Kiffin says 6 starting positions up for grabs against Memphis

Johnson out after thumb surgery

Six positions open for competition this week

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Competition isn’t just reserved for spring practice and preseason camp. Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin sees it as a season-long affair.

The first-year UT coach opened his weekly press conference on Tuesday by announcing that six positions were up for grabs for Saturday’s game against Memphis (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.).

“We’ve opened up a couple of starting spots for some competition to make sure guys understand we need to continue to improve and get ready for a tough game,” Kiffin said. “There will be a lot of competition this week for guys to earn playing time and to make sure that guys are practicing extremely hard and physical.”

One position, nickel cornerback, is up for competition because Marsalous Johnson had to undergo surgery on his thumb this week after being hurt last Saturday against South Carolina. Kiffin said the senior will be out indefinetely.

Brent Vinson seems to be the early favorite to win the job.

“It’s time to give him a shot,” Kiffin said of the embattled junior. “He played well on special teams this week.”

Vinson hasn’t played extensively at cornerback since Kiffin said he was targeted against Ohio on Sept. 26.

Kiffin said playing time at left guard, fullback, backup defensive tackle and third-down left defensive end would be earned, not reserved.

Seniors Cory Sullins and Vladimir Richard have split snaps throughout the season. Richard’s playing time has been limited by a sore Achilles tendon and, more recently, a sore knee.

“We’re going to let both guys play in the game,” Kiffin said. “We’re going to give them equal reps in practice this week. I didn’t think either of them played very well in the (South Carolina) game.”

The battle at middle linebacker will likely come down to Herman Lathers and Nigel Mitchell-Thornton as the Vols try to replace the second middle linebacker to go down with a torn knee ligament this season. Coaches said Savion Frazier replaced Nick Reviez admirably but both are done for the season.

“They’re both freshman,” Kiffin said. “They both have a bunch of talent. Herman is extremely fast. Nigel is very physical.”

Kiffin said he expects UT’s middle linebacker, whoever that might be, to continue to handle UT’s defensive play calls. UT’s outside linebackers, senior Rico McCoy and junior LaMarcus Thompson, have more experience but Kiffin said they have to play outside the tackle box at times, making it difficult for them to direct the defense.

Kiffin vowed he’d settle the position battles with a physical week of practice in which the first team offense would go against the first team defense.

Lane Lamenting: Kiffin still seemed displeased about the Vols' 31-13 win over South Carolina last Saturday.

"I had to keep reminding myself that that was a big win," he said, adding that it was UT's biggest win over a Steve Spurrier coached team in 19 years. "...I didn't think we played very well. I didn't think that game should have been very close at all."

Kiffin criticized his own play calling. He said he was too conservative because of concerns about ball security on a rainy night.

"We expect to win by 19, 20 points when we're at home and a top 25 team comes in," Kiffin said.

Memphis Men: The Tigers will bring two tall receivers into Neyland Stadium. Carlos Singleton is 6-foot-9. Duke Calhoun is 6-4. Kiffin said UT's recent history of playing tall receivers should help the Vols this week.

"Feels like everybody's got them but us," Kiffin said of tall receivers.

For Kicks: Kiffin said he's not sure if punter Chad Cunningham will handle placekicking duties Saturday. Kiffin said regular placekicker Daniel Lincoln (quad) couldn't kick on Tuesday.

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Comments » 112

kevin151 writes:

Love the cockiness..... Fulmer would always praise the other team no matter how good or bad they were. I love the honesty!

gvegasvol writes:

"I had to keep reminding myself that that was a big win," he said, adding that it was UT's biggest win over a Steve Spurrier coached team in 19 years"

Yea it was a fairly big "W" but I'm thinking there was a win over a Steve Spurrier team in 1998 that may have been a little bigger!

armyvol544 writes:

Coach'em up.

SEAL_9821 writes:

One who is never satisfied with how a team plays is a true sign of a champion. There's always room for improvement.

tngivem6 writes:

Go Vols!!..Loved the black jersey..all the old timers who hate change are the ones that this country is in the mess it is in now.
but enough politics..

I'd almost forgot about Vinson..another hold over with sloppy practice skills from the phulmer era. Guys got talent but something isn't let him stay on the field.

open competition is keeping this team modivated to dominate a weaker opponent. Lane Kiffin is a very very smart coach in keeping his players focus, Thus the black jerseys.
If this was Phat Phil's UT team, after a heart breaker to Bama, they would have came out against SC flat as a board..

Docrok writes:

in response to gvegasvol:

"I had to keep reminding myself that that was a big win," he said, adding that it was UT's biggest win over a Steve Spurrier coached team in 19 years"

Yea it was a fairly big "W" but I'm thinking there was a win over a Steve Spurrier team in 1998 that may have been a little bigger!

I think Kiffin was referring to the margin of victory in the game not so much the amount of importance of the game! Though it was a pretty important win for this season

gvegasvol writes:

in response to Docrok:

I think Kiffin was referring to the margin of victory in the game not so much the amount of importance of the game! Though it was a pretty important win for this season

AAhhhh - thanks - that makes sense!

Joevolsxtra writes:

It only took 5 posts to bring up the black jerseys.

Biggie writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Go Vols!!..Loved the black jersey..all the old timers who hate change are the ones that this country is in the mess it is in now.
but enough politics..

I'd almost forgot about Vinson..another hold over with sloppy practice skills from the phulmer era. Guys got talent but something isn't let him stay on the field.

open competition is keeping this team modivated to dominate a weaker opponent. Lane Kiffin is a very very smart coach in keeping his players focus, Thus the black jerseys.
If this was Phat Phil's UT team, after a heart breaker to Bama, they would have came out against SC flat as a board..

You're an idiot....the old timers had this country working well for thoise who worked and deserved material things, it's you young timers who want to take that away and give it to those who feel too priveledged(sp) to work.

lomas98 writes:

The placekicker situation is a big concern. Luckily the game last week didn't come down to a fg. It shouldn't come into major play this week, but the other 3 conference games it could. Not saying the games will come down to a fg, but missed opportunities will hurt against conference teams. I also hope the kicker who is committed can kick the ball past the 15 yard line.

DennisVols writes:

When good is not good enough you continue to improve. It is refreshing to have a HC and staff that don't swallow the press releases going around about UT being back and continue to strive to be better. This team is far better than it was last year but Kiffin is not satisfied with just being better.
That in its self is a major improvement. The other major improvement is "No excuses". Kiffin is holding these players accountable on every play and in every game. You don't perform and you can be replaced by someone who will. That is why there was not a let down following the Bama loss, that is why the fans may have been happy we played better this year against UF and Bama but this staff look at it as what it was, a loss. Until it is a win, and even then, there will be room for improvements.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

KiFFiNOMiCS writes:

in response to compact2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree with you...I think the message of spots are up for grabs translates to the players they need to focus, practice hard, mentally prepare, and then play lights out Saturday. This is more of a focus tool by this staff than anything else IMO.

Fulmer seemed to always lack being able to keep them playing at the upper level....his teams seemed to always play down to the level of Tennessee's opponent...and before we knew it we were getting in a dog fight...or worse last season.

This staff knows what it takes to keep the "Horse Blinders" on these kids.

Here is the video of dthenc being concieved in the swamp:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gLN3Q...

tngivem6 writes:

in response to Biggie:

You're an idiot....the old timers had this country working well for thoise who worked and deserved material things, it's you young timers who want to take that away and give it to those who feel too priveledged(sp) to work.

Your reply doesn't even make sense to respond to. BTW it WAS working well until a certain bush came and ran it into a hole that will take years to climb out of..
now..How about them VOLS!!!

CDRKen writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Your reply doesn't even make sense to respond to. BTW it WAS working well until a certain bush came and ran it into a hole that will take years to climb out of..
now..How about them VOLS!!!

Dudes - #1, there never were any real good ole days. We've always had problems. #2, globalization has changed everything. It is how we respond now that will determine our fate. I, for one, think we need to come together as a nation and as humans to figure it out. In the meantime, go Vols!!!!! Take us away from this BS on Saturdays.

jet writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Exactly!!! Kiffin is on a long-term mission, not a series of short trips. He walks to the beat of a distant drummer, and doesn't dance to the tune somebody else is playing. He is strategizing as if he is in the hunt for the national championship....cause he is! He doesn't look at the future like a schedule on a card. Where he is going to end up is a given in his mind. That is settled, so he just gets up everyday and does what he can do to enhance the strengths and lessen the weaknesses. He doesn't get excited, cause he knows exactly where he is going. He is not sure exactly how long it is going take to get there. He doesn't even worry about that, he just does everything he can do everyday to move it down the road. He feels no need to suck up or explain. He has a job to do. He knows the players and fans will jump on board and the rest can kiss his arse!!!!

Hounddog writes:

in response to CDRKen:

Dudes - #1, there never were any real good ole days. We've always had problems. #2, globalization has changed everything. It is how we respond now that will determine our fate. I, for one, think we need to come together as a nation and as humans to figure it out. In the meantime, go Vols!!!!! Take us away from this BS on Saturdays.

What you said.

Let's play football. Hounddog

10ECMATT writes:

Good coaching.

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to Biggie:

You're an idiot....the old timers had this country working well for thoise who worked and deserved material things, it's you young timers who want to take that away and give it to those who feel too priveledged(sp) to work.

You tell him, Biggie. You are "exactly" right!!!

BallBreaker writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Go Vols!!..Loved the black jersey..all the old timers who hate change are the ones that this country is in the mess it is in now.
but enough politics..

I'd almost forgot about Vinson..another hold over with sloppy practice skills from the phulmer era. Guys got talent but something isn't let him stay on the field.

open competition is keeping this team modivated to dominate a weaker opponent. Lane Kiffin is a very very smart coach in keeping his players focus, Thus the black jerseys.
If this was Phat Phil's UT team, after a heart breaker to Bama, they would have came out against SC flat as a board..

Hold on a freaken minute. Us "old timers" made it possible for you to have the computer you are on now. Us "old timers" made it possible for you to be able to set in Neyland stadium and watch todays Vols play. Us "old timers" gave you everything that you enjoy now. Us "old timers" gave you your freedom. Just what have YOU contributed to this world but criticism of "old timers" and the false belief that we are the cause of what is your shortcomings. WE GAVE it to you it's not our fault that you don't know what to do with it.

Sorry to others on here but I am totally pizzed at the NEW GENERATION blaming us!
Really looking to the next game GO VOLS!

69grad writes:

in response to portlandTENNESSEEfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My wife is from Memphis but went to UT. She always referred to Memphis as Tiger High.

memphis_vol_fan writes:

in response to portlandTENNESSEEfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

They have two big receivers. One is 6'4 and the other is 6'9. Not much after that.

volzcrushm writes:

Memphis lost there starting QB for saturday's game.... now i guess it will be a 50 point spread.

PennVol writes:

Continuous improvement never ends.

CRFVols writes:

I love what Kiffin is doing and has done....but does anyone think maybe the physical camp had a hand in us starting slow?? I just wish we would have played this well earlier in the season against UCLA at least.

Mobbdeep4life writes:

in response to 69grad:

My wife is from Memphis but went to UT. She always referred to Memphis as Tiger High.

I was unfortunate enough to watch part of the Memphis/ECU game last week on TV. They played in front of 4,000 fans so that should tell you about the team. Other than a couple of talented receivers this team appears to have thrown out the white flag. The fans are angry and Tommy West is one step away from falling in his own grave. The only thing that will beat the Vols this Saturday is the Vols. Doubt Kiffin will let them get that complacent though.
Go Vols!!!!!

bill#1374014 writes:

I can see why Kiffin was displeased, he knows the Vols wouldn't have beaten SC without the the 3 gifts in the 1st half, and the punt return TD that was called back.

rich182x writes:

...indefinitely

diamond_dave35#235769 writes:

in response to gvegasvol:

"I had to keep reminding myself that that was a big win," he said, adding that it was UT's biggest win over a Steve Spurrier coached team in 19 years"

Yea it was a fairly big "W" but I'm thinking there was a win over a Steve Spurrier team in 1998 that may have been a little bigger!

I agree with you unless he was talking about margin of victory

NorthwestVol writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Go Vols!!..Loved the black jersey..all the old timers who hate change are the ones that this country is in the mess it is in now.
but enough politics..

I'd almost forgot about Vinson..another hold over with sloppy practice skills from the phulmer era. Guys got talent but something isn't let him stay on the field.

open competition is keeping this team modivated to dominate a weaker opponent. Lane Kiffin is a very very smart coach in keeping his players focus, Thus the black jerseys.
If this was Phat Phil's UT team, after a heart breaker to Bama, they would have came out against SC flat as a board..

Wow. I admit I'm getting a bit long in the tooth, but because I thought the black jerseys looked liked something the cat barfed up, I'm now responsible for the troubled economy and the messes in Iraq and Afgan? Based on that logic I suspect that since I also appreciate the fact that Fulmer helped us watch the Vols win a NC I must be responsible for global warming as well.

Didn't realize the ramifications of my actions...

CRFVols writes:

in response to bill#1374014:

I can see why Kiffin was displeased, he knows the Vols wouldn't have beaten SC without the the 3 gifts in the 1st half, and the punt return TD that was called back.

I somewhat agree. I think they lost some of their focus when we got up by soo much. I also think the play calling was a bit conservative, like Kiffin said. Our defense played great and would have kept us in the game......and I think we still would have won. But I see where he's coming from.

DennisVols writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks Chuck
What I see as the improtance of going for it on 4th down as much as Kiffin has, goes back to one the most important things Kiffin had to do in his first year.
Restore confidence. Last year was a nightmare I would rather forget. The switching of QB's amoung other boneheaded moves only allowed the staff to hang the blame on the players for the performance on the field.
Kiffin has impressed me the most by how he has kept his word. He has worked harder and longer this year in preparing this team. He stood by Crompton earlier when many wanted him yanked and now it is paying off. When UT has lost, Kiffin took the blame by saying they did not do a good enough job as coaches.
You can see the desire by the players to perform not only for the university or the fans but for this staff. The way they have performed in the classrooms and by not being a problem to the community.
It is easy for some to find fault in every thing, quick to pass judgement on a errant pass or fumble. Some have nothing better to do than to get on here and stir up the bee hive amoung the UT fan base.
I get excited thinking about just how much better this team will get with greater depth that will come with continued high recruiting classes.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

lmvolfan writes:

in response to gvegasvol:

"I had to keep reminding myself that that was a big win," he said, adding that it was UT's biggest win over a Steve Spurrier coached team in 19 years"

Yea it was a fairly big "W" but I'm thinking there was a win over a Steve Spurrier team in 1998 that may have been a little bigger!

I THINK HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE POINT DIFFERNTIAL.

tulelakevol writes:

in response to bill#1374014:

I can see why Kiffin was displeased, he knows the Vols wouldn't have beaten SC without the the 3 gifts in the 1st half, and the punt return TD that was called back.

Did you watch the game? I would call hitting the ball carrier so hard he drops the ball a solid defensive play. As for the TD called back, that was a lack of discipline on the chickens part. Kiffin is displeased only because he does not want a Fulmer type letdown for a lesser opponent.

WhitePineVol77 writes:

in response to bill#1374014:

I can see why Kiffin was displeased, he knows the Vols wouldn't have beaten SC without the the 3 gifts in the 1st half, and the punt return TD that was called back.

Bingo...I was not happy until there was only 1:30 +/- left in the fourth. We came really close to losing that game, and while I am pleased we won, we do not need to get the big head. I am so glad Coach Kiffin is managing the team the way he is. Same way a good manager runs a sales force, etc.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to Joevolsxtra:

It only took 5 posts to bring up the black jerseys.

and only 5 posts for a classless puke to slander Fulmer. some kids never grow up.

volsfannsc writes:

in response to CRFVols:

I love what Kiffin is doing and has done....but does anyone think maybe the physical camp had a hand in us starting slow?? I just wish we would have played this well earlier in the season against UCLA at least.

We didn't play well because everyone was learning another new system. New offense, new defense, players have to learn coaches, coaches have to learn players. I am shocked that this system was put together and implemented in four games. Normally thats a full season at least.

Did anyone else notice on Saturday our guys were ready to go, even in the fourth quarter- and SC players were panting and gasping for breath in between plays. Not only were we more physical with the hits, but we seem to be in much better shape than our opponents.

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to Biggie:

You're an idiot....the old timers had this country working well for thoise who worked and deserved material things, it's you young timers who want to take that away and give it to those who feel too priveledged(sp) to work.

Thanks, Biggie. I was trying to figure out how to respond without getting real ugly. You handled it well. And for the record, this old timer (age 61)liked the black jerseys. I just wouldn't want to see them on a regular basis. "Go Big Black" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Go Big Orange".

Oh, and by the way "young timer", this "old timer" will take a back seat to no one when it comes to working to ensure that this country remains the greatest nation on earth. Sometimes I wonder about you "young timers" and your vision (or lack thereof) and the direction you seem to believe we ought to be heading.

Oh, and one other thing. You could learn to spell and construct a sentence before you start spouting off about "old timers".

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

FatherVol writes:

in response to Joevolsxtra:

It only took 5 posts to bring up the black jerseys.

And politics, which have their place but not on this venue.

steelersman42 writes:

in response to gvegasvol:

"I had to keep reminding myself that that was a big win," he said, adding that it was UT's biggest win over a Steve Spurrier coached team in 19 years"

Yea it was a fairly big "W" but I'm thinking there was a win over a Steve Spurrier team in 1998 that may have been a little bigger!

And didn't we have a little one in 2001 as well?

topgun writes:

in response to kevin151:

Love the cockiness..... Fulmer would always praise the other team no matter how good or bad they were. I love the honesty!

Yeah, let's see.... Didn't Bill Battle brag on a player a little and...maybe... Majors did too, once or twice. I thought CLK bragged a bunch about Stevie Superior and his FL teams, he thought Bama was number 1 team in country...Just goes to show you..it's all Fulmer's fault. Get real!!

Vol43 writes:

in response to Biggie:

You're an idiot....the old timers had this country working well for thoise who worked and deserved material things, it's you young timers who want to take that away and give it to those who feel too priveledged(sp) to work.

I agree with your assessment. This man is part of the problem.

letshave1more writes:

Watched some of the Tiger High game on TV last week. They managed to score and sounded a siren-most of the team made a fast break for the exit but were finally rounded up by the coaching staff. We win by 45 in a blow out! Go Vols!!

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to bill#1374014:

I can see why Kiffin was displeased, he knows the Vols wouldn't have beaten SC without the the 3 gifts in the 1st half, and the punt return TD that was called back.

GIFTS? Where do you get the idea those turnovers were gifts? Our defense was knocking the stuffing out of the chickens and they couldn't hold on to the ball. Those weren't "gifts" by any stretch of the imagination! Those turnovers were earned by our hard-nosed defense, and our offensive unit knew what to do with them.

Why don't you crawl back into your hole until you can make a lucid post...if that's possible.

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

the10sevol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

pace yourself, witchie, it's only tuesday, lol. or is the neighbor kid tormenting you again?

GBO

topgun writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Go Vols!!..Loved the black jersey..all the old timers who hate change are the ones that this country is in the mess it is in now.
but enough politics..

I'd almost forgot about Vinson..another hold over with sloppy practice skills from the phulmer era. Guys got talent but something isn't let him stay on the field.

open competition is keeping this team modivated to dominate a weaker opponent. Lane Kiffin is a very very smart coach in keeping his players focus, Thus the black jerseys.
If this was Phat Phil's UT team, after a heart breaker to Bama, they would have came out against SC flat as a board..

Young lady, it is very rare that I disagree with everything anyone posts. You are the exception!! You do not have a clue what you are talking about. "Old timers who hate change?" You probably would be speaking German as a national language now if it weren't for the old timers who fought and died so that you could be free to state your opinion on a football post. Check out Flanders Field in France some time, or visit some of the national monuments in Washington DC. Check out the Vietnam memorial, Arlington cemetery some time. Taking cheap shots and making grandiose generalizations without any facts and total disregard for the truth does not make you smart. But, it does go a long way to make you a smart azz.

I thought the players asked the AD about the Black jerseys.

Coach Fulmer is a fine man--a great Tennessee Vol and has done more good for UT than you ever will in your entire life--unless your are Pat Summitt, of course. "Phat Phil", now that is an intelligent comment. Makes me want to read everything you post. Ahh.. the wisdom of youth--no respect-- but full of self-centered egoism.

So, Kim. I hope you get over the H1N1 flu real soon and you can go back to middle school. Might want to revisit the old history books about "old timers."

GOVOLS!! VOLS win out!!

423tiger18 writes:

in response to VOLFORLIFE:

GIFTS? Where do you get the idea those turnovers were gifts? Our defense was knocking the stuffing out of the chickens and they couldn't hold on to the ball. Those weren't "gifts" by any stretch of the imagination! Those turnovers were earned by our hard-nosed defense, and our offensive unit knew what to do with them.

Why don't you crawl back into your hole until you can make a lucid post...if that's possible.

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

Absolutely correct, a gift is something "given" to you, all 4 were definitely "take" aways. Those were Sports Center highlights hits.

rich182x writes:

I am so bored here at work, having an exercise here in Korea. BTW, proud of my oldtimers and the ground they layed before us, so from a youngin' serving now... THANK YOU!

Does anyone want to argue for a change?

Also, I am loving how we utilize the fullbacks in the pass game. The play action is working great, no one seems to block the FB after the fake run. Good play calling in my opinion, being able to see that in previous games and implementing in others!

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to topgun:

Young lady, it is very rare that I disagree with everything anyone posts. You are the exception!! You do not have a clue what you are talking about. "Old timers who hate change?" You probably would be speaking German as a national language now if it weren't for the old timers who fought and died so that you could be free to state your opinion on a football post. Check out Flanders Field in France some time, or visit some of the national monuments in Washington DC. Check out the Vietnam memorial, Arlington cemetery some time. Taking cheap shots and making grandiose generalizations without any facts and total disregard for the truth does not make you smart. But, it does go a long way to make you a smart azz.

I thought the players asked the AD about the Black jerseys.

Coach Fulmer is a fine man--a great Tennessee Vol and has done more good for UT than you ever will in your entire life--unless your are Pat Summitt, of course. "Phat Phil", now that is an intelligent comment. Makes me want to read everything you post. Ahh.. the wisdom of youth--no respect-- but full of self-centered egoism.

So, Kim. I hope you get over the H1N1 flu real soon and you can go back to middle school. Might want to revisit the old history books about "old timers."

GOVOLS!! VOLS win out!!

Thank you topgun.As an old timer(66),I couldn't have said it any better.

Caspian writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Your reply doesn't even make sense to respond to. BTW it WAS working well until a certain bush came and ran it into a hole that will take years to climb out of..
now..How about them VOLS!!!

If by "ran it into the ground" you mean the government spending too much money, then I'm absolutely with you 100%. The income redistribution and entitlements of the last 20 years which have accelerated to light speed during the last 10 months is enough to make a grown man cry.

bluetick writes:

in response to tngivem6:

Go Vols!!..Loved the black jersey..all the old timers who hate change are the ones that this country is in the mess it is in now.
but enough politics..

I'd almost forgot about Vinson..another hold over with sloppy practice skills from the phulmer era. Guys got talent but something isn't let him stay on the field.

open competition is keeping this team modivated to dominate a weaker opponent. Lane Kiffin is a very very smart coach in keeping his players focus, Thus the black jerseys.
If this was Phat Phil's UT team, after a heart breaker to Bama, they would have came out against SC flat as a board..

Nice. Go on a chat board and show your age and your IQ. You're a smart one aren't ya'? The funny thing about it is that you don't even realize the fact that this CHANGE that you speak of.... you and your generation are the ones that are going to be paying for it for the rest of your lives and so will your children. As of now you owe @ 50K, and no sign of slowing down. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. :)

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