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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tennessee Volunteers Vs. Akron Zips: Statsy Game Preview - Rocky Top Talk

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts, links to SB Nation game pages, and statistical comparisons. Caveats. And yeah, it's a long post, so we put the conclusions and predictions at both the beginning and the end. You're not seeing double.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Akron's stats to date have been compiled against UCF, FIU (both losses), and the Morgan State Bears, so they should be viewed with something approaching extreme skepticism.
  • That said, SOUND THE ALARM. The Zips are currently ranking extremely high in both passing attack and passing defense. They're also scoring a bunch of points. Fortunately, they're also allowing a bunch of points.
  • The Zips' rushing attack is either feeble or more of an afterthought than ours. In either case, Tennessee should be able to sell out to stop the pass.
  • On defense, Akron appears to be pretty good against the pass, but not so good against the run. They also give up a lot of points, to FBS opponents anyway.
  • Senior QB Dalton Williams is the guy who makes this thing go, and he looks like he spreads it around a lot. His favorite target appears to be senior Marquelo Suel.
  • If Tennessee still has a Florida hangover, and if they take the Zips lightly, they could be in for a very rude surprise and a worse feeling this week than last.
  • Yeah, I don't really believe it, either, but the numbers should at the very least get our attention and cause us to take them seriously.

Predictions

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Akron Logo

Central Florida Knights 8/30/12 loss 14 - 56 coverage
@ Fla. International Golden Panthers 9/8/12 loss 38 - 41 coverage
Morgan St. Bears 9/15/12 win 66 - 6 coverage

Tennessee Logo

@ N.C. State Wolfpack 8/31/12 win 35 - 21 coverage
Georgia State Panthers 9/8/12 win 51 - 13 coverage
Florida Gators 9/15/12 loss 20 - 37 coverage

Looking at those schedules, you have to think that playing Florida and NC State trumps UCF and FIU. And the Zips lost two of those games. The Morgan State Bears? Who are they?

On the other hand, UCF and FIU are not complete unknowns. They're Florida teams that have made some noise in the past.

But honestly, that schedule for Akron is wildly inconsistent. They allow an average of nearly 50 points in their first two games and then not even a TD? Then they score 14, then 38, then 66? Who can make sense of that?

Here's the drive chart from Akron's only win so far, for whatever it's worth:

Star-divide

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.

That's a wholte lot of stuff on the left side of that thing, especially considering it also includes a fumble, two interceptions, and a missed field goal.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conf Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 95 118.33 Air Force 387.00 10 Ball St. 262.33
Passing Offense 5 378.00 Marshall 425.00 1 Akron 378.00
Total Offense 26 496.33 Oklahoma St. 686.67 1 Akron 496.33
Scoring Offense 26 39.33 Oklahoma St. 62.33 2 Buffalo 39.50
Passing Efficiency 52 139.04 TCU 238.53 4 Buffalo 170.43
Sacks Allowed T-52 1.67 Middle Tenn. .00 5 Central Mich. .50

Offensive observations. Hmm. Watch out for the passing offense. 378 yards per game is pretty good even against that schedule, I'd think. Fortunately, they can't run. Or maybe they just don't, rather than can't.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conf Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 86 181.67 Florida St. 33.67 7 Ohio 74.00
Pass Efficiency Defense 66 127.65 Florida St. 60.50 4 Northern Ill. 107.61
Total Defense 39 342.33 Florida St. 103.33 2 Western Mich. 329.67
Scoring Defense 98 34.33 Florida St. 1.00 8 Ohio 20.67
Pass Defense 14 160.67 Florida St. 69.67 2 Northern Ill. 140.00
Sacks T-55 2.00 Texas A&M 6.00 6 Buffalo 4.50
Tackles For Loss 38 6.67 Connecticut 10.67 4 Western Mich. 8.00

Defensive observations. Akron appears to be pretty good at pass defense, but not so good against the run. Overall, they also give up a lot of points.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conf Leader Actual
Net Punting 109 31.80 Texas 49.40 10 Ball St. 42.60
Punt Returns 45 11.00 Kansas St. 36.25 2 Western Mich. 15.13
Kickoff Returns 93 17.89 Rutgers 55.00 10 Kent St. 39.71
Turnover Margin T-94 -1.00 Alabama 3.67 8 Kent St. 2.50

Special teams and turnovers observations. Nothing to see here.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Jawon Chisholm 63.00
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Dalton Williams 58 135.09
Total Offense Dalton Williams 11 330.00
Jawon Chisholm 63.00
Receptions Per Game Marquelo Suel T-24 6.67
L.T. Smith T-71 5.33
Keith Sconiers 4.33
Zach D'Orazio 3.00
Dee Frieson 3.00
Receiving Yards Per Game Marquelo Suel 34 86.67
Keith Sconiers 53.67
L.T. Smith 50.33
Zach D'Orazio 41.67

Offensive Observations. Senior QB Dalton Williams is the guy who makes this thing go, and he looks like he spreads it around a lot. The leading receiver appears to be senior Marquelo Suel.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Justin March T-69 .33
Sacks J.D. Griggs T-12 1.17
Kurt Mangum .33
Alfonso Horner .33
Tackles
Tackles For Loss J.D. Griggs T-36 1.50
Troy Gilmer 1.00
Cody Grice .83
Albert Presley .83

Defense. Not a whole lot to see here, either, but somebody needs to block senior DL J.D. Griggs.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Zach Paul 39 42.73
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Imani Davis 20 14.62
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game)
Field Goals Robert Stein T-69 .67
Scoring Robert Stein 6.67
Marquelo Suel 6.00
L.T. Smith 4.00
Conor Hundley 4.00
Jawon Chisholm 4.00
All-Purpose Runners Marquelo Suel 86.67
Jawon Chisholm 83.33

Special teams. I said earlier that there didn't appear to be anything noteworthy on special teams for the Zips, but Imani Davis is worth some attention.

Head to Head Comparisons

Tennessee Logo Akron Logo

Comps

Result Against Comps

Prediction

UT rush v. Akron rush defense 152.67
(#71)
181.67
(#86)
Florida
(106)
(#29)
83 180
UT pass v. Akron pass defense 321.33
(#14)
160.67
(#14)
Florida
(227.67)
(#66)
257 180
Akron rush v. UT rush defense 180.67
(#84)
118.33
(#95)
NC State
(100)
(#108)
119 110
Akron pass v. UT pass defense 227.67
(#66)
378
(#5)
NC State
(249.67)
(#53)
288 250
UT scoring offense v. Akron scoring defense

35.33
(#37)

34.33
(#98)
Florida/NC State
(17/16.33)
(#32/#31)
20/35 42
Akron scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 23.67
(#64)
39.33
(#26)
Florida
(28)
(#68)
37 28

Again with the caveats: These are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations, and this early in the season, the guesses are particularly sketchy. But here's the general analytical framework: We are averaging X in a certain category. The opponent averages Y against that, which is most closely comparable to some identified previous opponent, against whom we did Z. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. And one more time for emphasis: The less data you have, the more sketchy the guess, and the guesses range from ALL CAPS SKETCHY WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS at the beginning of the season to merely lower case sketchy for the last game.

This week's example: Tennessee's defense is allowing about 180 yards on the ground. Akron's averaging about 118. Of our prior opponents, that most closely resembles North Carolina State, who is holding opponents to 100 rushing yards per game. We held them to 119, a bit over their average. Allowing for Akron's schedule to some unknown degree, my guess is 110 rushing yards for Akron. The schedule thing factors even more heavily when you look at Akron's passing attack, which, if you just looked a the numbers, would lead to a conclusion of something like 450 yards through the air for them. Their numbers are enough to have my attention, but I'm also skeptical enough of them to not put too much stock in them.

So I have 360 yards of offense for the Vols and . . . 360 yards of offense for Akron. That can't be right, can it? And a score of 42-28? No, I don't really believe it, either, but there it is. It could be a chore to stop these guys if Sal Sunseri's guys don't get it together. And remember Brian Randolph is out and needs to be replaced.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Akron's stats to date have been compiled against UCF, FIU (both losses), and the Morgan State Bears, so they should be viewed with something approaching extreme skepticism.
  • That said, SOUND THE ALARM. The Zips are currently ranking extremely high in both passing attack and passing defense. They're also scoring a bunch of points. Fortunately, they're also allowing a bunch of points.
  • The Zips' rushing attack is either feeble or more of an afterthought than ours. In either case, Tennessee should be able to sell out to stop the pass.
  • On defense, Akron appears to be pretty good against the pass, but not so good against the run. They also give up a lot of points, to FBS opponents anyway.
  • Senior QB Dalton Williams is the guy who makes this thing go, and he looks like he spreads it around a lot. His favorite target appears to be senior Marquelo Suel.
  • If Tennessee still has a Florida hangover, and if they take the Zips lightly, they could be in for a very rude surprise and a worse feeling this week than last.
  • Yeah, I don't really believe it, either, but the numbers should at the very least get our attention and cause us to take them seriously.

Predictions

Akron Zips vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Complete Game Preview - Bleacher Report

Offense 

QB: Dalton Williams, Kyle Pohl 

RB: Jawon Chisholm, Conor Hundley or Quentin Hines 

FB: Will Fleming, Broderick Alexander 

X: Keith Sconiers, Tyrell Goodman 

H: Tyler Williams, Dee Frieson

Y: Marquelo Suel, Dylan Potts

Z: L.T. Smith, Imani Davis

TE: Rhyne Ladrach, Anthony Ritossa 

LT: Jarrod Pughsley, Quaison Osborne 

LG: Vinnie Rizzo, Dylan Brumbaugh 

C: Travis Switzer, Vinnie Rizzo 

RG: Mitch Straight, Micah Lio 

RT: Adam Bice, Joe Petrides

Defense 

DE: J.D. Griggs, Connor Seeman

DT: Nico Caponi, Isaiah Williams

NG: Cody Grice, Mike Davis or James Price 

DE: Albert Presley, Alfonso Horner 

SLB: Justin March, Dylan Evans 

MLB: Kurt Mangum, Gary Ransom 

WLB: Troy Gilmer, Jatavis Brown 

CB: Avis Commack, Malachi Freeman

CB: Micklos Blake, Bill Alexander 

S: Johnny Robinson, Josh Richmond 

R: Anthony Holmes, Bre’ Ford

Special Teams

K: Robert Stein 

P: Zach Paul 

KR: Tyler Williams, Malachi Freeman 

PR: Imani Davis, Dee Frieson

Tennessee Titans: Biggest Early Season Storylines for Week Three - Bleacher Report

A positive attitude should be expected of a fan base that witnessed its team just miss its first playoff berth since the 2008 season.

Hell, the Titans went from 6-10 in 2010 to 9-7 a year later, despite a truncated offseason due to the lockout, a player holdout and a full-scale coaching regime change.

Heading into the season, smart fans know to be wary of the wave of optimistic news being spewed out by every team source and media outlet.

Yet even the wariest of Titans fans couldn't have foreseen this season's start coming.

Yes, we all knew the first four games of the season would likely result in a .500 record at best, but right now, I have a hard time finding a win at all.

The storyline many Titans fans had in their heads before the season started was: Can the Titans make the playoffs and/or can the Titans take the division crown away from the Texans?

Through two games, the Titans have been outscored 72-23. I'll let that sink in...

Now to hit you with a barrage of more stats that paint an awful picture of the remainder of the season: Tennessee is ranked 31st in total offense, 32nd in rushing offense, 32nd in scoring offense, 25th in total defense, 30th in run defense, 30th in scoring defense and 31st in kickoff coverage.

I know, I know. We're only two weeks into the season and stats can be swayed heavily by one game, but Week 2 looked like a rerun of Week 1.

Hi-res-6587008_crop_exactJake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

It's time for the storyline to change. Are the Titans the worst team in football?

It may sound harsh, but at this point in the season, it's hard to argue against it. I don't actually think they're the worst team in the league, but the thought has crept in obviously.

So now that the original preseason storyline looks like a pipe dream, what other new storylines have emerged?

1. Would the Real Chris Johnson Please Stand Up?

Rather than being able to pull out a Rolodex of legitimate excuses for Chris Johnson's poor 2011 campaign, I think it's time to question the logic of paying a guy $8 million a year and still have to answer questions about who the starting running back is every week.

CJ-what-the-hell-happened-k is averaging 1.1 yards per carry with 19 totes for 21 yards.

The offensive line of a team with two Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman for coaches has been atrocious in run blocking and poor in pass blocking as well, but Johnson appears to have lost the ability to make defenders miss.

We'll see how much longer this blame game lasts.

2. Jake Locker's Performance

Boy, did he look great against the Patriots. Then we all saw about what I expected from the second-year quarterback at this stage in the season.

The storyline for him hasn't necessarily changed, but Mike Munchak has had to answer questions about who his starting quarterback is, so take from that what you will.

3. Defensive Struggles

The Titans have struggled with tackling, penalties, run defense and blown coverages. 

Hi-res-151653110_crop_exactWesley Hitt/Getty Images

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray continues to start Michael Griffin at strong safety and Robert Johnson at free over a healthy Jordan Babineaux.

I'm not placing all the blame of the defenses struggles on this one adjustment, but Babs was one of the team's leading tacklers last year for a reason.

The defense has looked good for stretches, but has looked overmatched for the most part.

Things may look bad now, but the Titans did face a couple of quality opponents.

We all knew the Titans weren't as good as the Pats or Chargersâ€"although a little more fight would have been niceâ€"there will be better days ahead when the team plays some lesser opponents.

The key storyline through two weeks is that the Titans have a long way to go before being a playoff-caliber team, and now we know to temper expectations for the rest of the year.

Derek Dooley: 10 Candidates to Replace Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach - Bleacher Report

The Tennessee Volunteers broke the hearts of fans across the state with their 37-20 loss at the hands of hated rival Florida last week. That makes eight straight years of winless football against the Gators, and it has Dooley nearing the hot seat once again.

So to whom do the Vols go if Dooley gets the ax?

Before you dislocate your index finger violently scrolling down the screen so you can light me up with a comment about how I'm overreacting about Dooley getting fired, I want to make it clear that I don't think he should be fired...yet.

The Vols still have winnable games against Georgia (maybe), Mississippi State, South Carolina (maybe) and Missouri. Even going 2-2 through those four games would set Tennessee up for an 8-4 season, which could turn into a respectable nine-win year with a bowl victory.

But if we learned anything from Lane Kiffin, it should be that you always need to have a plan B. So if Dooley's Vols fall flat in another big game, we ought to know what kind of coaches are out there.

Here are the 10 coaches I'd go to after Dooley if I were athletic director Dave Hart. It's a mix of long shots, strong possibilities and safety picks.

The Long Shots

Oklahoma coaches are A-OK.
Oklahoma coaches are A-OK.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The next four coaches have a combined record of 387-102. They have 21 bowl wins, 17 conference titles and one national title among them.

Each of them has been a head coach at just one school his whole career. They would be extremely hard for Tennessee to attract, but they're the best.

That's why they're the long shots.

No. 1: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Hi-res-151703325_display_image
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Many friends of mine have heard me bring up Bob Stoops as "the guy" to go for if Derek Dooley gets fired. Why? Because Stoops is the biggest fish that still has a slight chance of being caught.

Special circumstances usually cause great coaches to move schools. Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino (is he great?) all failed in the NFL before returning to new colleges. Urban Meyer retired twice from Florida and commentated for ESPN before heading for Ohio State.

Stoops doesn't have an odd circumstance, but I don't care! He's the best college football coach who isn't cemented into the sidelines of his current school. He's also just 52 years old and has SEC experience as a defensive coordinator under Spurrier at Florida.

Start with Stoops. Tennessee fans won't begrudge you for trying to get the best, even if you are unsuccessful.

No. 2: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Hi-res-151607628_display_image
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If Tennessee can't lure Bob Stoops, heading north on I-35 to Stillwater wouldn't be a bad idea.

Mike Gundy garnered national attention with his "I'm a man, I'm 40!" tirade against the media in 2007. But what has gone relatively unnoticed is the fact that he has built one of the strongest, most stable programs in the country since being named head coach in 2005.

After Les Miles left a mediocre Oklahoma State team for LSU, Gundy built the Cowboys from a 4-7 season in 2005 to four straight seasons of nine wins or more. His teams have competed on the national stage since 2008.

Gundy also knows a thing or two about coaching superstar wide receivers like the ones Tennessee has. First-rounders Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon were recruited and developed by him.

The only thing keeping me from recommending Tennessee throw the house at Gundy in the event of Derek Dooley's firing is that Gundy is a lifelong Oklahoma State man. He played there and has coached there for 17 of his 22 years.

But you never know what an aggressive campaign and the shine of the SEC logo could do.

No. 3: Chris Petersen, Boise State

Hi-res-136078838_display_image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In six full seasons at Boise State, Chris Petersen is 74-7. I don't care who you play or what the color of your field is, that's damn impressive.

Regardless, the Broncos have progressively started playing elite competition at the beginning of the season to boost their BCS Bowl resumes and have been victorious in many of such contests.

In fact, had their kicker not missed a 26-yard field goal against Nevada, Petersen would've likely led Boise State to the BCS National Championship Game in 2010.

If you can recruit 3-star players to Boise, Idaho, and coach them to beat Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia Tech, then you can recruit 4- and 5-stars to Knoxville, Tenn., and contend in the SEC.

No. 4: Gary Patterson, TCU

Hi-res-107843397_display_image
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Yet another hot name for open coaching positions every year is TCU's Gary Patterson. His resume at a once little-respected school is similar to Chris Petersen's.

Patterson has been at TCU since 1998, a head coach since 2000. He has compiled a record of 111-30, with eight seasons of 11 or more wins.

He seems comfortable in Fort Worth, but he's a no-brainer in terms of gauging interest. No great coach immediately starts his career at a huge school.

The Strong Possibilities

No, not Gene Chizik.
No, not Gene Chizik.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The next four coaches have an average age of 44. They have only six full years of head-coaching tenure (three more are going on now) but have excelled in short periods of time.

Three of the four were highly regarded coordinators before being hired away for head-coaching positions. Often these kinds of coaches are even better at their second head-coaching jobs.

The annual salaries of these coaches are $2.3 million; $1.95 million; $850,000; and $750,000. Derek Dooley currently makes $1.8 million.

They are highly affordable and realistic options.

No. 5: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Hi-res-151130343_display_image
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Yet another coach with SEC ties is Clemson's Dabo Swinney. It took time for Swinney to get a foothold with the Tigers, but since taking over in 2008, he has led Clemson to a nine-win season and a 10-win season and is off to a strong 3-0 start this year.

His teams have become some of the most exciting in all of college football to watch, with athletes all over the field and tremendous big-play ability. Swinney can recruit and is a young, energetic coach on the rise.

He played and began coaching at Alabama. You might say that job is locked down for the time being, so Tennessee wouldn't have to worry about a second Lane Kiffin.

No. 6: Charlie Strong, Louisville

Hi-res-134094808_display_image
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Charlie Strong was one of the top defensive coordinators in the country from 2002 to 2009, when he coached at Florida. He served as the interim head coach during Urban Meyer's absences and eventually was hired away to Louisville in 2010.

After inheriting a Cardinals team that went 15-21 in the three years prior to his arrival, Strong has taken Louisville to two straight bowl games, winning one.

As of September 18th, he has them ranked in the nearly every top 25 poll with a 3-0 start.

Strong has spent the majority of his coaching career in the SEC, with stints at Florida, Texas A&M (not in the SEC at the time), Ole Miss and South Carolina. At 52 years old, Strong is at the perfect coaching age to take over a program and ride with them for a long time.

No. 7: Kirby Smart, Alabama Defensive Coordinator

Hi-res-5928546_display_image
Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

This coach would be a shaky hire coming off the three-year tenure of Derek Dooley. Kirby Smart has no head coaching experience, has benefitted greatly from Nick Saban's unbelievable recruiting and is only 36 years old.

But he's going to get a big gig one day. He's going to get that chance to make a name for himself. Tennessee could be the one to jump the gun.

Smart has been Alabama's defensive coordinator since 2007 when he was just 32, so he is a bit of a wunderkind already.

The only negative thing about him is his resume, eerily similar to Dooley's.

They both coached Georgia in their youthful days, served on the same staff at LSU with Saban and later joined him with the Miami Dolphins. The only difference is that Dooley went and got his head-coaching feet wet at Louisiana Tech, while Smart stuck with Saban.

If Dooley gets fired, is the best idea to hire his younger self? Still, it's tough to overlook a defensive guru like Smart.

No. 8: Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State

Hi-res-151130998_display_image
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

If Tyler Bray comes back for his senior year in 2013 and either one (or both!) of his two dynamite receivers does the same, Gus Malzahn could help Bray turn in one of the most prolific quarterbacking seasons in conference history.

Malzahn is a well-known offensive mastermind with coaching stops at Arkansas, Tulsa and Auburn.

Everywhere he went, the offense struck gold.

He has taken his first coaching job at Arkansas State this year, most likely prepping for a jump to a big conference in the future. I honestly don't love the idea of über-offense being the goal of the Volunteers (Alabama and LSU don't do it), but if the current squad can score so well, imagine mixing in Malzahn.

The Safety Picks

This was a joke at first but what if...
This was a joke at first but what if...
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

You're probably going to laugh at the two coaches left on this list. But who would've thought that a desperate Tennessee program would've had to go with a WAC coach who had a career record of 17-20?

That was an unintentional swipe at Dooley...

I have one guy who will pull at Volunteers' heart strings and another that may leave you scratching your head. Just remember that these are truly safety picks.

I've seen crazier things happen if every other coach says no.

No. 9: Tee Martin, USC Wide Receivers

usc.scout.com
usc.scout.com

Tee Martin is a legend on Rocky Top but has yet to make it back to Neyland as a coach. He's just 34 years old but has done admirably in coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers at New Mexico, Kentucky and now USC.

Is it too early for Martin? Yes, probably.

But he's by far the best candidate that's also a Tennessee grad (if that's important to you). Martin is absolutely going to get a chance to be a head coach one day.

No. 10: Rick Stockstill, MTSU

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

I'm going with an absolutely crazy pick for my last coach. Rick Stockstill of MTSU was one of the hottest names in coaching in 2009, when his Blue Raiders went 10-3.

That year, MTSU became the first Sun Belt Conference team ever to win 10 games, and the bowl was the first in school history at the FBS level.

The love died down after 2009 due to a couple highly disappointing years that resulted in a combined record of 8-17.

Stockstill was a quarterback and team captain under Bobby Bowden at Florida State before coaching various offensive positions with Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. Clearly, he has a nice coaching pedigree, but this would be a shocker.

That's why they call it a safety pick.

(I also might be throwing Stockstill a bone since his son is currently leading my alma mater to a high-school state championship. Siegel Nation!)

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