49ers hire former FAU defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin

The 49ers are hiring Monte Kiffin’s son and Lane Kiffin’s brother, Chris Kiffin, according to ESPN.

Monte Kiffin was the Super-Bowl winning defensive coordinator who invented the Tampa 2 defense. Lane Kiffin is the former Raiders head coach whom Al Davis once called “Lance.” He currently is the head coach at FAU.

Chris Kiffin was FAU’s defensive coordinator last season. He will be a pass-rush coach for the 49ers.

Kiffin has a connection with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. In 2010, Kiffin was a defensive assistant at USC under defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron. Orgeron was an assistant coach for Pete Carroll when Carroll coached at USC. And Saleh was a defensive quality control assistant for Carroll at the Seahawks.

Saleh and Kiffin most likely share the same defensive philosophy.

Kiffin has only one year of experience in the NFL — he was an intern for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007. Last year, he was involved in a recruiting scandal at Ole Miss, and the NCAA recently gave him a two-year suspension from recruiting. Now that he’s with the 49ers, he won’t have to deal with the suspension.

This article has 116 Comments

  1. Your mission, Chris, should you choose to accept it, is to train up our defensive players to be quarterback assassins.

    1. Your mission, should you accept it, is to leave your mom’s basement for one day and enjoy some sunshine. Take a break, you need it. We need it.

      1. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get a @$!#ing life and stop being a pathetic troll you worthless piece of *&^/!!!

  2. Grant, you didn’t include this info in your post:
    FAU improved from No. 124 on defense to No. 37 in his one season as defensive coordinator.

  3. Should the team pick up the 5th year option on Arik Armstead? Likely to be around $9 million. To me, as a fan with information available to fans, there just isn’t much to go on to make this an easy decision. Given the current DL makeup, the signing of Day, I’m not sure it is worth it.

    1. Well, we fans are probably not in a good position to understand how the Niners assess and evaluate Armstead and his role next season. Do they see him substantially improving pass rush under Kiffin, Jr? If Tim Ryan’s opinion is anything to go by (as a former NFL lineman and some access to 49er coaches and FO), they will pick up the option.

      For what it’s worth, Bill Barnwell thinks it’s a no-brainer

    2. Cubus,

      No way I’d pick up the option. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy and hasn’t been all that impressive when he has played. If he has a great contract year then you still have the option to sign him, but if we see more of the same, it’s time to walk away.

      1. just replay the 1st SEA game last year…many (more than 5 by my count) of the SEA pass snaps AA was in on would feature a quick straight rush past the interior OL into Wilson territory, then he’d stop to try to see where Taz had gotten off to…
        no injury excuses here, just didn’t seem to be able to sniff out the play once he’d gotten 3-5 yds. behind the line (which he did quickly, so props for that)…by then, the play blew past him…
        maybe Kiffin can help make something of him…

        1. Thing is he had the same problems at the College level that he still has now, which is why it was a questionable pick to begin with. He’s always had physical talent, but the on field performance has never matched the potential. Add in the injury history and to me the no brainer option is to let him play out his deal and decide after, rather than committing a huge amount of money to him with the 5th year option.

              1. Really? Show an example of this, I’d love to see it. You are the guy who produces nonsensical statements out of your butt with no research, not me.

            1. We have no choice in that regard as they already picked up Wards option. The difference between the two is Ward actually performed pretty well while at corner and was improving at FS before getting injured. If he could stay healthy he might be a good foundational piece for the Niners.

          1. I agree with Rocket regarding AA. He hasn’t shown improvement, doesn’t seem to have the desire to get better, so I say let him play out his contract. If his play doesn’t improve, then let him walk.

      2. I would bring him back for 1 more year. The niners have the money and need to see what they have.
        What’s the downside?

        1. The downside is using 9 million or more of the cap on a player that hasn’t warranted it, instead of on another player or players who have.

          1. rocket

            That is just the opposite of what you were whistling only last year…you were crowing that we had all the money in the world…but now you’ve decided to get frugal …? It seems that you would rather be broke than wrong…no chance when you take both sides….

            1. It has nothing to do with being frugal. It’s about using the money on a better player than Armstead. Why in the world would the Niners guarantee the guy 9 mill for what he’s shown so far? I guess they could still cut him before the 5th year begins if they don’t want to pay him that amount, but I’d let him play it out personally.

              1. Rocket,
                I might agree with you if the niners were not “certainly” going to have far more than 9 million in cap space next year.
                His money is not going to stop them from signing any free agents next year. So now we are just talking about a roster spot. Is his roster spot so valuable that the niners can’t afford to keep him on the roster?

              2. Shoup,

                That 9 mill could be very important next year depending on what the team does in FA this year. They could be a lot closer to the cap limit next season and that money could land a starting caliber player at another position that may come available in FA 2019 when they have a better idea of what they need to put them over the top.

                We have a pretty good idea of what Armstead is at this point and his best fit is probably where Buckner is playing right now. We also have Thomas who’s best fit is where Buckner is playing right now, at least on passing downs. We have too many of the same type of player and Armstead is injury prone on top of it. He isn’t worth the money for what he brings to the table imo, but if he has a breakout season in his contract year, they still have the option of keeping him either with a long term deal or a tag. As I mentioned they could always pick up the option and cut him before his 5th season if he doesn’t perform at a higher level, but they also risk having to eat that money if he gets injured which as we have seen, is very likely.

      1. I take a third for him. But I can’t see us getting even that at this point.
        1 year remaining on his deal for an oft injured player? I just can’t see it given the way teams value draft picks.

        1. Jets are expected to release Wilkerson, and they have two 2nd round picks. They could be interested in Armstead.

    3. I’m still puzzled about the position move and slimming down 20lbs. Arik seems to be a poor position fit for p!aging inside in Saleh’s base defense. But he still was able to forklift guards into the back field on pass downs at 293lbs.

      1. There’s a few players I’m expecting to see a big jump in their 2nd year, and with respect to staff, I’m anxious to see how much Saleh grows from his first year as DC….

  4. Good effort but no way Billy Price will be there at that point in the second round. I’m not a Walton fan, but there will be a number of RB’s available at that point if they are looking for one.

    1. Thanks undercenter. Reading the comments here has been a very sobering welcome party to the San Fran Bay Area.

      Go 49ers! Great to be here.

  5. Monte Kiffin DID NOT INVENT THE TAMPA 2 defensive scheme. Dungy did when he married a defensive line stunt (dropping the middle linebacker into a quasi-3 deep coverage) he learned while he played for the Steelers under DC Bud Carson and Head Coach Chuck Knoll with Kiffin’s Under scheme.

    Kiffin developed the under scheme while at Nebraska, then Arkansas (where he had an intern/assistant by the name of Pete Carrol) , and as linebackers coach with the Vikings (where Kiffin under DC Floyd Peters and Carroll as DB coach) really turned the Under scheme into a Pro defense.

      1. only useless if you don’t care to understand the defensive schemes played and where they come from….I guess like most “fans”.

  6. “involved in a recruiting scandal” is a nice way of saying Ole Miss paid recruits to commit. This dude may have been a scapegoat, however.

  7. My certainly-way-too-early 49ers 4 round mock draft:

    RND 1, #9) TREMAINE EDMUNDS, ILB, Virginia Tech: The do-all defensive chess piece capable of dominating at LEO, SAM, WILL or MIKE. Chris Kiffin is licking his chops.

    RND 2, #59) BILLY PRICE, OG/OC, Ohio State: Future All-Pro interior linemen (OG/OC) perfectly suited for Kyle’s offense. He can play Guard now and become the future heir apparent to Kilgore at OC.

    RND 3, #70) KAMERON KELLY, CB, San Diego State: Big, physical CB with the mental makeup to be a #1 CB in this defense.

    RND 3, #74) AUDEN TATE, WR, Florida State: The 49ers need to add size at outside WR. Tate is an absolute beast (6’5″ 230 lbs) making him a dominant redzone threat.

    RND 4, #130) MARK WALTON, RB, Miami: 2017 preseason All-SEC selection prior to suffering a season ending ankle injury, he may be the most underrated RB in this draft class, and a perfect fit for Kyle’s zone running schemes. Landing a RB in round 4 seems to be the sweet spot.

      1. I’m hearing there is a pretty good chance he will Tuna. He’s a good player, so it’s certainly no guarantee, but that’s the NFL draft for you. He’s listed at Center, and Centers generally don’t hold a ton of draft value compared to Guards. He could very well drop to #59, IMO. CBS Sports has him ranked as their 57th best prospect, for what it’s worth, and a little birdie told me that some NFL scouts view him as a mid-2nd round pick.

        1. Well there you go Razor. Good call. I like him to (I like Price just a little bit more), so Daniels could be a fall back for them at #59, if Price is off the board. Keep in mind this way-to-early mock doesn’t account for any moving around the draft board, and I doubt Price comes off the board in round 1.

          BTW Razor, I like your mock as well. You sold me on Leonard. He looks fantastic!

          1. Nelson, LG, Notre Dame
          2. Mata’afa, Leo, WSU
          3. Alexander, CB, Louisville
          3. Leonard, LB, South Carolina St.
          4. Hines, RB, North Carolina St.
          5. Bozeman, C/OG, Alabama
          6. Parker, OT, North Carolina AT&T

            1. With caution towards redundancy, I will once again bring up the name of “Rolls” Royce Freeman…RB from U of Oregon…DO NOT overlook himI would love to see him in tandem with Joe Williams in the niner backfield….

              1. Yah, Royce is a beast. My gosh, the cup runneth over, as they say. This draft class is simply overflowing with talent at the RB position! It starts with the best RB prospect I’ve ever seen in Barkley, and after him there is a RB for every taste, and every scheme. This might be the best RB class in at least a generation, if not ever! Maybe that means they can resign Hyde at a bargain. Would you be good with that OREGONINER?

              2. It starts with the best RB prospect I’ve ever seen in Barkley

                He’s not even as good as Zeke Elliott was two years ago imo. This kid is so overrated it’s unreal. He’s a very good RB, but the suggestions of him being the best in a decade and all this other stuff is crazy. He was shut down by a few defenses last year. That doesn’t happen to the “best evers” of the world. At least not at the College level.

              3. Couple things I’ve noticed about Barkley in studying his tape is he doesn’t always finish runs, or run behind his pads. Another is his decision making based on the information he processed. He tends to get antsy between the tackles, and looks to bounce it outside instead of getting through the crease….

              4. Oregon, yuppers, the only question about Royce is blocking. But that’s true of any rookie RB.

              5. Saquon Barkley is not only the best player in this draft, IMO, he’s going to lead the NFL in all purpose yards before he reaches 23 years of age, and he’ll do it in any system. As Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller says: “In a Year of QBs, Saquon Barkley Is a Unicorn”

                Barkley is 5’11”, 233 LBS, and runs like the wind (4.33 40). He power cleans 405 lbs, squats 525 lbs five times, and has never suffered any kind of serious injury in part, because his lower body is built like a tank. 5,000 yards rushing and receiving in three seasons despite being the focus of every defensive coordinator in the Big Ten this year. To go along with that he added 51 total touchdowns—two on kickoffs. He’s smart, he’s humble, he’s the rare guy whose humble attitude supersedes his talent. One NFL scout described him as: “He’s a five-tool guy. He can do it all. He has speed, power, can run through you or hurdle over you. You can put him in the slot. He can return kicks. And he’s worked hard to become a great pass protector.”

                I’ve been watching football intently since the early 80’s. I’ve been watching college football closely for nearly as long. Saquon Barkley is the most talented RB I have ever laid eyes on. He’s better than Zeke, he’s better than Gurley, heck, he’s better than Barry Sanders. And I know for a fact that there are multiple NFL team scouts who agree with all of this, and also believe Saquon Barkley deserves the highest draft grade they have ever given a draft prospect, so ……….

              6. And I know for a fact that there are multiple NFL team scouts who agree with all of this, and also believe Saquon Barkley deserves the highest draft grade they have ever given a draft prospect, so ……….

                And they are?

                Yeah I know all about him, have watched him play the past two years extensively and he’s not the greatest anything. He’s a very good RB who is being vastly overrated. Zeke was a better prospect and played at a higher level than Barkley. I watched three games this year where Barkley was stuffed completely and made into a non factor. That is not evidence of the greatest prospect anyone has ever seen. Penn State has had a good passing game the last two years so don’t try an use that as an excuse either.

                I’m not saying he isn’t a good player and won’t have a good NFL career. Just saying the testimonials are out of hand when you start calling him the best RB prospect ever or even the best in the past few years. He’s not. The Barry Sanders comment was ridiculous.

              7. If you’ve been paying attention to Saquon Barkley, and your eyeballs haven’t convinced you of his talent rocket, I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m sure my opinion, and the opinion of many professional scouts aren’t going to convince either. I suppose we’ll have to wait until he dominates the NFL in the coming years, starting from the moment he steps onto the football field, for you to change your mind. Mark my words, that day is coming . Until then, enjoy the show!

              8. But for the record though rocket, NFL talent evaluators told Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB that “Barkley is a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott was two years ago. Barkley is a true workhorse back who would be a first-round prospect solely on his ability as a runner. Add in his passing-game skills—think Le’Veon Bell, a big back who has the ability to create separation when lined up as a receiver—and he’s custom-built for the modern NFL”. Barkley is Sports illustrated’s #1 ranked prospect in this years draft. And one of the 49ers top scouts, former RB (and the leading rusher for the Florida Gators in 2003) Ran Carthon, told a colleague basically the same thing. There’s a name for you.

              9. That doesn’t answer my question. I want to know the scouts who said this, and especially the bolded part:

                He’s better than Zeke, he’s better than Gurley, heck, he’s better than Barry Sanders. And I know for a fact that there are multiple NFL team scouts who agree with all of this, and also believe Saquon Barkley deserves the highest draft grade they have ever given a draft prospect, so ……….

                Also don’t say “so and so pretty much said this” without linking the article you are referring to. Post the link so we can read for ourselves.

        2. Razor
          Isaiah Wynn has generated some buzz, Mike Mayock has him rated the 2nd interior O-lineman
          behind Nelson. (likely at Center)?
          Bucky Brooks has him 3rd behind Hernandez

    1. Almost 0 chance Price lasts that long. Isaiah Wynn should be available though, and he fits the measurables of a ZBS guard ( 6’2 302)

        1. He might slip into early Day#2. He’s played Center as well. I like Daniels but worry about him lasting to #59. The ‘Bama OC maybe rd4 for depth?
          But really, until FA,……..?

        2. Razor,
          Agree on Wynn.
          He’s been trending up quite a bit and won’t last until 59.
          If scouts were wondering why the RB’s were successful in 2017, they need not look any further than Wynn.

    2. Disagree on Walton. He can run inside zone, but he’s not a good fit in OZ. He’s not a cut and go runner. He dances too much. He’s pretty much a smaller, albeit more explosive version of Hyde.

      1. It’s a fair point #80, but I am confident Bobby Turner can teach the kid to get up field in a hurry. He’s no Saquon Barkley, but he’s got exceptional lateral agility and enough speed to get outside, and the vision ….. oh my, simply elite! Just a matter of being more decisive, and getting a feel for the way the running lanes develop in Kyle’s wide, stretched out zone schemes.

          1. And BTW, is it me, or do offensive playmakers simply look more dynamic and explosive when they wear the #1? lol.

          2. Yeah, he’s a much better receiver. I certainly wouldn’t be throwing out my Niner gear if they take him. But I think a natural OZ back will be the choice since they can’t count on Williams to be that guy.

        1. 49reasons

          Yes, I would be great with both Hyde /Royce and Joe Williams….the problem is now Brieda…as coaches say, “It’s a good problem to have”…(too many quality RBs}…Can you imagine getting crushed by Hyde…and then get crushed by Royce…?

          1. Oh man OREGONINER, talk about some thunder! Going by your screen name, I’m guessing you’ve seen a lot of him. Some people might question the fit, coming out of the Ducks’ Inside Zone-Read system, but count me in as someone who would be happy to have Royce carrying the rock for the Niners. Will he last until the mid-3rd round? He seems like a mid-2nd to mid-3rd round prospect in this years draft to me. What do you think?

            1. 49reasons

              Yes, I think that because of the coaching screw-up, Oregon lost out in the ‘Bowl’ scramble…but even without all of the hoopla, Freeman will show well at the combine…I’m thinking 3rd round just for the lack of ‘press’….

  8. Interesting wrinkle WRT Grant’s earlier tag and trade Jimmy scenario.


    “Albert Breer reports that if the Redskins were to franchise QB Kirk Cousins with the intention of trading him to another team, Cousins’ representatives would quickly file a grievance to block tag, given that this would be Washington violating the spirit of the rules.

    “The franchise tag rules dictate that players can be tagged as a mechanism for teams to buy time toward getting a long-term deal finalized”

  9. It wasn’t really a scandal. He let some kid stay with him. If anything it just shows what a nice guy he is. Trying to improve some kids way of living. If anything he was putting himself out trying to help the kid. Those arent the perks kids are looking for when picking a school to commit to.

    Lets see…
    #1 living with my coach, check!
    #2 money

  10. Talking heads on espn opining that Elway wants to clear cap space to sign Cousins but would have to cut Talib’s and a WR’s salaries to do it. A couple of decent receivers over there. Elway has Lynch’s phone number. ?Qien sabe?

    1. I read yesterday that they wanted to keep Thomas and Sanders, which would be a selling point for Cousins. Could they move some other pieces to clear the space? Or renegotiate a cheaper deal with one of the WRs?

      1. The link.


        But as the Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala pointed out on Twitter, it wouldn’t make sense for the team to drop their former Pro Bowl receivers if they plan to woo a big-name free agent quarterback such as Kirk Cousins this offseason.

        For that reason, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said on Wednesday that “the belief is both are safe with the chase for a top QB in mind.”

        1. If the Broncos can’t sign Cousins it’s a good thing. I’m hoping Cousins goes to a team outside the top 8 picks.

          Which poses the question: would the 49ers turn down a trade offer to force the Broncos to draft a quarterback? I don’t think so. I think Lynch would take the trade offer if he liked the player.

    2. It would be nice to see the 49ers shake down a cash strapped team for a sweet trade deal… The same way we got Boldin and Garoppolo.

      I’m tempted to scan rosters of cap tight teams to see who is out there.

    3. This is why I think its a myth that league wide cap increases are good for teams with tons of cap space. Instead, the cap increases reduce the number of available free agents… and inflates the contract prices of the few that hit free agency.

      1. B2W

        Yeah, look at Cleveland…They’ve got several primo draft choices, and a ton of gold…which came as a result of their not spending adequatly for several years…Think of how many careers have been ruined by their ‘tight-pockets’….They could have been sooooo much better….

  11. https://ninerswire.usatoday.com/2018/02/15/the-49ers-aggressively-prudent-free-agent-wish-list/7/

    Plan A: Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
    “The 49ers’ struggles in the red zone have been well documented, and Graham would offer Kyle Shanahan a big target the offense is lacking. Plus, he would compliment the tight ends already on the roster. Graham could give San Francisco its version of Rob Gronkowski to make Garoppolo that much more potent.”


    1. Uhhh…no. Graham’s play fell way off last year, to the point he was averaging less than 10 yards a catch, and he is no longer an up the seam receiver that Gronkowski is. Furthermore, his 10 touchdowns is a statistic that is subject to great statistical variance year to year. The reality is Jimmy Graham will want $10 million a year, at least, and he is not worth that much unless he could contribute on the whole field, which he can’t. And his patellar tendon injury in 2015 has caused him to lose a step or two, which over the course of the next few years means four or five steps. If you want an injury prone red zone threat, I’d rather go with the younger Tyler Eifert; or, if you want high upside talent, I’d go Trey Burton.

      1. His 10 TDs all came in the red zone, which is what we would be paying him for (for the most part).

        “Furthermore, his 10 touchdowns is a statistic that is subject to great statistical variance year to year.”

        True, but why? Because Seattle never utilized him properly. He was never a good fit in that gimmick offense. Shanny would put him in a position to succeed.

        “The reality is Jimmy Graham will want $10 million a year, at least…”

        Not true, more like 7 million.

        1. He made $10 million last year. Do you think he’s taking that much of a haircut on his salary? Especially given that there are already rumors of a few teams looking at him (Packers, even the Patriots). His PFF was 53.8, though whether you agree with PFF grades or not is pretty subjective.

          In the red zone, his catch percentage on throws to him was lower than Ben Watson, who is also a free agent tight end (Graham just had more chances, which suggests Seattle was using him correctly as a red zone threat). In fact, on passes to him from the 10 yard line and in, his catch percentage was 50%, despite the fact he was the target 39% of the time on Seahawk throws within the 10 yard line (Watson had a 71.9% catch percentage; Graham’s numbers are only slightly better than Eric Ebron, who had a 42% catch percentage on 21% of the Lions’ targets, and no one is clamoring for Eric Ebron). Jarvis Landry was the target on 38.9% of the Dolphins’ targets within 10 yards, and he caught over 78% of the throws made to him.

          Even in the red zone, Graham’s catch % was 61.54%, only slightly better than George Kittle’s (56.25%).

          To clarify, when I say touchdowns are subject to great variance, I am talking about the fact that almost every player with a touchdown percentage of 20% in one year never gets double-digit touchdowns the following year (I believe this was a stat from Bill Barnwell, where he goes through the list; but I can’t remember).

          Sorry, I just don’t think he’s going to be worth $10 million, or even $7 million a year.

          1. Geez, do you think I made up that number?


            “Hensley mentions that Graham’s price tag should work in the Ravens’ budget, as he could be in line for a deal worth around $21 million over three years.”

            “His PFF…”

            Don’t care about PFF and it doesn’t look like you are completely sold on their them either.

            “In the red zone, his catch percentage on throws to him was lower than Ben Watson”

            At 61.54 his RZ catch % is higher than Gronk’s 53.85. Julio Jones, everybody’s favorite jump ball guy had a 36% number in the RZ.
            Kelce 50%

            Do you really think Watson is better than those other guys? If he’s so good, why wasn’t he targeted more?

        2. To be clear, I respect your opinion but disagree. To paraphrase, opinions are like assholes: everyone has one, and no one thinks their’s stink. Including me.

  12. PFF has Brandon Fusco as the second highest rated FA guard behind Andrew Norwell. Overall grades are 88.8 for Norwell and 76.0 for Fusco.

    1. It’s possible that the only change on the starting OL will be Garnett replacing Laken. I think all of us had the Niners drafting a G last year, but it didn’t happen.

      Foster’s crap gave us another hole to fill. Will the ILB need put the interior OL need on the back burner?

    1. Uh oh…Browns use two picks on best available players now, and decide to try and get McCarron again, only this time without having to give up draft picks?

  13. From PFF: Jimmy Garoppolo led the NFL in completion percentage under pressure in 2017.

    Jimmy G – 62.3%
    Case Keenum – 55.7%
    Tom Brady – 55.5%
    Drew Brees- 54.4%
    Josh McCown – 53.9%

  14. The Boys Of Summer are gathering in Florida and the desert. Always a nostalgic good time for me……because it means Combine is coming.

  15. Maybe we don’t need free agency to tell us where the Niners go with their 1st pick of the 2018 NFL Draft:

    Report: 49ers hiring Chris Kiffin for pass-rush role

    The 49ers are creating a new staff position in an effort to create more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    The 49ers are hiring Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin, 36, as a pass-rush-specialist coach, Sports Illustrated reported.

    In 2017, Kiffin and his older brother arrived at FAU and were part of an 11-3 season that marked the school’s first winning record since 2008 and came on the heels of a 3-9 season.

    The defense was a big part of the turnaround: The Owls ranked 24th in the NCAA in sacks (2.71 a game), 34th in points allowed (22.7) and 63rd in yards (389.6). In 2016, they ranked 83rd in sacks (1.8), 123rd in points (39.8) and 124th in yards (513.8).

    1. http://www.olemisssports.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/chris_kiffin_789237.html

      Kiffin has paid huge dividends on the recruiting trail. He was tabbed the 2013 National Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com after helping Ole Miss land a top-five signing class. He was also tabbed one of the nation’s top 50 recruiters by 247Sports and has helped the Rebels land three more top-15 classes since then, including the 2016 haul that ranked as high as No. 4 by ESPN.com.

  16. Lane Kiffin…any bloodline remotely close either means you got him cheap, or you like slippery, or both

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