NCAA Football

Meet College Football's Next Wave of JUCO Transfer Stars

College football programs are always looking for instant-impact players in every recruiting cycle. Coaches hunt for the athletes whose game could translate into playing time at the next level and press hard for their signatures on national signing day.

But a couple of months before the highly touted 5-star high school players finalize their college decisions in the first week of February, another group of football stars make their school choices in a less-glamorized manner. 

Junior college transfers have a higher first-year success rate than most signees, and plenty of programs have used these underrated talents to change their fates in a short amount of time.

Whether it's due to academics, off-the-field issues or just needing more time to develop, these players come into the FBS ranks with more experience than the heralded high schoolers.

Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Jason-Pierre Paul and Bruce Irvin played JUCO ball before becoming big-time NFL players. All-time greats Keyshawn Johnson, Warren Moon, O.J. Simpson and Roger Staubach started their careers at two-year schools.

In the most recent class of players to go onto the NFL, Randy Gregory, Nick Marshall, Martrell Spaight, Jaelen Strong and Kevin White excelled at the FBS level after time spent at a junior college.

Meet seven JUCO transfers who, according to the experienced coaches who led them these last two years, have great chances at starring during the 2015 college football season and joining some of those stars at the next level.

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4-Star Melquise Stovall Opens Up on USC Decommitment, What's Next

USC's 2016 class suffered a blow over the weekend when 4-star Lancaster, California, running back Melquise Stovall decommitted Saturday afternoon.

That loss could be Notre Dame's gain. Or Utah's gain.

Or even cross-town rival UCLA's gain.

Stovall, the nation's No. 4 all-purpose back, said he reopened his process after reassessing his recruiting situation, one which he admitted had minimal—if nonexistent—communication with USC the last few weeks. The Paraclete High School standout said he chose to decommit after a misunderstanding with the Trojans over how he was going to be used at the next level.

"They wanted to use me 99 percent of the time at running back, and that's not what I wanted," Stovall said. "I thought we had an understanding of me playing running back and slot [receiver]. I guess things change."

The versatility of Stovall out of the backfield alone makes him a key loss for USC, a team that only had Stovall as a running back commit. As someone who also can play cornerback, he is looking to line up at both running back and slot receiver in college.

So what's next for the 5'8", 180-pound athlete?

For starters, it's all about finding a program that will allow him to do what he wants. Stovall rushed for 1,603 yards and 20 touchdowns but also caught 21 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns as a junior.

Stovall said he's open to hearing from all schools, but schools like Notre Dame, Utah, Washington State and Washington are among those that could be in the running thus far. Stovall added that Utah and Notre Dame are two schools that will receive official visits. Actual dates have yet to be determined.

"I watched [Utah's] game against USC, and I liked the way they moved the ball everywhere," Stovall said of the Utes. "The quarterback runs the ball, the running backs catch...everybody gets the ball. I like that they want to use me as a running back and a slot. Plus, I've got a great relationship with the coaches.

"Hearing about [Notre Dame's] tradition, people say you never get the full effect unless you go on an official visit. They also want to use me as a running back and as a slot. It seems like they really want me."

Stovall added that while he hadn't been in contact recently with the program, UCLA could be in a good position to land him. The Bruins, who Stovall said are "definitely in mind," have an all-purpose back committed in 3-star Demetric Felton, but with Stovall wanting to be used more in the slot, it could work out well for coach Jim Mora and Co.

Stovall said he's willing to give every interested program a chance—as long as those programs are willing to use him at running back and at slot.

"Playing slot is very important to me," Stovall said. "I feel like you limit me if you put me just at running back. I think I'm talented enough to do both. I'm real good in space, and I can catch as well as I can run.

"I want to be a slot who plays running back, maybe even just a slot. I want to be able to create so many lanes versus being limited at just one position."

Competing at The Opening allowed Stovall to show off his skill set. He helped the Lunarbeast team win the national 7-on-7 championship. In skills testing at The Opening finals and the regional round in Los Angeles, he's shown his speed (4.57-second 40-yard dash), agility (4.15-seconds shuttle), strength (40-foot power ball toss) and leaping ability (39.2-inch vertical jump).

Stovall said he still has love for USC but is uncertain about recommitting if the situation fell in his favor once again. For now, he's keeping all options open and making sure he does research to make the right decision.

"It's tough, because Frank Martin and I were helping to recruit guys for USC," he said. "I'm open to everybody right now. I just want to make sure I keep everyone in mind."


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles 

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Mississippi State Football 2015: Complete Preview and Predictions for Bulldogs

The Bulldogs finished off the 2014 season with a 10-3 record. Bleacher Report's college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down Mississippi State's schedule heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think the Bulldogs will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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Penn State's Anthony Zettel Nearly Knocks Teammate's Head off with Bottle Kick

The legend of Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Zettel just continues to grow.

Earlier this year, the 6'4", 284-pound Zettel showed off his incredible strength by tackling a tree to the ground. That helped set the stage for his latest trick.

In a recent video, the first-team All-Big Ten defensive lineman gave one of his teammates a pretty good scare in the locker room with another feat of strength. Zettel spun and kicked a water bottle, sending it flying right at his teammate's head.

Luckily, the Nittany Lion was able hit the deck before he got rocked.

Good luck to the offensive linemen who have to face Zettel this season.

[Twitter, h/t Lost Lettermen]

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Regrading the AP's 2014 Top 25 Preseason Poll

College football has become a year-round game, with recruiting, spring football, summer workouts and, of course, the regular season. But few milestones on the seasonal calendar ignite as much passion as the release of the preseason top 25 polls. While they have no bearing on the College Football Playoff poll, which will be released weekly beginning in October, they set the table for the season and fans’ perception of their team’s worth.

However, they’re not always accurate, as you can tell by putting the preseason poll and the final postseason top 25 side by side. Every year, a team comes out of nowhere to join the national conversation. Think about it. Did anyone have TCU or Mississippi State pegged for anything special last August? Of course not. And the same will be true this fall, although we don’t know it yet.

Friday, the Associated Press will release its Preseason Top 25 poll. It’s the perfect time to take a look back and see what 2014’s preseason poll got right and wrong about how the season would unfold.

We’re grading each of the preseason Top 25 (and then some), with the letter grade based on how the team began the season and where it wound up. The grade is not a reflection on the team's season, rather how accurate its placement was in the preseason poll compared with where it ended the year.

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Georgia Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

The Georgia Bulldogs have wrapped up their first week of fall camp, and the biggest question coming into camp is who will win the quarterback position.

Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta have all worked with the first-, second- and third-team offenses all week, and a starter won’t be determined until fall camp comes to an end. However, the quarterback position is not the only battle going on.

Wide receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks are some of the positions where young players have been battling with the veterans, and this has given coaches a chance to see the players who will be ready to contribute this season. That’s said, it’s only the first week of camp, so there will be a lot of time for players who struggled this week to step it up.

So here’s the Week 1 fall camp stock report for the Bulldogs.


Stock Up: Kolton Houston

With this being his final season, Kolton Houston is looking to end his career on a high note.  In the first week of camp, Houston was able to show his physicality during a pass-blocking drill because he is a guy who gives maximum effort, according to Jake Rowe of 247Sports.

Houston will start at tackle along with John Theus. He was able to have a strong 2014 season, as he helped the offensive line pave the way for a rushing attack that averaged more than 250 yards per game. There should be no reason he can’t be an All-SEC player.


Stock Up: Tim Kimbrough

The outside linebacker combination duo of Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are as good as any duo in the country. But the inside linebackers for Georgia aren’t bad, either, and Tim Kimbrough is looking to be just as good as Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera.

Kimbrough has been getting a lot of work in with the No. 1 defense during the first week of camp, according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Mark Richt has liked the effort and energy he has put in.

Kimbrough was able to see some significant playing time last year. He should be able to make an impact in 2015 if he continues to work hard during camp.


Stock Down: Greyson Lambert

The race for the quarterback spot is still too early to tell, and nobody really separated themselves in the first week of fall camp. However, Greyson Lambert is a step behind Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta.

According to Rowe, Lambert’s timing was off in the Friday practice as he threw a few balls too early. It’s not anything he can’t correct, and he’s still trying to get a feel for the offense and the receivers. But he will need to get things going as soon as possible, because the first game is less than a month away and Ramsey and Bauta are looking sharp.

Greyson Lambert: "A lot of this is new to me."

— DawgPost (@Dawg_Post) August 4, 2015


Stock Down: Isaiah McKenzie

When the Bulldogs took part in the first full-padded practice on Saturday, Isaiah McKenzie could not be a part of it because he was nursing a hamstring injury.

McKenzie is expected to be starting at receiver this season, but he could lose out on that if he can’t get on the field. He also had a hamstring issue at the end of spring practice.

Because of his speed and hands, McKenzie is a huge asset to the offense and special teams this season. Hopefully, he will be back in the fold soon.

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2016 No. 1 ATH Mecole Hardman Jr. Unveils Top 10 in Epic Trailer

Mecole Hardman Jr., the No. 1 athlete in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, teamed up with Bleacher Report to reveal the top 10 schools he is considering.

Check out the video above to see which schools Hardman picked.

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Tennessee Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Once Von Pearson was reinstated to the Tennessee football team and picked up where he left off before his suspension, the entire tone surrounding the Vols receiving corps changed.

The position group went from being a major worry to a point of excitement. 

Now, there's reason to hope that a group that is comprised of physical freaks will begin to live up to their massive expectations on the field. 

Junior Marquez North has drawn rave reviews thus far. Redshirt sophomore Josh Smith is stronger and reportedly looks closer to the player he was before a nasty high ankle sprain against Oklahoma cost him most of 2014. Jason Croom is big, strong and displaying leadership skills. Pig Howard is Pig Howard.

And on and on and on.

While Preston Williams' NCAA issues linger, another freshman—converted quarterback Jauan Jennings—is showing out. They're getting some of that swag back, too.

Nothing matters until the Vols get on the actual field against Bowling Green on Sept. 5, but a week ago with Pearson's status up in the air and with so many players returning from injury, the Vols had worries at the position.

Those have been at least temporarily alleviated during the opening week. Coach Butch Jones hasn't come out and mentioned a lot about the unit, but given all the positive comments flying around regarding individuals in the wide receiving corps, Tennessee has a bunch of talented guys playing well.

It just has to translate onto the field.


Everyday I'm Shufflin'

It remains to be seen whether the offensive line remains a liability, as it was a season ago, or if it begins to develop some consistency and continuity.

The first week of fall camp was all about the Vols trying to find their best five linemen.

That doesn't necessarily mean UT is struggling to find five viable starters. Instead, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan just the opposite:

Number one, I don’t think there's any doubt that competition always makes an individual better and a unit better, so we've got great competition there right now. And I think the biggest thing is we're just going to have to find out who the five best guys are as we go through this training camp. And we're going to have to find them fairly fast, but once we get into pads, that'll really start to show. We were in shoulder pads (Thursday), and we'll look at the tape here and start the evaluation that way. But I like the competition. I like our guys.

Jones shuffled his linemen around more than a deck of cards—guards moving to center, tackles moving to guard, guards moving to tackle—during the first week. There is plenty of talent on Tennessee's line, but finding who fits where is something at which the Vols coaches are taking long, hard looks.

An injury to fifth-year senior guard Marcus Jackson, who has more starts than anybody else on the front, has things even more in limbo.

According to's John Brice and Brent Hubbs, Jackson "was held out of practice (Saturday) and is undergoing further medical examination for an upper-body injury that people in the program are worried could be potentially serious."

The article notes that sophomore Jashon Robertson and freshman Jack Jones worked at guard a day after Robertson played center. He started at guard last year. Kyler Kerbyson and Coleman Thomas worked at tackle. Regular tackle Brett Kendrick has worked some at guard this week.

Also, freshman Chance Hall, who played guard this spring, has been practicing at tackle. Star freshman Drew Richmond and redshirt junior Dontavius Blair also have been rotating in at tackle.


Your Weekly Dose of Kahlil (and More)

Jones may be sandbagging, but he called the defensive line "a very, very big area of concern" to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan this week.

That's a bit of a surprise considering how much buzz just continues to surround freshmen Kahlil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle and Kyle Phillips. Toss those guys in with starters Derek Barnett, Curt Maggitt, Danny O'Brien and others, and it makes you wonder if the comments aren't a motivational ploy.

Here's what O'Brien said to GoVols247's Wes Rucker about McKenzie this week:

…Kahlil? Man, he's just a freak. It's great to have a guy like that in our program. He's just gonna eat up double-teams, he's gonna make plays, he's just gonna be a great player for the University of Tennessee. …Being a true freshman is one thing. But being a 340-pound true freshman, that's a little different, too. He'll get there. That's what our program is based on, is practicing hard, so when the games come, it's easy.

If McKenzie can learn enough of the defense to get in for a large number of plays and command double-teams, it'll free up Barnett and Maggitt to beat single coverage to get to the quarterback. That's exactly what UT needs.

He absolutely obliterated third-year sophomore Austin Sanders in a drill this week.

Then, Tuttle did the same thing in the same drill against Jackson.

Former 5-star Phillips also probably needs to have a package of plays to get his athleticism on the field. How much has he impressed so far? Tight end Ethan Wolf gushed over his speed to Rucker:

"We watched on film a couple days ago, Kyle Phillips was running and chasing the ball down like 60 yards, and he probably ran a four-flat sixty," Wolf said. "I mean, he was moving. He looked like a wide receiver. We’ve got defensive ends that can really run, and one of those young guys (Phillips) can fly."


Rocky Top Roundup

  • There isn't any resolution to the middle linebacker battle thus far, but redshirt junior Kenny Bynum reportedly got most of the first-team reps this week. Dillon Bates, Colton Jumper, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Gavin Bryant and Austin Smith all got reps, too.
  • Jones told Callahan in the above-linked story that Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cortez McDowell could get on the field at the same time.
  • Former linebacker Jakob Johnson is getting an extended look at tight end this week.
  • There's no doubt who Tennessee's starting quarterback is, but that hasn't stopped Jones from mentioning several rave reviews of backup Quinten Dormady in the first week of practice (including in this article by the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown). Even though the Vols will have a true freshman backup, that may not necessarily be a bad thing.


All recruiting information obtained from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Transfer of Florida RB Adam Lane Puts Pressure on Freshman Jordan Scarlett

Over the last decade, we've seen a surge of freshmen running backs making a major impact in the world of college football. 

From former South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore and former Auburn BCS National Championship Game offensive MVP Michael Dyer to last year's stud crop that consisted of Leonard Fournette (LSU), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Dalvin Cook (Florida State), Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) and Royce Freeman (Oregon), teams are more dependent on youngsters than ever before.

Florida freshman Jordan Scarlett isn't in that company yet, but he's one step closer.

Part of the reason is the transfer of the rising sophomore running back and Birmingham Bowl MVP Adam Lane. Florida announced the transfer of the Winter Haven, Florida, native on Sunday.

Lane rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown a year ago, including 109 in the bowl win over East Carolina. 

Now Scarlett has ascended to the consensus No. 2 spot on the running back depth chart behind established starter Kelvin Taylor. In just a few short practices, Scarlett—a 5'11", 210-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Florida—has been wildly impressive, according to Nick de la Torre of

That's huge, because he has all of the skills to be a superstar once he gets his chance to shine.

The former Florida Atlantic and Miami 4-star commit was one of the prize signings of first-year head coach Jim McElwain's first recruiting class in Gainesville, and McElwain's ability to use multiple running backs throughout the year should help Scarlett earn significant snaps this fall.

"You're going to need three guys at least to go through the year with," McElwain said, according to quotes released by Florida. "So what you hope to do is to find that guy that has the hot hand in the fourth quarter, okay. He's still fresh based on what you've done, and now let that guy kind of finish the game. That's kind of how we like to do it.  Obviously, that has a lot to do with the development of those young guys."

Make no mistake, the pressure is on Scarlett to be a key contributor from the moment toe meets leather in the season opener versus New Mexico State.

Regardless of what you hear about the progress of the quarterback battle between redshirt freshman Will Grier and true sophomore Treon Harris, the Gators will be a run-first, power team. They're going to establish the run and then work off play action. 

With quarterback and offensive line questions, it's tough to simply rely on the passing game undergoing an immediate turnaround, which means depth and creativity from McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier out of the running back position is paramount to the success of the 2015 Gators.

Scarlett was going to be a big part of that equation regardless of Lane's status, but now his development needs to be accelerated a bit in a transition year for the Gator program.

He has the talent, but now he has to grow up and learn the system in a hurry.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Ohio State Football 2015: Complete Preview of Buckeyes Offense

The Ohio State Buckeyes finished off the 2014 season with a 14-1 record and the national championship. Bleacher Report's college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the Buckeye's biggest storylines on offense heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think the Buckeyes will do this year? Watch the video, and let us know!

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Florida Football 2015: Complete Preview of Gators Offense

The Florida Gators finished off the 2014 season with a 7-5 record. Bleacher Report's college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the Gator's biggest storylines on offense heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think Florida will do this year? Watch the video, and let us know!

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Alabama Football 2015: Complete Preview of Crimson Tide Offense

The Alabama Crimson Tide finished off the 2014 season with a 12-2 record. But how will they fare in 2015?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee, and Adam Kramer break down the Crimson Tide's biggest storylines on offense heading into the 2015 season in the video above.

How well do you think Alabama will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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LSU Football 2015: Complete Preview of Tigers Offense

The LSU Tigers finished off the 2014 season with a 8-5 record. Bleacher Report's college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the Tiger's biggest storylines on offense heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think LSU will do this year? Watch the video, and let us know!

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Which Dark-Horse Contender Has the Best Shot at the College Football Playoff?

Bleacher Report's college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss who they believe could sneak their way into the 2015 College Football Playoff.

Which team do you think has what it takes? Watch the video, and let us know!

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Underrated Teams in 1st Coaches Poll

While the 2015 college football season opens with one overwhelming favorite, last year showed there is always room for surprises.  

Ohio State was a controversial final addition to the four-team playoff before shocking both Alabama and Oregon en route to a national championship. The Buckeyes now rightfully head into the upcoming season as the preseason No. 1 team in the country and clear favorite to bring home another title.

That said, other squads such as TCU and Alabama have received plenty of attention, while a few more have the ability to pull off some surprises during the year. Here is a full look at the USA Today Amway Coaches Poll with a breakdown of programs that the panel might have overlooked.


No. 15 Ole Miss

Things went south in a hurry for Ole Miss last season. The squad flew up the polls after a 7-0 start, but four losses in the final six games were not quite as encouraging. That said, the wins over Alabama and Mississippi State were no fluke.

As noted, the Rebels have one of the most talented teams in football next year:

Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche are among the best in the nation at their positions, while wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is incredibly exciting to watch when healthy. The defense led the nation last season in points allowed per game, and the offense is full of promise.

Sure, the team will have to replace quarterback Bo Wallace, but his mistakes often held the team back as much as he helped out in recent years. Any of Ryan Buchanan, DeVante Kincade or Chad Kelly could step in and produce almost as well under center.

If everything comes together well, Ole Miss has what it takes to compete in the loaded SEC West.


No. 19 Oklahoma

It's not an uncommon tale for a college team to have quarterback questions before Week 1. Doubters feel the lack of certainty at the position makes Oklahoma a major question mark for the upcoming year.

On the other hand, head coach Bob Stoops has some quality options no matter who ends up starting. Incumbent Trevor Knight has had his problems, but's Jake Trotter noted the similarities between him and last year's Big 12 breakout star, Trevone Boykin. 

Meanwhile, Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield has earned plenty of praise since joining the team.

"What he’s done is just worked hard,” Stoops said, per Brady Vardeman of the Oklahoma Daily. “He sat out the whole season and ran the scout team. You know, couldn’t have been more enthusiastic and excited every day. He looked at it as a great opportunity to get better."

With this level of competition between Knight, Mayfield and Cody Thomas, the Sooners should be in good shape.

Of course, Oklahoma is in great shape offensively regardless of who is under center. Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 yards with 21 touchdowns last season and should be one of the top running backs in the nation next season. Add in receiver Sterling Shepard, and this is an attack that will be tough to stop.

Even with TCU and Baylor returning a lot of talent, the Sooners certainly have a chance to contend for a Big 12 title.


No. 22 Arizona

While Arizona isn't considered a football powerhouse, this ranking is way too low for a team that won the Pac-12 South, reached the Fiesta Bowl and returns most of its key players from last season.

The team has offensive playmakers in quarterback Anu Solomon, running back Nick Wilson and receiver Cayleb Jones, all of whom could put up huge numbers in 2015. Still, the biggest star on the team is linebacker Scooby Wright, a dominant defender who had an FBS-leading 29 tackles for loss last season.

ESPN recently put Wright in a tie for second on a list of the best players in college football.

Athlon Sports also quoted an opposing coach discussing the linebacker's impact on the defense:

The tough thing about playing their defense is you can’t really scheme for Scooby Wright. Your guys know where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to do, but his motor is just off the charts, and he’s going to get five or six opportunities to make a game-changing play just off effort. He’s a special dude.

This group earned 10 wins during the regular season last year and should only be better in 2015.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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