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April 3, 2012

Not a lot being reported from spring practice for the last couple days. In fact, the only recent news is that LB Ejuan Price is out for the rest of the spring with a torn Pectoral Muscle. He’s having surgery and is expected back by training camp. Price plays MLB and should be competing with Dan Mason for the starting job.

Of course, I can’t think of pectoral surgery without thinking of this episode of Ren & Stimpy.

Even though Ray Graham has been on the sidelines recovering from his torn ACL and Rushel Shell won’t be here until the fall, the beat writers have really liked what they have seen from Isaac Bennett.

It’s too early for declarations, but Bennett may be the best player on offense.

He is bigger and stronger than a year ago – and unafraid of when Ray Graham returns from a knee injury and high school All-American running back Rushel Shell arrives on campus.

“I’m looking forward to playing beside everybody,” he said. “It’s not competition, but I say teamwork. Everybody will fit in somewhere.”

The ever-smiling son of a Tulsa, Okla., preacher, Bennett was unfazed when the team was abandoned by former coach Todd Graham, who was the only BCS coach to offer him a scholarship.

It’s a good thing, because no one seems too impressed with the QBs performances.

Stop me if this seems familiar:

Sunseri had his best day of the spring after Chryst reminded him in no uncertain terms not to hold onto the ball too long in the pocket.

Sunseri hit Brandon Ifill and Cam Saddler for touchdown passes. He also recognized he missed some open receivers.

“I have to put more air underneath the ball and stop trying to throw it so flat,” he said. “On my deep ball, obviously, I am overthrowing by a little bit, but I’m not giving them time to adjust. I finished on a touchdown to Cam. I was able to make that adjustment.”

[emphasis added while sighing deeply]

Some flaws continue, and it doesn’t matter the system.

Not that the wide receivers have been particularly impressive as a unit to help matters.

… I think it is hard to really stretch the field and score consistently if you can’t get those big chunk plays and force teams to work to defend the deep ball. Devin Street obviously is the first guy who comes to mind in terms of filling this role but what we’ve yet to see that on a game in and game out basis and he’s been a little bit limited in spring so he hasn’t shown that, either. Cam Saddler has had an excellent spring and has caught a zillion balls nearly every practice, but again, he’s more of a slot guy – as is Ronald Jones and guys like Ed Tinker, who I really think has some ability. I know Brandon Ifill has made the move to receiver but he has not yet shown the ability to be that game breaker type of player and if he doesn’t, I’m not sure where he will ultimately fill in.

Stretching the field with the pass is still a theory than a reality. Sunseri is still inconsistent at best with his deep throws. Myers struggles with the other stuff (not to mention a slow wind-up). As much as a platoon might seem appealing, it is hard to picture since teams would presume a deep ball whenever Myers is in there. The WRs just don’t have the skill to handle a defense that knows the deep pass is coming.

Okay, too much of a downer so far and that’s not entirely fair. Coach Paul Chryst is being positive.

Chryst, who was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, said the four quarterbacks on the roster are all improving. But he added it wouldn’t be fair to start evaluating them until the fall because they have so much to learn.

“I think the most you can hope for is that each [quarterback] is getting better,” Chryst said, “as well as gaining an understanding of the offense and also improving in their own little world of techniques. There’s so much to quarterback play.

“You hope that there’s an understanding and foundation that’s being laid so that at fall camp you can build on that and get yourself ready for the season.”

That at least suggests that the QB issue will not be completely settled by the end of spring. I expect that Sunseri will be the starter on the post-spring 2-deep, but that like the entire 2-deep. It will be in pencil.

 





It is very difficult to still be hearing of the struggles of Sunseri. It sort of proves right those of us who have said we have seen enough over two years to know the limitations. Apparently those limitations are still there.

I know some will say but it’s only spring ball that he has the whole summer and fall camp to get ready. To that I respond by asking what do you possibly think he can achieve in 4 months that he hasn’t over 2 years?

With the schedule as it is I really hope the run blocking is at least as good as they are saying and gets better soon. If we run the ball 40-50 times a game with 2 or 3 backs each getting over 100 yards then we may not have to pass!

Comment by Tony 04.03.12 @ 1:13 pm

OK, i’ll do the required cliches just to get them out of the way

A) ABT!

B) If Tino starts, (1) I’ll not renew my season tickets, (2) it will because he is a Pitt legacy, (3) it is because he is a great practice player but freezes in the games, and/or (4) it wll be another 6 and 6 season …. pick one or any combination!

C) I hope Myers steps up or we’re in deep trouble

D) Voytik needs to be giev a real shot in fall camp

E) ABT!

Comment by wbb 04.03.12 @ 1:42 pm

We need Voytik to be Chryst’s second coming. (I make myself smile, that’s enough for me!)

Comment by steve1 04.03.12 @ 2:23 pm

To bad Ordorff did not stay at QB and moved to tight end. He is as big as Rothensberger. Just a fantasy does not mean he was or would have been a QB just love his size and he obviously an outstanding athelete.

Comment by drw 04.03.12 @ 2:50 pm

update on today’s practice

link to blogs.sites.post-gazette.com

Comment by wbb 04.03.12 @ 3:02 pm

Well, as everyone can guess I’m pretty optimistic when it comes to PITT football. I’ll disagree with Zeise on a few points…

The passing game can, and I think will, be better this year than last. Guys, Sunseri couldn’t throw the deep ball worth sh*t last season and Ray Graham had almost 1,000 yards in seven games. Something was working right on offense and Sunseri was completing upwards of 67% of his passes.

So much for the idea that the defense creeps ups to stop the run and then we can’t complete a pass.

The reason we went 3-4 over those seven games wasn’t because Sunseri couldn’t pass the ball – it was because our defense wasn’t playing up to par in the first half of the season.

Think about it – we had 80% of the roster playing in brand new systems they were not recruited for and they had to learn the equivalent of nuclear physics on offense. The QB was in shotgun and had less than three seconds every play to get rid of the ball, the OL was put in a position to zone block and they hated it and the offense was trying to do that AND snap the ball in 15 seconds from placement.

All that and we were still scoring 26 ppg over the first half of the season. Could have been better but could have been much worse also.

Guess what? All those things are repealed this season. Our talent will be playing in an offense (and defense) that they anticipated when they signed on with PITT. The offense will be much more simplified and they will huddle normally so that there is actual thinking on the sidelines as to what play to call. The QB will be under center and have five-seven step drops to survey the receivers and thus will have more time to complete the passes.

The lesser burden on Sunseri with this offense will make a difference also.

In some very real ways this offense is going to be night and day from Graham’s, yet with all the returning principals at the skilled positions. That can’t be overstated.

Let the defense creep up – we have RBs this year that will roll out huge yardage if the LB’s are up too close. We are going to have much more speed in the WR corps than last year with Felder, Williams, Tinker and Ifill.

Comment by Reed 04.03.12 @ 3:35 pm

Good to see that Malcolm Crockett RSF is getting some time – will add even more depth to the back field.

Comment by markp 04.03.12 @ 3:51 pm

This entire QB mess is DW’s fault….We had great QB play with Walt Harris!!!! He got so much out of so little looking back it was amazing.

I wonder what things would have beenn like around here if the Big east did not explode in 2004…We had recruits coming until then….

Comment by VSPanther 04.03.12 @ 3:53 pm

I agree that Harris got good ‘skills’ recuits –the trouble with Walt is that his OL and DL recruits got progessively worse

There must be some fascination with Pitt’s OL coaches and AARP … Walt’s OL coach (forgot his name), Tony Wiae and now Jim Hueber. Wise and Hueber were/are very good teachers; not sure about the recruiting

Comment by wbb 04.03.12 @ 4:34 pm

Not a good sign for Myers (albeit early) that for the 3rd year in a row he can’t catch up (let alone pass Sunseri) and that for the 2nd year in a row Trey Anderson might be catching him. And that’s THREE different coaching staffs.

Still lots of time to go. All Hail.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 04.03.12 @ 4:43 pm

The less mention of Tino Sunseri the better. His limitations of making adjustments drive me absolutely nuts. As far as long passes, you either can or you cannot. Their is no middle ground. My folks who have attended rate Myers almost even with Tino on handoffs and ballhandling skills. He just needs work on the short routes. No one is close to him on the long ball but he does require “wind up” time. How much frick’n worse can he be than Tino?

Comment by Dan 72 04.03.12 @ 5:13 pm

Dan – you’re guys probably know more football than I do and have probably seen more. But Myers requires more time on all his passes – not just deep ones. When I watched the other day I expected to see something different given the time period but it was more of the same. When I mentioned it to two guys I was standing with who have seen every practice one said “What’s new, this is why he’s not a starter”.

It doesn’t surprise me that much to see Anderson has moved up to co-QB2 with Myers (see link below) . As I said the other day Anderson’s passing has been very good this spring and he’s a smart kid.

It’s still early and my gut tells me that Myers will be the 2nd string QB in the fall but who knows. Sunseri has separated himself, or should I say that Myers has separated himself from the starting position.

Here is a telling quote from Steve Flinn of Panther 247 sports:

“At the end of spring you watch [Film] and look at everyone. Every time you get reps, what are you going to do with that opportunity? It wasn’t an injury thing with Mark [Myers] or a doghouse type of thing,” Chryst said. “At the same time, Trey [Anderson] did a couple things that merit some more reps. Those reps have to come from someone, and they came from Mark today.”

link to pitt.247sports.com

Comment by Reed 04.03.12 @ 5:32 pm

Zeise is a tiresome hack.

Comment by Matt N. 04.03.12 @ 6:25 pm

My only encouraging thought on this QB situation is that Chryst has won alot at Wisconsin and appears to not tolerate offensive ineptitude, so if and when Tino gets jailbreaked by VTech or whoever and reverts to chucking dying quails or running directly into the pass rush, he will not put up with that sh#t nearly as long as Wanny or Graham inexplicably did.

Very good news Anderson is playing well and good for putting heat on both Myers and Tino.

Comment by Matt N. 04.03.12 @ 6:35 pm

OK I’ve held back on this personal opinion for about 6 years now. Every since I first heard the call of “Stull needs more work”, onto “It’s Tino time” into the present “who knows what” lets get a coach that can stay on board for more tha 6 weeks.

Here it is in Black and White. If I hear of one more Pitt season ticket holder presenting an ultimatum to “who knows what” that “I will NOT renew my seasom tickets unless so & so occurs OR so & so doesn’t occur”, COME ON, WAKE UP CALL, nobody really gives a flying shit if you renew your freakin season tickets or not so quit waving around that saber like anyone gives a flying fu*k about whether you show up for the game or not, PLEASE, stop it!!!

Unless your throwing a six figure contribution to the athletic programs on a annual basis then you are doing nothing but blowing smoke so quit thinking you have an impact on the Pitt program in any way shape or form.

And if you fail to comply with my request, I promise NOT to renew my Pitt Football Season Tickets until you comply with my wishes.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.03.12 @ 7:07 pm

Matt – for varied reason’s that I stated last week and above I think we’ll be a bit surprised at the quality of the QB play.

The one thing we didn’t see in 2010 like we did in 2011 is the volume of panicked situations Sunseri was in. It happened almost every game in the latter half of the season last year.

That no-huddle, High-Octane offense, and the staff obsession with its components, ground away at Sunseri’s confidence last year. The public comments by Graham didn’t help any either, even when he wasn’t using Sunseri’s name in his interviews he was inferring fault so strongly that everyone knew who he was talking about.

That, in turn, was panic on Graham’s part when he saw that he wasn’t going to have the type of offense he sold to us. Dog chases his own tail and never goes forward.

Believe me, that isn’t going to happen with Paul Chryst – he isn’t built that way. I do believe that Chryst and Rudolph will take a long hard look at just what Sunseri can do well and what his weaknesses are, then tailor an offense and game plans which fit the mold – a round peg in round hole as it were.

Graham’s whole offensive gameplan was scripted way in advance. There was literally no in-game or play-to-play adjustment as Graham was insistent that his offense, and only his offense would dictate the day (See Iowa Game). His QB, and other offensive personnel, never felt ownership of the offense because all they were doing was blindly following cryptic orders, or given no orders at all (WRs) sometimes.

Chryst and Rudolph will give Sunseri a better footing as Sunseri will know that he doesn’t have to jump through all the weird hoops and run the slalom courses that a Graham QB had to just to get the simplest plays off the ground. The one thing Graham was correct in last season was that his offense put the whole burden onto the QB to not only execute the offense himself but to get others tuned into each 15 second play.

We now have the luxury to do the opposite with Sunseri and let the whole offense be vital to Chryst’s plans.

Anyway, I do think that we’ll see more composure out there which will translate into better QB play. Again, not star quality but his game will round out and be more productive.

Comment by Reed 04.03.12 @ 7:07 pm

Sorry for the rant, but I just had a conversation with a supposed Pitt fan who offered up the above opinion and I didn’t have the guts to tell it to his face the way I really felt about his opinion.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.03.12 @ 7:11 pm

Relax everyone ,-Voytik will be the star of fall camp & THE best qb in the program since Marino hands down ! Would like to see fellow freshman speedster Trent Coles in the mix @ fall camp camp – sounds like we could use him; anyone have an update on how his knee is progressing ?

Comment by Rocky20 04.03.12 @ 8:08 pm

We don’t need Voytik to be the 2nd coming, just better than Sir Tino. That really shouldn’t be that hard, as the 5th year senior who is like 32 now, is not even seperating himself from a walk-on freshmen and a redshirt sophomore who has taken 4 or 5 snaps in a game.

Well at least let’s hope not ! sheesh

Comment by Emel 04.03.12 @ 9:16 pm

I’m sorry, but Coach Chryst looks good in Pitt gear. Who’s the guy in the background?

link to pittsburghpanthers.com

Comment by Digdug 04.03.12 @ 9:57 pm

Dr Tom – I agree. The nice thing about PITT football is that you are entertained at least six times a year, wins or losses.

I don’t remember anyone stating that PITT has to be successful to still be fun to follow.

We talk about tons of stuff on here and very few times that shuts down and the reason for that? Because this is a hobby for us. It doesn’t impact our family; it doesn’t make a difference in our professional lives and it doesn’t have anything to do with our futures.

It is what it is, a thing that we care about but understand that it has it’s proper place.

That said, if Sunseri screws the pooch again I’ll be whacking my kids around big time.

Emel – that redshirt SO took 4 or 5 snaps all season.

Rocky, don’t you have a credit application to fill out so that you can buy another couch to burn?

Comment by Reed 04.03.12 @ 10:11 pm

Reed — hope you’re right. Chryst gives me a sense of offensive awareness and player management that Wanny and Graham seemed to lack, but the proof is in the pudding. Some guys are just not money players and Tino has clearly shown this, but allowing him more time to be aware of his situation and giving him a bruising ground attack can only help…no matter who’s in at QB.

Comment by Matt N. 04.03.12 @ 11:04 pm

Best comment I’ve seen in awhile, and the award goes too……..Tony, the very first post.

“what do you possibly think he can achieve in 4 months that he hasn’t in 2 years”.

Hey, I’m behind Chryst. Whatever he says goes, maybe he can help him. That will be teriffic.

I’m being sincere, not sarcastic, if that who he feels is best, then so be it.

If it’s the same crap the first couple of games, I’ll be on here, with many others, saying so.

Tony, if I may, I will have a comment to those that say, “he’s going back to regular football, that’s more his style like in his first year”,

Yes, I saw his first year also!!

I am not one to ever wish for failure, to prove I’m right. (Like some people were over last years Coach Fraud). Great, you were right, you win.

Anyhow, I would like nothing more than for Tino to have a great year, running off the field after a decent bowl game, looking back, in the end, proudly over his Pitt career.

I hope that happens, I really do, and I will really believe in Coach Chryst and the qb coach even more.

I hope that happens, and I hope I’ve been wrong about Tino the past two years.

Comment by Dan 04.04.12 @ 1:44 am

P.S. the things I’m talking about, he won’t get a 3 or 4 game pass. Not talking about learning the “new” offense, or routes, or lingo.

I’m talking about balls being thrown 3 feet into the ground in front of the receiver, 3 feet over their heads on sideline passes, and the favorite, long ball floating 5 yards shy of the receiver.

These things, will be evident at the first game, and I’ll give you jitters for the first game, certainly by game two.

I’m cheering for the team to win, anyway they can.

No, I’m not waiting for him to fail, I would love for him to win, but, I won’t sit quietly just for the love of Pitt if this is not the case.

Hail to Pitt!!!

Comment by Dan 04.04.12 @ 1:52 am

I don’t think Dan is necessarily addressing his posts above to one person .. he just said a lot of things in general that most of us are feeling.

I have often stuck up for Tino on this blog not because that I think he is a skilled QB but because

1) I thought the OL and WRs were every bit as putrid last season as he was, yet as the QB he was getting all the blame, and

2) it seemed that people blame him for beating out the other QBs. Heck, either blame the other QBs or the coaches for not benching him.

It appears that he will once again be the starter (although there is still time for someone else), and if so, we will continue to see the same old comments here … like continuing to throw out criticsm will make it better.

Despite my support, I realize that he cannot throw the long pass and ssems to hold on the ball … but he is our QB and that is noty going to change no matter how much we bitch about it.

Comment by wbb 04.04.12 @ 7:38 am

I will try to not read anymore tea leaves and make predictions….but, I will offer my opinion and in my opinion, Chryst has zero tolerance for “hype”…whether he will be a good head coach or not, he is the exact opposite of Graham in that respect.

Comment by SFPitt 04.04.12 @ 8:08 am

We might as well get used to the fact that we have Tino for another year until Voytik is ready. Voytik’s skills and maturity may push the issue this year (that would be a nice surprise) but it’s Tino starting the opener. Myers and Anderson are fighting for potential backup duty and will both fall back further once we get another arm in 2013…the sooner we stop seeing posts on them the better (especially the Myers discussion).

Comment by FG 04.04.12 @ 8:47 am

Myers can’t even play himself ahead of Trey Anderson. So can we please stop talking about him? I still think the QB situation is going to come down to how fast Voytik learns the offense. If he gets a good grasp of it initially at the start of fall practices, then I could see him starting because the starting QB isn’t going to be asked to do much with all the talent in the running game.

Comment by Wardapalooza 04.04.12 @ 9:02 am

Guys – I agree with all your points save one, that Sunseri can’t improve this coming season with different circumstances.

But you make good points and I was one of the first posters to scream for “ABT” about three games in last season. I wrote a pretty strong article about it back then also…

link to pittblather.com

I feel the same way now about Chryst giving the hook if things go (stay) south with Sunseri.

But we see QB is college ball all the time get better between one year and the next. A poster on another board said that “Sunseri got robbed of a year of progression” and I tend to believe that.

Yes, he has physical limitations as Dan states – his long ball shows that. He missed on some of the shorter stuff once in a while in pretty dramatic for – that ball into the dirt in front of Ronald Jones that would have been a walk-in TD shows that also.

Let’s not forget that PITT fans were saying almost the exact same things at the end of Spring Practice back in 2009 when Stull was the QB. A year older and a change of OC’s gave him the spring board for a solid decent season. Stull’s physical attributes and QB talents weren’t that much better than Sunseri’s yet we saw him progress into a QB who helped take us to 10 wins.

I’m not saying that is going to happen in this case, one would have to be sort of nuts to promise that. However, I’m saying that there are circumstances with this new staff and their approach to offense, combined with an on-field supporting cast, that can contribute to Sunseri having a better showing this season than last.

I am disappointed in Myers not being able to really push for a starting job this year though. I thought he’d show better than he did. Running down through our “Hopes Checklist” we better hope Sunseri doesn’t get badly injured or that we have a rash of injuries at this position this year. We may see a reprise of 2007 if that happens with Voytik playing the Pat Bostick role and that isn’t good for anyone.

Comment by Reed 04.04.12 @ 9:15 am

FG and Ward – asking Pittsburghers not to discuss the QB position, especially the back-up QB, is shouting on deaf ears. That is going to be the main topic of PITT football from now until the last game of the season.

But… how about those DE’s we may have out on the field on Sept 1st? If things progress the way they have so far it may very well be Murphy on one side and Hale on the other.

Comment by Reed 04.04.12 @ 9:23 am

Rocky – We could use his speed I suppose but Coach House might have Trenton Coles working out at DB/Safety when he comes in this summer.

Either way I suspect a redshirt is in order for Coles.

Comment by Reed 04.04.12 @ 9:32 am

Reminds me of when Walt Harris installed the spread that one season.. we started 1-5….then he went back to his original system.. and we won out. I really wonder what if…. he never did that, how that season would have panned out…..Really shows that installing a new system can really impact players. Especially if they are used to playing a certain way.

Comment by Snala The Panther 04.04.12 @ 9:59 am

Reed – Yeah I know, the backup QB is always the most popular player in Pittsburgh. Myers apparently isn’t even the backup QB, which was more of my point. I’m not as down on Sunseri as most either. Pitt was in basically every game last year with Sunseri playing poorly often. I’d imagine Sunseri will be better just by playing in a more familiar system. So with even a little improvement from Sunseri I can see the team doing much better.

It looks like the D should be pretty solid. I’ve been hoping for Hale to make a big impact ever since he got to Pitt.

Comment by Wardapalooza 04.04.12 @ 10:06 am

[...] after a post noting the lack of progress in the offense there was life spotted outside of Isaac Bennett. Not everyone will be happy since the signs of life [...]


@Reed, hey you’re right. Just frustrating.

Who knows, maybe this group of coaches will see something in his mechanics, weight distribution, etc. etc.???

Wouldn’t it be nice for him to prove us all wrong and go out on an upbeat year??

Seems like a nice kid, good family, have never questioned any of that stuff.

Who doesn’t like a happy ending?? (no, i’m not talking about the mutually beneficial girls)!!!

@WBB, absolutely, general comment. Hey, peoples arguments are valid about the “O” line and new offense, and receivers not performing, contributing to Tino’s progress. No doubt.

Hey, my money is on Chryst, the guy knows football!! Whatever he says.

I’m even to the point if he would name him the starter (I know that will never happen in the spring, just stating my mindset), even if he did, I’m willing to see what happens.

Just hope we’re not in the middle of next season all saying wtf??

My sports down time is coming, once the NHL playoffs are over.

Left baseball years ago, once hockey is over, will be counting down till opening day kickoff!!!

Comment by Dan 04.04.12 @ 12:08 pm

No matter who gets pt on offense, I have no doubt we will look better than last year…winning 10 games a year and rolling up big numbers in the Big 10 is much more significant than beating up on SMU, Houston, etc.

If Tino is still shaky on his throws and reads — and still runs into the embracing arms of defensive ends when panicked, I imagine Chryst’s leash will be quite short, thankfully. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Anderson or Myers get in there in game 2 or 3 if our passing game is faulty…especially if Graham is not back to his old self. Anderson looks about 5’10”, 170 lbs and he won the Texas state title in Cowboy Stadium…impressive.

Comment by Matt N. 04.04.12 @ 1:42 pm

Reed, here’s the thing regarding Sunseri’s “upside potential”. It is quite obvious that there is a lot of room for improvement in Tino’s gameday performance, so there is a vast “upside” to explore. The issue however is for that “potential” to be realized,it requires Tino himself to turn that potential into reality, where in lies the problem.

Unless Sunseri can find his inner Joe Montana (or insert any name you feel is appropriate as a clutch QB when under pressure) there is very little “upside” in his “potential” that will ever be realized. IMO, 3/4 of Tino’s issue that consistantly holds him back from operating to his full ability is that he wilts under pressure in gameday situations. His skill set (or lack thereof) is responsible for maybe a quarter of his limitations to reach his potential. The majority however is mental. Some guys are winners when the thumb screws get tightened down on them and some(most)aren’t. Tino is a longterm resident in the later catagory, IMO.

I know that sounds harsh, but it is just a PERSONAL observation that I have watched him demonstrate pretty consistantly over many different game situations. Am I seeing something that isn’t obvious to everybody else who is watching this team season in and season out??

So if at all possible, and another fresh face at the QB position appears that has that intangible “winner” potential, (AKA Voytik) then I would explore that potential ASAP. I think that would be in the best interest to the future of the Pitt football program longterm.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.04.12 @ 2:29 pm

Dr Tom – I agree with you and have constanatly said that what is holding Sunseri back is above his shoulders.

I do think that there were stressors on him last year that won’t be there this season in both the 2011 HC and the offense Graham ran.

I expect that to help him find his feet. I’m not expecting a great leap in production although I think we’ll see some. I’m expecting a bit more even handed play which will allow the rest of our offense to win games.

Comment by Reed 04.04.12 @ 3:03 pm

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