled to play the likes of LSU, Wisconsin, and Kansas State in the coming decade.

Should Kansas join them? Other ideas have failed.

What other options are left? Airing it out like KU’s Big 12 peers has not worked. Maybe running the dang ball will help.
 

Ian Boyd

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Mark Mangino's path to success at Kansas was very much not the triple option, which makes you wonder if it's really necessary for the Jayhawks. On the other hand, being a consistently solid team with an identity who can give other B12 teams problems is a much higher level of program than the Jayhawks have been for most of my life.

If I'm not mistaken though, one of the big donors who makes their football program go was determined the job should go to Les Miles. What Kansas should or shouldn't consider a good path is almost irrelevant if they don't have open-minded football boosters.
 

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josephcook

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Mark Mangino's path to success at Kansas was very much not the triple option, which makes you wonder if it's really necessary for the Jayhawks. On the other hand, being a consistently solid team with an identity who can give other B12 teams problems is a much higher level of program than the Jayhawks have been for most of my life.

If I'm not mistaken though, one of the big donors who makes their football program go was determined the job should go to Les Miles. What Kansas should or shouldn't consider a good path is almost irrelevant if they don't have open-minded football boosters.
How much of that was Mangino being an "early adopter?"

Long has plenty to worry about with Bill Self right now, it seems, so they may be stuck with the Mad Hatter for some time.
 

Ian Boyd

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How much of that was Mangino being an "early adopter?"

Long has plenty to worry about with Bill Self right now, it seems, so they may be stuck with the Mad Hatter for some time.
Mangino was both an early adopter and also realistic about who they needed to recruit. They recruit their state, Kansas City, and Oklahoma. Didn't come in saying, "we're going to go convince the Metroplex kids everyone else wants to come be Jayhawks!"
 

wabash

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Mangino was both an early adopter and also realistic about who they needed to recruit. They recruit their state, Kansas City, and Oklahoma. Didn't come in saying, "we're going to go convince the Metroplex kids everyone else wants to come be Jayhawks!"
I will say though, nabbing Todd Reesing from Lake Travis right before the QB factory got national recognition & grabbing Aqib Talib from Richardson Berkner highlight how Mark was able to pick his spots in Texas.

Mark's son Tommy is currently the OC at Lake Travis I believe.
 

Ian Boyd

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I will say though, nabbing Todd Reesing from Lake Travis right before the QB factory got national recognition & grabbing Aqib Talib from Richardson Berkner highlight how Mark was able to pick his spots in Texas.

Mark's son Tommy is currently the OC at Lake Travis I believe.
Grabbing Reesing at that time was very different. Lake Travis wasn't Lake Travis yet and the idea that you could kill teams by spreading them out and letting a gritty guy who was 5-11, 190 run around and distribute the ball to space was more or less revolutionary.
 

wabash

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Grabbing Reesing at that time was very different. Lake Travis wasn't Lake Travis yet and the idea that you could kill teams by spreading them out and letting a gritty guy who was 5-11, 190 run around and distribute the ball to space was more or less revolutionary.
Sure, that's why I said before the QB factory got national recognition, but he was still the 4A player of the year as a junior and both those examples still highlight how Mangino was able to pick his spots in Texas and get high level talent.
 

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dmatx

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I think they could win 5 games a year between OOC games and crappy/unprepared/unlucky B12 teams. Plus it would be fun to watch. 5 games a year isn't much but it's several times better than they are doing currently.
 

BayAreaHorn

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They should hire Keven Kelley:

The fact that Columbia passed on him shows how risk averse ADs really are. I think it would be a brilliant idea to hire him and he can't do any worse than Les Miles--further, he would be nearly the embarrassment that Miles is with his double digit IQ.

Kansas is going to have to work with a substantial talent deficit that can be ameliorated somewhat by the Jayhawk league. But there is no way that it can compete with OU/Texas if it tries to compete straight up. KU needs to figure out something systemically that is designed around a talent deficit.
 

stilesbbq

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This is an awesome question. Kansas and Vandy should absolutely at least entertain the idea
 
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panther52

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A family member played for single-wing, triple-option Salisbury's D-III national quarterfinalist team in 2011. (In the national quarters, the Seagulls ran into Wisconsin-Whitewater's 'transfer down from D-I' talent. They nevertheless were down only 10 late in the 3rd, and the top receiver, a wonderful kid but pressing a little in the moment, turned his head early on what would have been a catch inside the UWW 20. The triple-option was competitive even against physically superior UWW, but its flaw is that it is not a catch-up offense, so score margin and waning game clock are deadly to it.)

Of course, he loves watching Army and Navy games, and is open-mouthed at how much they do with the package and how well they run it, compared with Salisbury's 'best in D-III' version. He believes that a program that will commit to it will 'raise the ceiling for the program'. He's been there and done that.
 

coach_bass

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I went to hutto when we were in the same district as Liberty hill. Thanks for bringing up old memories but we used to absolutely hate playing against them and their “nasty slot” offense. It was incredibly difficult to stop especially in the 4th quarter.
 
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cord32

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Godfrey does a sermon on this every coaching silly season. The problem from what he’s heard is that if you go to your money folks and say we’re going to the triple you are putting a ceiling on your program. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal as having a 7/8 win ceiling would be a giant improvement for the programs that people bring up (Kansas, Vandy, etc..) but it seems to be.
 

josephcook

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Godfrey does a sermon on this every coaching silly season. The problem from what he’s heard is that if you go to your money folks and say we’re going to the triple you are putting a ceiling on your program. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal as having a 7/8 win ceiling would be a giant improvement for the programs that people bring up (Kansas, Vandy, etc..) but it seems to be.
That's sort of where I got this notion from but as I thought about it more and more, it made more and more sense.

The other thing is, at least at Kansas, aren't most of the boosters more involved in hoops than football? I know @Ian Boyd mentioned there was the one who essentially ran the campaign for Les, but Les ain't working.

The other thing that I think should make it more palatable is that this isn't a 3-5 win program we're talking about, it's a 0-1 win program. They should throw the kitchen sink at the issue, or hand off to the sink.
 

panther52

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I got comments from our family's 'Salisbury option' veteran.

What You'd Do
Run a pistol or offset I, and then use lots of option plays. Optically, that is going to be more appealing to more recruits than a wishbone or single wing formation that is a true 'option' design. The NFL is doing some of this, now.

Although the backfield setup would not look like a pure option setup, the offensive line would do what 'option offensive lines' do. The H-back would really do zip-back things. The 'ugly optics' of an option formation would be disguised with a more conventional-looking formation, out of which you do 'option things'.

Plus
There are numerous high schools here and there who run the option. The service academies (and Georgia Tech in its day) don't take 'average joe' as admittees. Kansas can take every average kid. So, you can become a school of choice - any decent student can get in - for all high schools that run option. Unlike service / GaTech schools, you could take 'the best option QB in the country' every year. At most colleges, you might bring in the high-rated option QB to compete with the 'pure passer'; but, probably, the 'passing' guy winds up as the starter.

You also can get an 'athlete' at QB, and the play flows through him, every down. You want to be 'the man' who has the ball / decision / opportunity, on every play? Play QB at Kansas.

Minus
Recruiting stigma. Have you just lost every offensive player in the country who thinks that they might have an NFL shot someday? (Recall that a Georgia Tech all-ACC OL had to come to UT, to have a chance to show the NFL whether he could pass block.) It is an interesting thought experiment as to whether the NFL could use the 'best tackle in moving in space in the U.S.', but, the NFL wants tackles who can stand up to J.J. Watt and Carl Lawson for an hour on Sunday.

The service academies (and Georgia Tech) have a solid story why they are not going to have the size of other teams, and don't face a stigma. 'They are special schools, and they adapt'; that's okay. If a typical P1 state university, theoretically having the same 'talent base' as any other state P1 program, moves to an offense that is conceding 'we won't have the same size or athletes', then the stigma and optics could be terrible, for recruiting and for alumni support.

If the defense has a first-or second-round NFL-level player who can 'blow up the dive' by himself every play, the offense is in deep trouble. One of the three options is gone. Then, assuming that defense also has some elite speed, there no advantage available outside, either. Against an elite-athlete defense running a 4i tilt with a monster defensive line, you might have a day when 'I don't know whether we'll make a first down, today'.

Likely, cutting yourself off from junior college talent, and JC players are important in the Kansas statewide setup. Jucos don't run the option; it takes time (not 'two years on campus and gone') to run the system. Also, most kids who go JC as a path to DI football would not go to an option joco school.

The portal might be high-volume, each way:
- you've shown you're better than your evaluations from high school - transfer to a school where you next can show NFL potential.
- you've learned your limitations at another school - transfer to Kansas where they play the game in the (limited) way that you excel; and, get a starting role.

Outcome
You could get Kansas to a position where they would win two out of four against the 'do more with 3-stars' schools: Oklahoma State, TCU, etc.

Yes, that would be better than now. A lot better. And, at a school where 'football is the second sport', maybe the fans would buy into the entertainment value, and the ability to be very competitive and have an unpredictable, entertaining game, nine+ weeks per season.

It would take great courage on every level of the athletic program, to commit five years to testing that proposition.
 
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Ian Boyd

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Godfrey does a sermon on this every coaching silly season. The problem from what he’s heard is that if you go to your money folks and say we’re going to the triple you are putting a ceiling on your program. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal as having a 7/8 win ceiling would be a giant improvement for the programs that people bring up (Kansas, Vandy, etc..) but it seems to be.
Just a matter of convincing the boosters then, which seems like it needn't be that hard.
That's sort of where I got this notion from but as I thought about it more and more, it made more and more sense.

The other thing is, at least at Kansas, aren't most of the boosters more involved in hoops than football? I know @Ian Boyd mentioned there was the one who essentially ran the campaign for Les, but Les ain't working.

The other thing that I think should make it more palatable is that this isn't a 3-5 win program we're talking about, it's a 0-1 win program. They should throw the kitchen sink at the issue, or hand off to the sink.
I've done a big piece on how Kansas won last time:

I do think the triple-option would work there though. I think.
 

DuvalHorn

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Would it be realistic to implement an offense similar to what Jamey Chadwell has done at Coastal Carolina?
 
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Ian Boyd

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Would it be realistic to implement an offense similar to what Jamey Chadwell has done at Coastal Carolina?
Notable that Chadwell hasn't done much of anything when he hasn't had Grayson McCall. But I think they potentially could.

To be a good team you have to have good players SOMEWHERE. The question is, where is Kansas likely to consistently have good players who can carry their efforts? Even in the triple option the answer can vary. Niumatalolo's Navy emphasizes the quarterback run game a lot more, Monken's Army is more about pounding away inside with the fullback and going for it on fourth down.

Tom Osborne's I-option would hit off tackle with the quarterback AND the running back. Lots of ways to do it. Which is best for Kansas?
 

cord32

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Just a matter of convincing the boosters then, which seems like it needn't be that hard.
Yeah I think if Jeff Long wouldn't have f'd up so bad on the Beaty stuff and since Miles isn't doing any better it would be hard for him. "Look i know i've been a disaster but this time it'll work". Still not sure what he's ever done to deserve the rope he's been given.

The other thing that may make it harder is looking at places that were barren wastelands and seeing how they turned it around playing normal football. Oregon St comes to mind. Rutgers seems to be on the verge of respectable.
 

Ian Boyd

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Yeah I think if Jeff Long wouldn't have f'd up so bad on the Beaty stuff and since Miles isn't doing any better it would be hard for him. "Look i know i've been a disaster but this time it'll work". Still not sure what he's ever done to deserve the rope he's been given.

The other thing that may make it harder is looking at places that were barren wastelands and seeing how they turned it around playing normal football. Oregon St comes to mind. Rutgers seems to be on the verge of respectable.
Oregon State had a coach who was really good at looking nationally to recruit overlooked players, which is why I thought Mike Riley might be a good fit at Nebraska.

Rutgers is actually smack dab in a talent hub, NJ has a lot of people and a lot of them are good at football. Schiano is the only guy who's been able to leverage local connections there to get enough of those players to attend Rutgers.

Mangino's play at Kansas was to look for the right sorts of developmental projects from within Kansas and Oklahoma or other natural, local recruiting areas. Then he'd pull overlooked kids from DFW or ATX (Todd Reesing!). He was basically a less stable Matt Campbell.
 

kevinbelt

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What You'd Do
Run a pistol or offset I, and then use lots of option plays. Optically, that is going to be more appealing to more recruits than a wishbone or single wing formation that is a true 'option' design. The NFL is doing some of this, now.
That's basically what Coastal does. McCall is in the pistol most of the time with two backs. Either of them can be the dive back or the pitch back. Sometimes they have some shotgun two-back sets where the backs are on either side of McCall, and sometimes they have some one-back sets where the back is the dive back and the pitch back is a receiver in orbit motion (like what Urban Meyer used to do with Percy Harvin).

Personally, I've always thought you could use a motion receiver as a dive back on a jet sweep and then run a QB/RB pitch the other way.


To be a good team you have to have good players SOMEWHERE.
I mean, that was supposed to be Pooka, right?


Rutgers is actually smack dab in a talent hub, NJ has a lot of people and a lot of them are good at football. Schiano is the only guy who's been able to leverage local connections there to get enough of those players to attend Rutgers.
I don't know what Schiano does differently, but Rutgers is a hard school to recruit in-state kids to. Kids in the northeast don't grow up dreaming of playing for (or, for non-athletes, attending) their state school like kids in the midwest or south do. I assume most of you guys wore burnt orange diapers. Ohio State was the only school I applied to. But up here, the state school is where you go if you're not good enough to get in anywhere else. For regular students, that's private schools; for athletes, it's powerhouses.

He was basically a less stable Matt Campbell.
Better analogy than you realize. Mangino and Jon Heacock both coached under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State, although not at the same time.
 

fullbackdive

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Really good thread. Love watching Coastal's offense. The counter option they run out of the single back pistol is nasty (
). They also have a nice play out of the same formation that's a fake read option, then a speed option to the same side (
).

As a Nebraska fan, I hope Frost cribs some of this, but fear we may be doomed to endless outside zone handoffs out of the shotgun :(
 

quo_vadis

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Yeah, maybe we should have had precocious @josephcook hold his fire.

I wonder what options they have for this coming season. Gonna be hard to make a nice hire but their staff is...not in great shape.
LOL, isn't that like the Darrell Royal quote to the effect of "We're small but we're slow."

This is a neat thread. One thing that confounds me is why offenses don't use motion all (or at least most of) the time, on every...single...play. Motion means energy, and while the rules wisely prevent forward motion before the snap, it still presents an opportunity to confuse the offense and/or glean info about defensive assignments before the play starts. I attended the Texas-Maryland game in MD and was not only irritated by the upset/loss, but thrown off by all of Maryland's pre-snap motion (especially late in the game, IIRC). The sad thing is the Texas D (and coaches) were clearly confused (uncertain) about it also.
 

Ian Boyd

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LOL, isn't that like the Darrell Royal quote to the effect of "We're small but we're slow."

This is a neat thread. One thing that confounds me is why offenses don't use motion all (or at least most of) the time, on every...single...play. Motion means energy, and while the rules wisely prevent forward motion before the snap, it still presents an opportunity to confuse the offense and/or glean info about defensive assignments before the play starts. I attended the Texas-Maryland game in MD and was not only irritated by the upset/loss, but thrown off by all of Maryland's pre-snap motion (especially late in the game, IIRC). The sad thing is the Texas D (and coaches) were clearly confused (uncertain) about it also.
Texas used motion more last year with Yurcich, Sark will take it up another notch.
 

kevinbelt

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@Ian Boyd do you something we don’t? I just read a Pete Thamel article at Yahoo listing candidates for the KU job, and they included Troy Calhoun, Todd Monken, Ken Niamatalolo, and Willie Fritz. 4/10 were option guys. Maybe KU is going to run the option.
 

Ian Boyd

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@Ian Boyd do you something we don’t? I just read a Pete Thamel article at Yahoo listing candidates for the KU job, and they included Troy Calhoun, Todd Monken, Ken Niamatalolo, and Willie Fritz. 4/10 were option guys. Maybe KU is going to run the option.
Nope, and this has been a thing for a little while with Kansas. "Y'all should just run the option."
 

coolhorn

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Just a matter of convincing the boosters then, which seems like it needn't be that hard.

I've done a big piece on how Kansas won last time:

I do think the triple-option would work there though. I think.
A quick question Ian. Could KU run an updated version of Bill Yeoman's Veer option offense that worked so well at UH years ago? I always thought it offered a bit more flexibility than the wishbone style option offense.
 

Ian Boyd

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A quick question Ian. Could KU run an updated version of Bill Yeoman's Veer option offense that worked so well at UH years ago? I always thought it offered a bit more flexibility than the wishbone style option offense.
I guess the flexbone is generally the favorite today. Couldn't tell you which version of the triple-O is best, probably the one that best matches your athletes.
 
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