Makeup of Vols' recruiting class more stable than coaching staff

Since the curtain fell on Tennessee's disappointing 2011 football season, the Vols have lost the same number of assistant coaches as they have committed recruits.

That the latter hasn't been worse, and that the figure hasn't included many of the class of 2012's prized findings, is to be commended, multiple national recruiting analysts said this past week.

"What they have recruited and how they have sold it has obviously resonated far beyond one individual," said Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national recruiting director. "I think that should be looked at as a very distinct positive."

Though the program has been nationally categorized as one of the most unstable within the SEC, UT has yet to see it reflected from its upcoming group of signees, which will be mostly finalized on National Signing Day on Feb. 1.

The Vols' rankings on national recruiting sites have certainly fluctuated since November, but it's been nothing unusual considering the natural ebb and flow that occurs during the final stretch of the recruiting season.

As of Friday, the Vols ranked 15th (sixth in the SEC) on 247Sports and 14th (fifth) on Rivals. The Vols have 21 commitments for the class of 2012, six of which have enrolled at UT. The seventh early enrollee, cornerback Tino Thomas, grayshirted the 2011 season and counts toward this year's class.

"The position of need hasn't changed, the problems haven't changed, they're still going to need to see production out of the freshman class," 247Sports National Recruiting Analyst Barton Simmons said. "I think that maybe factors into things a little bit ... They've lost a couple here and there, but the level of talent they're bringing in, it's been a little surprising they haven't lost more."

Other schools, namely California, haven't been so lucky. The departure of defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi to Washington has altered the entire makeup of the Bears' once-promising recruiting class, as a number of four- and five-star commitments have said they're either reconsidering their decision to play for the Golden Bears or eliminating them from consideration.

Of the six players who have de-committed from UT, only two were considered four-star players by any of the recruiting services. Both of those players — defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (Florida) and cornerback Otis Jacobs (Texas A&M) — flipped on their commitments last month on National Junior College Signing Day. UT compensated for the losses with the addition of four-star defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore, who was previously uncommitted until he signed with the Vols.

The decisions by the rest of the de-committed players, none of whom have yet to commit to a new team, likely did not come as much of a surprise to UT's coaches.

Both running back Imani Cross (Gainesville, Ga.) and wide receiver Keithon Redding (Decatur, Ga.) told multiple media outlets that they'd been hearing less and less from UT's staff since making their respective commitments. Academics were indicated to be the reason for cornerback Kenneth Crawley (Washington D.C.) de-committing. Linebacker Khalid Henderson (Austell, Ga.), in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, said coach Derek Dooley told him there was a "possibility" he might not be able to sign with the Vols.

"I thought it was a bunch of crap," Henderson told the newspaper.

How Dooley, UT's three returning assistant coaches and its four new ones have handled the adversity of losing so many coaches has been anything but that, Luginbill said.

"We haven't seen guys jumping off the ship, we haven't seen guys running for the exits," Luginbill said. "I think they have done a masterful job of holding the thing together. Time will tell once we get to the first Wednesday in February."

Luginbill and Simmons cited numerous reasons for UT's lack of commitment attrition. Both agreed that high school athletes are smarter than they used to be about the business side of college football. It's simply become a rarity for an assistant coach to be around long enough to coach a player he recruited through the duration of the player's college career, and more and more prospects have realized that.

UT commitment Daniel McCullers, a 380-pound defensive tackle from Georgia Military College, serves as a shining example. His initial recruiter was former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Former defensive line coach Lance Thompson, whom McCullers referred to as a "second father" to him, took over McCullers' recruitment shortly before he left for a job at Alabama.

"The really good recruiters are selling all the positives and all the resources that the university has to offer. Not just selling themselves," Luginbill said. "If you look at Tennessee and look at its history and look at its new facilities its embarking upon right now, the youth of their roster, there's a lot of positives there. They may be having some staff turnover, but there are a lot of positives to hold onto there."

The basic logistics of not having a full staff during this time of year shouldn't be overlooked, Simmons said. For a large part of the month, UT has had at least three openings on its staff, preventing it from having the full complement of seven recruiters permitted to be on the road.

"If you're trying to get an elite kid, you're following up a visit that sometimes has five coaches coming from one program to sort of make an impression on a player," Simmons said. "You've got coaches spread out around the region not only trying to dig up new recruits, but make the current recruits feel comfortable about the situation they're walking into."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 95

florida-volfan writes:

Im surprised also that we havent lost more players, Dooley seems to be a good recruiter as everyone said he was including Nick Saban. Wether or not this pans out to success on the field, Im still not sure. This whole turnover of staff in just 2 years is very strange, makes me wonder if assistants can get along with Dooley. Even Johnny Majors didnt have this much coaching turnover in two years. Its always been difficult to recruit at UT, but now it looks like we have to recruit coaches yearly as well. And you certainly want be sucessful doing that.

westknoxvol24 writes:

If we go 9-3 next year and win a bowl,imagine the recruits talking about Tennessee. Go Dooley go.

MidTennVol writes:

Okay, Gribs, I bite: are you in any way hinting that Mt. McCullers might slip and follow Thompson to Alabama?

jobrando#216494 writes:

Job well done

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to florida-volfan:

Im surprised also that we havent lost more players, Dooley seems to be a good recruiter as everyone said he was including Nick Saban. Wether or not this pans out to success on the field, Im still not sure. This whole turnover of staff in just 2 years is very strange, makes me wonder if assistants can get along with Dooley. Even Johnny Majors didnt have this much coaching turnover in two years. Its always been difficult to recruit at UT, but now it looks like we have to recruit coaches yearly as well. And you certainly want be sucessful doing that.

He came in at a bad time and the first staff was thrown together. Seems to be lot more thought in the second cut. We'll see soon.

KFDLaw writes:

Most recruits understand that the verdict is still out on Dooley. The assistant coaches who have left probably felt their time at UT was short and decided to get out ahead of the purge. Dooley may be able recruit, but next year his excuse card will no longer be valid. His recruits will either produce results in 2012 or Dooley will likely be UT's former coach in 2013.

FWBVol writes:

One of the key things I think Derek Dooley is doing is identifying kids that really want to come to the University of Tennessee as well as play football for the Vols.

I think if a recruit is intent on being a student-athlete then the academic support staff and such make Tennessee a strong draw.

The key is to identify good players that are equally good kids and students. No matter how closely Dooley or any other coach checks up on kids, there always will be one or two that turn out to be bad eggs. But the way CDD is doing things he gets good kids that want to be Vols.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to FWBVol:

One of the key things I think Derek Dooley is doing is identifying kids that really want to come to the University of Tennessee as well as play football for the Vols.

I think if a recruit is intent on being a student-athlete then the academic support staff and such make Tennessee a strong draw.

The key is to identify good players that are equally good kids and students. No matter how closely Dooley or any other coach checks up on kids, there always will be one or two that turn out to be bad eggs. But the way CDD is doing things he gets good kids that want to be Vols.

Well said.

springtx_vol writes:

in response to KFDLaw:

Most recruits understand that the verdict is still out on Dooley. The assistant coaches who have left probably felt their time at UT was short and decided to get out ahead of the purge. Dooley may be able recruit, but next year his excuse card will no longer be valid. His recruits will either produce results in 2012 or Dooley will likely be UT's former coach in 2013.

Why do you say that the coaches left because they thought their time was short, implying that it was because Dooley is going to get fired next year himself? Why did the coaches leave? I am sure that there is only one or two folks that know in each case, the coach himself, maybe Dooley, maybe one of the coaches family members.

Wilcox, grew up in the Pacific Northwest, wanted to get closer to home. Well, guess what, I just took a job in Houston due to getting laid off in Florida. If, next year a similar position comes open in Nashville or Knoxville, you bet that I am going to give it real consideration.

Sirmon, ditto.

Heistand (-5 spelling, didn't want to look it up), is anyone really disappointed that he is gone?

Baggit - pushing 60, been in the business for a long time. As far as I know, he hasn't accepted a position anywhere else. So maybe he really was ready to retire.

Thompson - overlooked for DC, again, does anyone blame him for looking somewhere else. Not sure what he got for going to Alabama, but he had to be disappointed.

Russell - don't remember where he went, but again, the tight ends and special teams weren't that special, so, again again, will he be missed?

Finally, do you think Sunseri would have accepted a position at UT over Alabama if he didn't think he was going to be a success in his new position? He doesn't think he is getting on board a sinking ship.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Keep bringing in the good recruits and coaches, Coach Dooley!

Go Vols! Football and basketball are looking up!

GloryDays writes:

Add CB Deon Bonner out of Georgia to the commitment list. Dooley has done a good job recruiting, and filling up the roster with solid talent, its time to start winning on the field.

rtrchatt writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

pingkr62 writes:

Coach Dooley has said on numerous occasions Tennessee can not afford to waste scholarships, and that every one has to count. That too me is good business management. I, like many others, have been worried by the exit of some of the coaching staff, but it appears that hasn't had any real effect on this years class. I think there's a lot more to this Dooley guy than meets the eye.G.B.O.!!!!

hewwheel writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not sure we have 3 more to give. With the minor attrition and only about 6 seniors moving on, I believe we have only about 22 or 23 to give before we are up against the limit of 85.

Dalton writes:

The true Volunteer fan wants Coach Dooley and his vision to succeed...we don't want to start over...the future is now! Flimsy Vol followers rejoice in anticipation of lost recruits who will hasten CDD'S departure. Possible trolls who keep their attacks coming on every possible positive turn might as well scream at a NASCAR event...we'll cheer what we came to enjoy...you are not heard!

manniesghost1903 writes:

UT will not really know how successful the 2012 recruiting effort was until all the signatures are in after February 1, 2012. Furthermore, the season ending record will determine how well these recrits performed. As far as I am concerned I am going to let the people who make their living determining how well Derek Dooley does over the season. If the Coach Dooley's efforts on the field consistantly exceed the expectations of the "boys in Vegas" during 2012 season (that means beat the spread at least 10 times), as far as I am concerned he can stay as long as he wants.

OrangePsyched writes:

in response to hewwheel:

Not sure we have 3 more to give. With the minor attrition and only about 6 seniors moving on, I believe we have only about 22 or 23 to give before we are up against the limit of 85.

It is my understanding that we have 25 to give this year. I have read that Bama Florida and Tennessee are the only 3 teams in SEC with at least 7 top 250 players committed thus far. We've had 3 good classes. I think next year will be a good one and that CDD will finally be able to settle in as our HC for the long run.

LaneBrains writes:

in response to westknoxvol24:

If we go 9-3 next year and win a bowl,imagine the recruits talking about Tennessee. Go Dooley go.

At 'SC 9-3 would get us fired!

CLK, Monte and Ed

OwensboroVol writes:

I am sad that a really great recruiting year maybe lost because of the coaching staff turmoil. If We are having this good of a year with the problems We have, just think how good it could have been. Schools are accustom to picking up some top recruits and also losing some on signing day. With our Coaching problems I figure We will be lucky just to keep what we have and not lose any. In past years some of our best recruits have picked Tennessee on the final day, but I just don't see that happening this year. However, I am still hoping!

dk writes:

in response to KFDLaw:

Most recruits understand that the verdict is still out on Dooley. The assistant coaches who have left probably felt their time at UT was short and decided to get out ahead of the purge. Dooley may be able recruit, but next year his excuse card will no longer be valid. His recruits will either produce results in 2012 or Dooley will likely be UT's former coach in 2013.

And you know this how?

pingkr62 writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

I am sad that a really great recruiting year maybe lost because of the coaching staff turmoil. If We are having this good of a year with the problems We have, just think how good it could have been. Schools are accustom to picking up some top recruits and also losing some on signing day. With our Coaching problems I figure We will be lucky just to keep what we have and not lose any. In past years some of our best recruits have picked Tennessee on the final day, but I just don't see that happening this year. However, I am still hoping!

Keep your chin up. We will do fine. I predict a consensus top ten class...EASY!!! G.B.O.!!!

chattabluetick writes:

in response to LaneBrains:

At 'SC 9-3 would get us fired!

CLK, Monte and Ed

I don't think 9-3 would get anyone fired at SC. What I do think is this --- Monte will retire in the next couple of years and RED BULL ED will get another coaching opportunity, thus Lil Lane will have 2 stand on his own 2 legs. Then we will find out what kind of coach he is. Tennessee would never have hired Lane by-himself. They hired the 3-headed monster Lane, Monte and Ed. SC did the same thing without the 3 of them they would not have hired CLK either.

volaholic45 writes:

I'm all for DD (and the vols) to do well, but am troubled that coaches are making lateral moves. Also troubled about rumors about some kind of personal conflict between DD and the Berry family. WTH. You mean if DD gets the axe in a year or two, because of him we'd have to watch the little Berrys tearing it up for Bama or LSU? UGH!

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

Figures that a man w/character issues would go back to 'bamer and say "It's good to be home." I'm glad he feels that way...and glad he's outta here.

Snapshot writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

We will keep our "prospects", but we don't need permission from a troll like you to do so.

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

I am sad that a really great recruiting year maybe lost because of the coaching staff turmoil. If We are having this good of a year with the problems We have, just think how good it could have been. Schools are accustom to picking up some top recruits and also losing some on signing day. With our Coaching problems I figure We will be lucky just to keep what we have and not lose any. In past years some of our best recruits have picked Tennessee on the final day, but I just don't see that happening this year. However, I am still hoping!

Owens...you're beginning to sound a little "trollish" to me!...If anything, our coaching problems are alleviated with significant upgrades across the board. Look forward to at least a few very nice surprises - and likely few, if any, defections. Keep the faith!

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

t'Boy (emphasis on the boy), U.T. will be in the mix for top 10 in 2013 and beyond...and who really knows about 2012...I believe 8-9 wins are real, and depending on how the ball bounces...10? (10-3)...it's why the games are played.

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to volaholic45:

I'm all for DD (and the vols) to do well, but am troubled that coaches are making lateral moves. Also troubled about rumors about some kind of personal conflict between DD and the Berry family. WTH. You mean if DD gets the axe in a year or two, because of him we'd have to watch the little Berrys tearing it up for Bama or LSU? UGH!

I'll say you are "troubled"...what an obvious "hater" post...flake off.

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

Sal said he was just glad to be out of inbredville.

SmokeyFTW writes:

Its always good to be a VoL but now makes it even better with a good recruiting class. Way to go CDD. I hope everthing falls in place this year. With all the injuries and the lack of depth last year things couldnt have gotten much worst. Things are looking up. GBO!!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"They are coming in spite of Derrick Dooley, not because of him"???????. REALLY??? I have read a lot of really lame-brained, idiotic non-since before but that one tops them all. How long did it take you to dream that one up?

proud2btnvol (Inactive) writes:

While there may be some talent at Defensive Line, there is not a shining star at either DL or running back. If UT can win at least eight games next year, there had better be several five-stars or we will be doomed to middle of the SEC.

Supersayin1 writes:

in response to westknoxvol24:

If we go 9-3 next year and win a bowl,imagine the recruits talking about Tennessee. Go Dooley go.

I honestly think that UT will win 9 games next year, and will continue the trend into a BCS bowl game in 2013. This is Pending we can keep all of our guys healthy, and Bray really takes the node as the leader of the team.

I honestly think we can make a run at the East title. GO VOLS!!!

Supersayin1 writes:

in response to Dalton:

The true Volunteer fan wants Coach Dooley and his vision to succeed...we don't want to start over...the future is now! Flimsy Vol followers rejoice in anticipation of lost recruits who will hasten CDD'S departure. Possible trolls who keep their attacks coming on every possible positive turn might as well scream at a NASCAR event...we'll cheer what we came to enjoy...you are not heard!

PREACH!!!!

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to proud2btnvol:

While there may be some talent at Defensive Line, there is not a shining star at either DL or running back. If UT can win at least eight games next year, there had better be several five-stars or we will be doomed to middle of the SEC.

5-stars, schmive stars...for the most part, these rankings are very subjective. There are some great All-Americans in NCAA and All-Pros in NFL that didn't even make "the lists." In the NCAA, it's all about coaching...in the NFL, more about talent. That said...I have a feeling that the Vols will do very well on the upcoming NSD. Oh yeah...just watch our RBs next year. Mark my words here and now - and come back for a visit w/me in Oct-Nov.

GBOEngineer writes:

in response to manniesghost1903:

UT will not really know how successful the 2012 recruiting effort was until all the signatures are in after February 1, 2012. Furthermore, the season ending record will determine how well these recrits performed. As far as I am concerned I am going to let the people who make their living determining how well Derek Dooley does over the season. If the Coach Dooley's efforts on the field consistantly exceed the expectations of the "boys in Vegas" during 2012 season (that means beat the spread at least 10 times), as far as I am concerned he can stay as long as he wants.

The spread is all about motivating bettors (most of whom are idiots losing their life savings). Has little to do with who should win or by how much.

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to SmokeyontheWater:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

A general problem in our society...beyond sports as well. Check out how much "Hollywood" knows about "world hunger," political issues, etc. and how they are given undeserved credibility based on how big their last film was, etc.

givehim6 writes:

In a way I see it a plus UT had this coaching turnover because the position coaches work closer to the players then the HC and there was defiantly a coaching problem in 2011 there was time the Vols looked so lost. Hopefully this new staff will add more direction and drive to the Vols games.

TNSORRYTEERS writes:

in response to GloryDays:

Add CB Deon Bonner out of Georgia to the commitment list. Dooley has done a good job recruiting, and filling up the roster with solid talent, its time to start winning on the field.

Deon Bonner??? Are u serious??? The Vols offered this thug a scholarship?? Bonner is the same recruit who went on a unofficial visit to UGA and stole the players cell phones,I pods,shoes,etc, from the locker room while the players were practicing! Then to beat all, he goes back home and tries to sell the stolen goods on facebook!! needless to say he was arrested and kicked off of his HS football team! LOOK at his facebook page, this guy makes the recruit who just got his scholly yanked from him by michigan look like a saint!! U should be ashamed UT!!

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

Shen do you lay awake at night waiting for daylight so you can troll this site

Theo writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

Who wants Krystals!!!

Theo writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

Was the woman he cheated on his wife with there?

frblalack writes:

True Volunteer Fans: Rejoice!

Coach Cuonzo & Coach Derek will lead UT back to the upper echelon of their respective programs!

Basketball Vols beat UConn; Coach Dooley gets Coaches Sunseri, Pittman, and Palermo!

'Tis a GREAT day to be a Tennessee Vol!!!!!

When it's said & done, all three of our Head Coaches, Serrano, Martin, & especially Coach Derek Dooley will be remembered as ELITE in their profession! PROUD to be a Tennessee Vol!

All Vols - All the Time - Vol for Life-BELIEVE!

CroKev writes:

UT is ranked 11th on Rivals right now with 10 4* signees. Weren't they just 19th a week ago? Hats off to CDD and his Assistants for working their tails off once again to bring in a top 10 class.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to CroKev:

UT is ranked 11th on Rivals right now with 10 4* signees. Weren't they just 19th a week ago? Hats off to CDD and his Assistants for working their tails off once again to bring in a top 10 class.

Agree. Anyone who doesnt see that things are about to turn around is just hoping it doesnt. All Dooley has to do is have a decent year next year, and then in 2013 the team will be loaded with talented players with experience. I think Dooley will surprise some people next year.

Highlands_Whisky writes:

in response to FWBVol:

One of the key things I think Derek Dooley is doing is identifying kids that really want to come to the University of Tennessee as well as play football for the Vols.

I think if a recruit is intent on being a student-athlete then the academic support staff and such make Tennessee a strong draw.

The key is to identify good players that are equally good kids and students. No matter how closely Dooley or any other coach checks up on kids, there always will be one or two that turn out to be bad eggs. But the way CDD is doing things he gets good kids that want to be Vols.

I would agree this is what Dooley is trying to do, but one of the biggest Vol For Life smoke blowers was DeAnthony Arnett. He threw "VFL" into every tweet when he was actively trying to help UT recruit players to the Hill.

We all know how that worked out. Bottom line is that these assistant coaches are the ones who develop the strong bonds with these kids, which enables them to get the kids to sign with the school. So when the coach (Baggett) decides to leave, it makes the player (Arnett) show where his loyalty truly lies.

Hopefully events like this seldom pop up, but such is the risk in this era of mercenary coaches. It breeds the mercenary mindset into the kids.

So, VFL (unless my coach leaves)

Highlands_Whisky writes:

On the topic of recruits, I am super fired up about Otha Peters. He was one of the top 3 standout players at the high school all-star game. Coaches and recruiting nerds raved about his speed and hitting ability.

If UT runs a 3-4 defensive scheme, Peters and Maggitt would bring incredible speed to the OLB position. I think Sunseri will find a way to get these 2 to wreak some serious havoc on opposing QBs.

volsr4me writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Do you lay awake at night dreaming up this dribble? BTW, CLT told the Bama fans today at the NC Celebration "it was good to be home."

Keep McCullers and the rest of your "prospects" that Ga, LSWho, Fla, SC, and Awbarn have no need for.

What the heck did you expect him to say goober?
I hate this place, but Dooley made me mad so I took my toy's and left..........WOW

snakeplissken writes:

in response to CroKev:

UT is ranked 11th on Rivals right now with 10 4* signees. Weren't they just 19th a week ago? Hats off to CDD and his Assistants for working their tails off once again to bring in a top 10 class.

These ranking numbers are very fluid, so it's just a temporary blip that we're #11 right now. In the end we probably won't be top 10, but hopefully top 15.

oldvoltimer62 writes:

in response to snakeplissken:

These ranking numbers are very fluid, so it's just a temporary blip that we're #11 right now. In the end we probably won't be top 10, but hopefully top 15.

I saw that on Rivals also I hope we can make the top 15-20.Vols has gotta get some big dawgs commited on the Oline not one was listed on Rivals lets go recruiters get some big ole corn fed boys on the team and give our rb's and qb's some help out there.GO VOLS.

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