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Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with Block-C

South Carolina
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Clemson's Kyle Parker throws against North Texas during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Collard)

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Patrick Collard – AP

3 months ago:

Clemson’s Kyle Parker throws against North Texas during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Collard)

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Christmas came early this year, folks! I have another Across Enemy Lines for you here, this time with Block-C. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Andre Ellington‘s status for the game is uncertain. Will he play? If so, will he be effective? Wouldn’t it be pretty risky to play him? Will the Tigers be able to move the ball effectively with Jamie Harper as the featured back?

Ellington will be a game time decision. He has a broken bone in his foot and a strained ligament in his leg. He has been practicing in pads this week, but it’s been very limited contact and slow movement. It wouldn’t be risky to play Ellington because at this point in the year, what does Clemson have to lose. Bones will heal over the off season and the ligament is just strained. Ultimately, it’s up to the player but you always want to protect a player at the end of the day though. We learned that lesson when Bowden soured Willy Korn’s throwing arm. Oddly enough, as bad as he’s been in the past and still sometimes continues to be Jamie Harper has been doing extremely well and to borrow an expression, “running as if his hair was on fire.” He is finally starting to adopt a north/south running mentality and it’s paying off big time. He hits his gaps with speed and intensity and is turning into a big, mean, orange destroying machine.

2. Clemson’s receivers have really struggled this year. Why has that been the case? Most of them were highly recruited and were expected to do good things.

There are a few things coming into play here. First off, they were severely undersized when they came to campus. Not only that, they’re all still pretty damned undersized. Some have not developed up to their full high school star rating.The Tigers are still extremely young in the wide receiving corps and they don’t have any leaders in that group yet to get Clemson through this rough spot. Another thing I can point to here is that Jeff Scott is only in his second year at coaching on the collegiate level and it’s apparent that he’s having trouble. He’s a hell of a recruiter but our talent isn’t being developed as well as they could be. He’s schooled up and very smart in terms of coaching that position but there seems to be a disconnect somewhere. The Tigers had problems with development of our receivers last year as well outside of Jacoby Ford.

Continue after the jump.

3. If you could have any one player on Carolina’s roster, which would it be? You can’t pick Alshon Jeffery; that’s too obvious.

I thought the obvious pick would be Marcus Lattimore. Can you imagine having Andre Ellington AND Lattimore on the same team. That’d be one hell of a two headed beast to contend with. You literally would not have to pass the ball more than five times a game. He really is a certified stud but we all knew that when he was playing for Byrnes. When he gets to be older he’s going to be THE premiere running back in the SEC. I’d take him over two Alshon Jeffery’s any day because a pass requires more effort and coordination from an offensive unit than a run does.

4. Talk about what this game means to the Clemson fan base. Has the spirit of rivalry been jacked up a bit after last year’s result? What would a win mean for Clemson?

This game is really important for the fan base for a variety of different reason. It’s not so much that last years result bothers us because you guys are quick to forget that the game was a flip-flopped version of the 2008 outcome. A win would certainly buy this coaching staff a huge amount of vindication and it would somewhat quell the grumblings for now. I’m sure there will be plenty of Clemson fans still griping because for some reason it’s all our fan base like to do. A majority of the fan base is pretty butt hurt right now and as one of our readers said it best, “People (Institutions) with class don’t air their dirty laundry in public like that.” There’s no doubt that things need to change around the Athletic Department, but Dabo’s not dropping the passes.

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Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with Shakin the Southland

South Carolina
Content provided by Garnet And Black Attack.

Clemson's coach Dabo Swinney reacts as his team scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter to take the lead against  Florida State of their NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 7, 2009, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Clemson defeated Florida State 40-24. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

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Richard Shiro – AP

about 1 year ago:

Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney reacts as his team scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter to take the lead against Florida State of their NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 7, 2009, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Clemson defeated Florida State 40-24. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

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When I say we’re going across enemy lines this week, I mean it: this week’s Q & A is with Shakin the Southland‘s Figure Four. As far as Clemson fans go, FF is a good guy who’s always up for a good conversation about football, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading his insights about the Tigers. Stay tuned for my answers to his questions.

1. I’ve noticed a good bit of dissatisfaction with Dabo Swinney from the Clemson fan-base. Are my observations accurate? Is Dabo’s job in any danger at this point? What’s your take on what Clemson needs to do coaching-wise to break through in the ACC?

There is definitely dissatisfaction. Clemson’s overall record (6-5) and conference record (4-4) cause this discomfort. Clemson’s staff repeatedly ignored its best players (Andre Ellington is a prime example) and has not been able to put teams away when given opportunities this year. The specific dissatisfaction lies in the offensive performance (or lack of) to date for the Tigers. Clemson has not played to its strengths and inconsistently moved itself away from what was working to inexplicably try to force things on offense. On top of this, Clemson has not been able to capitalize on red zone opportunities via poor play calling and missed field goals.

Dabo’s job is not in danger this season. Dabo did not hire himself. Dabo was not responsible for the Tom Bowden fiasco that saw Clemson blow millions of dollars on an unnecessary buyout. Clemson has been poor all around this fall and AD Terry Don Phillips will be the first, if anyone, to go this year. Further, I don’t believe the school will do anything (in terms of a major coaching change) unless a new AD is in place to conduct an extensive search. In order for Clemson to compete/win you will need to see a new and revamped attitude out of the athletic department as a whole.

2. Clemson has managed to remain competitive despite an anemic offense this year because its defense has been so strong. Da’Quan Bowers has finally lived up to his prep hype, DeAndre McDaniel is a star in the secondary, and the defense is generally strong in all areas of the game. However, it appears that the strong secondary and pass rush have made for a better pass defense while the rushing defense, although good, hasn’t been as dominant. Is this accurate? How will Clemson respond if Carolina looks to run Marcus Lattimore 30-40 times, which appears to be the case?

Clemson has not faced a running back as good as Lattimore to date. The Tigers did give up over 200 yards on the ground against Auburn but have not looked too bad overall against the run this season. We have had defensive shortcomings and momentary lapses in judgment/execution. In CU’s loss against Miami, the Hurricanes were able to create favorable mismatches and take advantage of a couple Clemson mental breakdowns as Jacory Harris threw for four TD’s on the afternoon. Otherwise, Clemson’s offense has been the defense’s biggest issue. Clemson has not handled the ball well this season, repeatedly putting the ball on the ground and throwing interceptions at critical moments to put the defense in unnecessary binds.

If anyone runs the ball 30 times they should be successful and South Carolina has proven this season that they are more than willing to pound the ball. The lone exception that I recall was the Kentucky game where Lattimore was injured, the Cocks got pass-happy, and they ended up losing the game. I don’t see Spurrier moving in this direction (pass-happy) unless it is absolutely necessary. The key for South Carolina will be extending drives by getting key 1st downs as they did in the Alabama game. If South Carolina gets 30 carries out of Lattimore it means that they were able to win the battle up front and convert third down opportunities and if that happens it could be a long day for the Tigers.

I will say that Clemson’s defensive line is stout and should be a formidable foe for SC’s offensive line. The Clemson linebackers are the question mark in this whole thing. We have repeatedly questioned our gap control and ability to read and fill for a while now. On top of this, an LB on a WR is bad news for Clemson and the Tigers have been burned a couple times this season because of this. South Carolina should recognize this flaw to use play action and/or create mismatches given their talent at WR (Jeffery, Gurley, and others like Ace Sanders).

Continue reading after the jump.

3. Carolina’s Achilles Heel this season has been pass defense. The secondary has played a bit better over the past two weeks, but it’s unclear whether that’s due to improvement and personnel adjustments or if it’s been due to weaker competition. How do you like Clemson’s chances to throw the ball against Carolina? Clemson’s passing game has struggled a lot this year. Are your receivers good enough to exploit our weaknesses? What’s been wrong with Kyle Parker this year, after he had a fairly solid campaign in 2009?

Clemson has steadily improved at the WR position since the Tigers have given more snaps to some younger guys. A prime example of this is Nuke Hopkins who has had a nice Freshman season. Jaron Brown had a nice TD catch at the end of the half last week and Dwayne Allen is very talented at the TE position and flexed in various formations.

QB Kyle Parker has had an up and down year to date and tends to get happy feet, sometimes unnecessarily rolling out to his right. Once out of the pocket, Parker made bad decisions repeatedly over the course of the season either throwing a bad pass across his body, putting the ball on the ground, or not being smart and throwing the ball away. I think Parker’s confidence was dinged up by poor receiver play early in the season. Missing preparation and drill time with the young receivers this summer due to his focus on baseball may also have contributed to some struggles this season.

Kyle really has not looked comfortable all season. He is definitely talented enough to be a good quarterback and, IMO, can really put up some big numbers when he is comfortable and in a groove. If Clemson can get some early rhythm and some confidence for Parker, he could have a nice day. Parker was pretty efficient last week against Wake and hopefully some of this confidence will carry over into this week.

Further, I think that Clemson needs a viable running game to create opportunities off of play action. Clemson needs to get Jamie Harper going early, utilize play action, and make a couple of big catches early to instill confidence in this passing attack to exploit the apparent weakness of SC’s defense (the secondary).

4. What’s your take on the importance of this series for in-state recruiting?

Any win you get is big in recruiting and since we compete with South Carolina for most of the in-state players, this is important. Obviously South Carolina got to tell recruits last season that they beat the ACC Atlantic Division Champs and Clemson would look a lot better if they beat the SEC East’s representative this season. Both teams are set up for pretty good classes this season and one would suspect that a win this weekend could sway a recruit or so from one side to another if he were on the fence. It is probably bigger for future classes than this year’s and obviously a win over the other in-state school never hurts when trying to pick up a guy from SC.

5. My impression is that most Clemson fans believe this season has been very, very disappointing. How much would a win over Carolina assuage the disappointment? What’s the game mean in terms of the narrative of the rivalry as it’s developed over the past few years?

This season has been almost a waste of a year from my perspective. Offensively Clemson’s offensive line, while struggling at times, played better than it had in previous seasons. Clemson had an excellent running back in Andre Ellington. Clemson’s defense has played well. Somehow, in spite of all of these positives, Clemson, IMO, did not give Ellington the touches he needed and just could not make plays when they were needed. Mix in some inopportune turnovers and missed field goals and here we sit at 6-5.

Clemson has not lost back to back games against the Gamecocks in four decades. A loss here would just top off a frustrating year. A win would be one of the lone bright spots of an otherwise dismal fall for Clemson athletics. A win would also be especially big for Coach Swinney, as he would not have a fun IPTAY tour if he had to defend losing to SC two years in a row.

I think this one is bigger for Clemson than SC. SC is in a similar position to Clemson’s last year. A trip to the conference championship looms next week and Carolina had a couple of really big wins on the season, particularly the win over #1 Alabama earlier this season. Clemson has had a few close losses but has not shown up and played a solid game for a victory against a good football team all year.

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Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with Alligator Army

South Carolina
Content provided by Garnet And Black Attack.

I got together with the editor of the fine SBN Gators blog Alligator Army to discuss this weekend’s game. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading his answers to my questions. Many thanks to him for participating.

1. It’s life after Tebow for the Gators–discuss.

The problem is that Florida fans can’t move past Tebow when the coaching staff can’t move past Tebow either. As has been demonstrated with John Brantley, Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio are unable or refused to design an offense around a pocket passer. Mercifully, they no longer make Brantley run the option, instead using Jordan Reed and Trey Burton to do that. Plus, Brantley is blitzed on nearly every down, since Addazio cannot come up with a blitz pick-up package. Florida is finally moving the ball in exchange for giving up on Brantley being a long-term solution at quarterback. You will see three quarterbacks on Saturday and for the remainder of Florida’s season.

2. Carolina’s Achilles Heel, especially since the Kentucky game, has been an atrocious pass defense. Will the

Gators be able to take advantage after having struggled to throw the ball for most of the season?

Probably not. Everyone has passed against Alabama, but not Florida. Against Georgia, UF stuck with the running game, despite that being UGA’s strength. UF’s biggest problems on offense are that Brantley is not accurate, the line cannot protect him, and UF cannot figure out a way to feature a receiver. In a better system, Carl Moore and Omarius Hines would be All-SEC. Under Florida’s 2010 offense, they are edge blockers who have to catch a pass on 3rd and 7. The Gators could hit some big plays, but don’t expect a consistent passing attack, no matter who the Gators’ quarterback is.

3. A lot of folks believed that the Gators defense would suffer due to the loss of Charlie Strong, but it’s generally been OK this year. How do you feel that Strong’s departure has affected Florida?

It has had zero impact. Florida’s problems with youth and a smaller front seven were expected. Teryl Austin is similar to Strong in using multiple looks and locking up the opponent’s best receiver. I really don’t think Strong could have done better because the greatest coach in the world can’t fix youth and undersized players. Florida will keep taking two steps forward and one step back on defense, no matter who was coordinator this season.

4. Name one Carolina player who you’d love to have on the Gators’ roster and discuss why.

Marcus Lattimore is the closest my generation will get to Bo Jackson or Herschel Walker, but Alshon Jeffrey is my pick. To have an All-American receiver, who almost never gets locked up, is a huge advantage. You can stack the box and stop a back. But a receiver can hide in the formation and get open on every play. Plus, he is a deep threat because of his speed and size. Guys who are 6-foot-4 should not run like he does.

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Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with Arkansas Expats

South Carolina
Content provided by Garnet And Black Attack.

I got together with the fine Arkansas blog Arkansas Expats to chat about this weekend’s game. Here’s what they had to say in response to my questions. I’m sure you’ll enjoy hearing their insights. I will, by the way, post a link when they post my answers to their questions.
1. Talk to us about your view of the job Bobby Petrino is doing in Fayetteville. Although it looks like Arkansas will miss out on the SEC championship game, are you happy with the way the season is going?
Overall, Petrino has done a fine job in Fayetteville. When he took over the program nearly three years ago, the cupboard was pretty bare, but the Hogs missed bowl eligibility by only one victory in 2008, and they improved to seven regular-season wins last year. This season, Arkansas is well positioned to again improve its season victory total. On top of that, the Hogs possess the most explosive offensive attack in the history of the program. As has been well documented, however, the Razorbacks’ defense and special teams must improve for the team to seriously compete in the SEC, and we’ll just have to wait and see if Petrino and his staff are able to upgrade those units.
Having said all that, the season does feel like a slight disap­point­ment for seve­ral rea­sons. First off, while there’s cer­tainly no shame in losing to Ala­bama or Auburn, the Hogs had leads in the fourth quarter of those contests only to per­for­m ineptly in the final minu­tes.

[Eds. note: where have I heard that before?

] And in most of their other games, the Hogs have loo­ked somewhat sluggish. For whatever reasons, Arkansas often has had trouble scoring in the second half.

2. The latest news out of the Razorbacks camp is that Greg Childs is done for the season. How will this affect your passing game?
Well, the good news is that the Hogs have lots of depth at the wide receiver position. Joe Adams, who sat out last week’s Vandy game because of an injury, will be back against South Carolina, and he is every bit the playmaker that Childs is. Jarius Wright is underrated, and sophomore Cobi Hamilton has had some nice moments.
Still, it’s foolish to say that the loss of Childs is anything but huge. He leads the team in receptions, total receiving yards and receiving yards per game. Plus, he seems to be one of the team’s emotional leaders. Our guess is that the Hogs will still pile up some decent passing numbers on Saturday, but this is surely a diminished attack.
3. Name one South Carolina player you’d like on your roster and tell us why.
No offense to Knile Davis, who has been playing great lately, but it’s hard not to look at Marcus Lattimore and think about how nice he would look in a Razorback jersey. In an earlier post we compared him to that giant boulder that rolls unstoppably after Indiana Jones at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and that seems like a pretty apt comparison to what he’s done to opposing defenses. When you factor the other details that a) he’s only a freshman and b) the Hogs have spent most of the season struggling mightily on the ground, it’s a pretty easy choice.
If the question were who we’d like to drink a few beers with, however, the answer would undoubtedly be Stephen Garcia.
4. South Carolina has a balanced offense in the first time in what seems like forever. What would be the best way to attack Arkansas’s defense, and why?
Unfortunately for the Hogs, there’s really no wrong way to answer this question. Although the Arkansas D has shown sporadic signs of being significantly improved from years past (such as the first three quarters of the Alabama game or the entire Texas A&M game), it’s also proven that it has the ability to break down at the worst possible times (the entire Auburn game or the second half against Ole Miss, for example). The Razorbacks have a strong pass rush, but haven’t done a great job of stopping opposing runners and also have been vulnerable to the long bomb. And, although our starters are largely solid our depth is suspect, which has led to a bunch of pretty rough 4th quarters.
Also unfortunately for the Hogs, the Gamecocks’ offensive strengths seem to play into this pretty well. A steady dose of Lattimore mixed in with the occasional big play to Alshon Jeffery seems like a good way to go (particularly towards the end of the game). We’re guessing that Steve Spurrier has probably put down his golf clubs long enough to have that very well figured-out.

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Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with Rocky Top Talk

South Carolina
Content provided by Garnet And Black Attack.

I got together with the guys at the fine SBN Tennessee blog Rocky Top Talk to chat about this weekend’s game. Here are their answers to my questions; I’m sure you’ll enjoy the insights these folks provide. I’ll provide a link to RTT later today so you can see my answers to their questions.

1. Tell us briefly about Derek Dooley. It’s obviously really early to evaluate his performance, especially considering the personnel problems he inherited and the number of injuries you’ve suffered. I’m sure you guys have some thoughts on what kind of job he’s doing, though–what are they? Is he doing the right things to bring Tennessee back to the top half of the SEC within the next two seasons?  (Answered by Joel)

Tennessee is 2-5 and 0-4 in the SEC, and despite the extenuating circumstances you mentioned, we’re beginning to see just a bit of a divergence of opinion on Dooley, so I can’t speak for all Vol fans, of course. Speaking for myself, though, I think the situation he inherited exlains nearly everything, and we wouldn’t be complaining about the other stuff much if everything else was okay. Dooley has improved special teams a bit, which had been a thorn in the side of Tennessee fans for many seasons. Other than that, though, the evidence just isn’t in. Before the season, most Vol fans expected to be right where we are right now, but the record and the team’s performance so far makes finding proof of ability or progress difficult. Dooley does speak his mind about the team’s deficiencies, so it’s not like he is clueless or anything, and he seems to be recruiting around team needs fairly well. It’s just that fixing everything all at once isn’t feasible, and it takes time to start seeing the results of a complete overhaul. So bottom line, it’s simply too early to render a verdict right now.

2. Considering that Tauren Poole is having a good season, I was surprised to learn that Tennessee is moving the ball much better through the air than on the ground. Why is that the case, and how will Tennessee attack the Gamecocks’ defense?
(Answered by Hooper)

You could answer that in a few ways.  First, Tennessee has been playing from behind for a lot of the season – especially in the second half.  That leads to a more pass-happy attack in an attempt to save time while catching up.  That also leads to more prevent defense looks, and Tennessee has gained a notable margin of its total yardage against such defenses, especially in the Oregon and Georgia games.

Second, Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney is inherently from a spread-to-pass background, having very successfully run such offenses at Wyoming in the 90s and at Purdue with both Brees and Orton at quarterback.  He’s tempered somewhat, but it’s a bit in his blood.  I don’t personally think this is a big deal for playcalling, but it’s something to consider.

Third, Tennessee has to be very careful with Poole.  He’s a tough guy, but there’s no real depth behind him.  David Oku isn’t a power back and he hasn’t had a good season so far.  Rajion Neal is looking good, but is a true freshman and may not have all the schemes down yet.  Toney Williams is back from injury, but has been very minimally used so far.  The point is that, if Poole ever got injured, we’d be hurting badly at running back, so I think that the coaches may be limiting his carries a bit in order to have him (and some semblance of balance) throughout the season.

Fourth (and probably most importantly), defenses stack the box against Poole.  The basic modus operandi of our opposition had been to place 8 in the box and send as many as they dare.  Sometimes it’s a run blitz and sometimes it’s a pass blitz, but there are a lot of big bodies coming at the line, which encourages more hot reads and more one-on-one coverage.  That’s also why Tennessee has given up nearly 30 sacks so far.

3. Carolina fans all remember Daniel Lincoln‘s leg from 2007. Lincoln is doubtful for this game. What kind of effect would not having him present for the Vols? (Answered by Hooper)

Unfortunately, a bad effect.  The Daniel Lincoln you remember from last year and, to a lesser degree, 2007, is no more; he was fully healthy to start the season and was nailing long field goals with great consistency.  The backup, true freshman Michael Palardy, has the talent to do the same, but has pulled his two longest attempts on the year.  (I think it’s nerves.)  Palardy definitely has the leg for 50+ yard field goals, but hasn’t made one yet so we’ll be a little more nervous than we’d like.  The upside to Palardy is that he’s pretty competitive and really seems to be gunning for the job, so maybe he’ll have worked on the overkicking issue and have it straightened out.

The one tactical change is that Tennessee might be more willing to go for fourth from that gray area of long field goals.  Hopefully we at least get far enough down the field for that to be a reasonable question.

4. Name one player you’d love to have from the Gamecocks roster and tell us why. (Answered by Joel)

The knee-jerk response here would be to take Alshon Jeffery, but frankly, I doubt he’d be as effective on our team as he is for yours right now. Tennessee’s problems on offense are many right now, but I think it mostly comes down to the fact that the offensive line is about as young and inexperienced as you’ll ever find. Without the line carrying its own weight, the rest of the offense suffers, and simply getting the ball to a receiver is a challenge. So if we could trade units, I’d trade our o-line for yours. These guys will eventually be good, so I don’t know that I’d trade them three years from now for anything, but this year, they’re just young and learning, and that’s a liability for the offense.

But if I’m limited to only one player, I’d take Travian Robertson. We have almost as many problems on defense as we do on offense, and it all starts with having too few big bodies in the middle of the defensive line. I know Devin Taylor has more sacks and tackles for loss, but we have decent ends. Instead, we are desperate for 300 pounds of havoc-wreaking talent in the middle.

(Addendum by Hooper)  I’m going to go with the ‘very large values of one’ approach here and say that we’d want:  your best D-tackle, your best corner, and your center.  And your second best D-tackle.  Seriously, we’re desperately thin over here.  Think Knights Hospitaller on Malta, only without the cool fortifications.

5. After a decade of blowout UT wins in the 90s, the 2000s featured several good games between Carolina and Tennessee, most of which Tennessee won. What are your favorite memories from this series in recent years? (Answered by Will)

I think the game in 2000 was one of the most important in the series in the last ten years; that was Carolina’s first real chance to beat us since 1992, and it was Casey Clausen’s second start as a true freshman.  The fourth quarter drive he led to give the Vols the 17-14 win was a huge confidence builder for him, as he went on to lead several other fourth quarter come from behind wins on the road.  I also think the 2007 game is the best worst-played game I’ve ever seen – we both made so many mistakes, neither of us deserved to win, but that game had all kinds of drama in the fourth quarter and overtime, especially since it had essentially become the SEC East Championship Game just a few hours before kickoff when Georgia beat Florida.  Anytime we can beat Spurrier with something meaningful on the line, we’ll take it.

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