CB Options – Julian Wilson In Focus

Image via zimbio.com

Back in April, we first mentioned that we’d heard Julian Wilson was looking to compete for the open CB position (here). The players that will be competing for that starting spot in fall camp are Wilson, Stanvon Taylor, Dakota Austin, Cortez Johnson and Tito Windham (we’re assuming). We thought we’d look at some film on Julian and offer up a few observations, then open things up for discussion.

The question I’ll try to offer up an informed opinion on is…can Julian Wilson play corner? I went back and watched some film on Julian from the Baylor and Texas Tech games. Obviously, the film I reviewed was from last year and by all accounts Julian has been working hard this offseason and looks better than he did a year ago. But this is what we’ve got to work with for right now.


Julian has been playing nickel for Oklahoma. He’s got tremendous size for a CB/NB at 6’2″ 201 lbs. Compare that to Richard Sherman’s listed height and weight at 6’3″ 195 lbs.


Baylor has one of the fastest receiver cores in the country. Julian has always been known to have good long speed going all the way back to high school. But even a CB with great speed can’t stay in phase, or in position, to make a good play if he can’t turn and run on a dime. Below is an example of Julian playing over on future 7th round pick, Tevin Reese.

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Reese’s NFL Combine 40 time was 4.46 with a 41 inch vertical and 11 ft broad jump. Needless to say he is about as explosive an athlete as you’re going to find. He’s going to run straight up the seam on Julian, and OU is going to be in man free with Gabe Lynn manning the deep middle.

Here you’re going to see him open up and run with Reese. He does a nice job initially being on top of the route.

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As you watch him throughout the course of the route, he does a good job of staying with Reese but there is a point at which Reese gets a step on him and it happens, in my estimation because Julian takes just a split second too long to open up. I don’t mean that he waits too long. I think he just can’t quite get himself turned around fully.

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He does a great job of turning around to locate the ball. Even though he’s beat by a step, there are a few things you want to keep in mind:

1) I know a lot of you are think “he’s got help over the top here but he won’t on the outside” and you’re right but consider point No. 2.

2) When you’re working against an outside receiver, you’ve got the sideline to work with, as an extra defender of sorts, on a nine route. And with Julian’s size, he’ll hopefully be able to really force smaller, speedy receivers outside (you’ll see him do that later).

3) There is great play on PJ Mbanasor’s film where a receiver has a step on him, but you get to see the benefit of his length when he jumps up and bats the ball down, displaying the difference between taller and shorter corners. Had this ball been throw on the money, Julian being only an arm length away, he may have been able to use that 6’2″ frame to break up the pass.

4) Again, Julian is going up against one of the most explosive receivers Oklahoma will face on any given Saturday. And that’s not meant to be an excuse, so much as a reminder that even the best corners are going to get beat from time-to-time. It’s simply the nature of the position.


This section is related the one below titled “Short Area Explosion.” As an outside CB, Julian would be facing a lot of curl and hitch routes so he’ll need to the ability to change direction and drive on the ball. Bigger CBs tend to have less start and stop explosiveness, and they’re also a little slower in their turn, so they’ll give a bigger cushion making it even harder to handle comeback routes.

Here you’re going to see Julian matched up with another very explosive WR, Corey Coleman. Coleman has good short area explosion. Coleman is going to start to run a wheel route:

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Firstly, you’re gonna see that Julian is stride-for-stride with Coleman. I don’t have the picture, but he’s actually going to use his size and the sideline (as I mentioned above) to squeeze Coleman outside. Coleman is going to end up stepping out of bounds and because of the pass protection breakdown, Coleman is going to turn around and come back to the ball.

The image below shows where Julian turns and drives on the ball.

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I marked the “x” where he turns and drives. He closes the 4-yard gap pretty quickly, but he’s a half step too late and the pass is completed (Coleman stepped out of bounds so the completion doesn’t count).


In this play Julian is going to be matched up against yet another explosive Baylor WR, Levi Norwood (coach Norwood’s son). Of all three WRs I’ve mentioned in this post, Norwood might be the best route runner and the most fluid. He’s a difficult receiver to guard in tight spaces.

As you can see below, Baylor is going to have their No. 3 receiver (most inside receiver on the trips side – side with the three WRs) run straight up the field. They’re hoping to get a little pick on Julian as the No. 2 receiver (Norwood) runs a slant to the inside.

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Julian was playing off, so he’s given up the inside release. The hope though is that he can close that space quickly enough to bring Norwood down after a 4-5 yard gain and bring up a 3rd and medium. He’s in fairly good position to do just that. In the image below you’re going to see that he does indeed close the gap only 2-3 yards later:

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He’s going to get his hands on Norwood here, but he’s just a step too late and Norwood’s momentum carries him forward for the first down.


There are a number of other plays I reviewed from this game and others as I was writing this, and my general sense is that Julian probably wasn’t quite ready to play corner last year. But what I also saw is someone who isn’t far off in terms of development in his footwork and flexibility. Julian regularly does a good job of turning and finding the ball. He has good long speed and drives on the ball much better than I would have expected. I also think he turns his hips well, but he sometimes drops out of phase through the turn which can cost him a step. He seemed to have a tendency to stop his feet once he put his hands on a receiver to redirect, which is a very common mistake for bigger CBs.

In the film I reviewed however, Julian really does seem close. He might turn a half second too slow or or be a half step late. In other words, there aren’t any major issues that I can see that would prevent Julian from developing into a CB this coming season. With all the work he has put in, I believe you’re going to see a player with even quicker feet, more flexibility, and greater short area explosion.

All that will equal a 6’2″ DB that may very well win a starting CB spot and, assuming he’s made some developmental strides, I feel confident that he can indeed find success at the cornerback position.

  • BoomerNation

    Fabulous breakdown. Love this stuff. I hope Julian can progress into one of our corners because he would bring a physicality to the edge with his size.

    • Davey

      Physicality? Is BoomerNation really Lou Holtz???? Hey, just foolin with ya. I love football words made up by coaches and espn. The words these guys come up with, wow.

      • ToatsMcGoats

        I didn’t have to clean spit off of my screen after reading what he wrote, so I’m gonna go with no.

        • JB

          That’s hilarious! True, but hilarious!

        • ToatsMcGoats

          Also, Merriam-Webster.com says that the word originated in 1660. So, yeah, Lou Holtz probably did make it up. He’s pretty old.

        • Look at that stupid article on ESPN reference stadium upgrades, they show a picture of an empty OU stadium instead of the projected look, ESPN is well you know already…..Gar Bage

  • BigJoeBrown

    Great write up. So much goes into finding out what kind of attributes and skill it takes to play a position, it just baffles me.

  • Jared William Reininger

    I think the biggest thing is that he certainly has the potential for “live hips”. I mean DBs are specialized in flipping their hips and getting upfield. I think Julian just hadn’t been working on that aspect as much as a typical DB would. Two things about playing corner…It is all in the hips, and don’t get beat deep in Cover 3.

  • CcrBoomer

    Wilson really could end up being one of the more physical CB’s that OU has had in while.
    I am excited to see what Julian brings to the field this season.

  • Sooner8494

    K, Great write up as usual! I like Julian’s potential, but, I guess my concern with him is that he seems prone to what I’ll term as mental lapses. I don’t know if it’s from trouble with coverage recognition which results in assignment issues or just a natural hesitancy.
    I think the most recent example was in the Sugar Bowl when we had to spend a timeout and Gabe Lynn, Colvin and others were furious with Julian for obviously being lined up wrong or not hearing the defensive call or who knows what…he just seemed “lost”.
    I would love for him to surprise us all and turn into a solid corner with the dream that he turns out to be an exceptional corner!

    • SamSooner

      I believe in Julian. He’s unselfish. If he’s not 100% confident he could contribute to the team’s success by playing corner, I don’t think he’d ask for the switch. As for the Sugar Bowl, that was the only time he was not lined up properly. The rest of the game, he was more than solid.

    • Boom

      Gabe was wrong and Julian was right as it turns out.

      • Zack

        I was going to say the same thing although gabe Lynn still says he was right.

      • leatherneck1061

        Could you expand on that? I never actually heard what that whole dispute was even about, but it sure got ugly in a hurry…..had Grissom and the coaches involved too.

        • Boom

          If you watch again, Shannon was upset with Lynn too. No one knows the bottom line but it’s been mentioned he was lined up in the right spot. I know one thing, it got everyone fired up.

          • leatherneck1061

            Fired up is right. But I never heard it said that it turned out he was right and they were wrong.

          • Boom

            I don’t care, we won and our defense grew up that night. However, they also know they have a ways to go too.

          • Super Keith

            We’ll never know for sure, but if you go back and watch that small portion of the game, you’ll see Lynn and Wilson barking at each other two plays earlier. In the end, it all worked out, and that one incident didn’t cause me to lose faith in either player.

            Heck, look at Lynn, he went from being a perceived “weak link” to stepping up big at a different position. You just never know. But, I think Mike Stoops knows when a guy can play, and if Wilson does win the job, it’ll be because he deserves to be there.

          • Travis Coyle

            Julian Wilson stated in an interview that HE was lined up correctly. Its true that Gabe Lynn was wrong.

          • leatherneck1061

            Ok that’s the response I was looking for…..I was starting to feel completely out of the loop.

  • leatherneck1061

    Great write up! I don’t think there’s any dispute about Julian’s potential. We already know he has great size and speed; if he’s willing to put in the effort, he has a coach (Mike) that can mold great corners as well as anyone. I think he’ll be able to get the job done and possibly end up being really great at the position. In my opinion there’s very good reason to be optimistic about this move….obviously the coaches think so too.

    • Super K


  • BoomerDave

    When Julian was recruited as one of the Southmoore Big 3 recruits, who would have thought that he would have the most successful career of the 3. Haywood fizzled out early and Kendall Thompson soon thereafter. Kudos to Julian for sticking it out and making Southmoore proud.

    • Super K

      I suspect you’re right that few expected Julian to be the one to shine.

  • Kody K.

    Spot on. Wilson will get there! I would like to see him maintain his momentum better while in the “change of direction” phase. Hopefully, he can eliminate the rough edges in transitioning and turning with shifty receivers that can cut on a dime. I’ve always felt like his reaction time could be improved as well. If Julian can tweak a few aspects of his game, he will be aces converting to cornerback.

    • Super K

      Pretty much agree with everything you said Kody. Good notes!

  • FeedtheMonster

    I keep telling myself that I am overconfident in our defensive backfield, but I just can’t help it. With the D-line we are going to have, they wont have to cover for very long each play, and will probably benefit from a good amount of passes released under pressure or while getting hit. I am excited to watch Julian Wilson at CB. Thanks for the breakdown, you guys never cease to amaze me!!!

    • Super K

      Thanks! I’m hesitant about our secondary myself. But the front 6/7 will hopefully mask any early issues. Won’t matter who is playing CB if the WR can’t get into his route lol

    • I’m less worried about the secondary than I am the front 7 and the run game. I don’t recall a time at any point last season where they were strong against the run and haven’t seen any reason to think they will be this year either so far. I see all the talent there and who’s coming back, but I’ve never seen that talent stop anybody’s running game, including the Sugar Bowl, so why wouldn’t I be worried?

      • Boom

        You got a good point. My hope is Phillips stays healthy and is a force in the middle. If Striker goes to nickel and Grissom is standup OLB, I’m curious who the other DE would be opposite of Tap. Would it be Chucka or the up and coming Walker. Also, how Bond fits in the mix and if there are any suprises with the incoming freshmen. Interested to see how this plays out.

        • Super Keith

          The good news is that even if Phillips can’t stay healthy (knock on wood), there is actually some depth there now. That will also provide some good substitutions for Phillips, and the ability to keep him healthy.

          I’ve been hearing a lot about Onouoha and D.J. Ward, so it’s possible to see one of those guys at the other end (when/if Grissom moves to OLB).

          The more I talk about the options Mike Stoops has this year, the more excited I am to see them in action.

      • Super Keith

        Go back to the first few games and watch Phillips play. That, alone, is enough reason to think we’ll be better.

        Add to that a more experienced unit (as a whole, especially at linebacker), and I think every should expect better results.

        Keep in mind, NOBODY expected our defense to play the way they did last year. We’ve seen a group that was underrated play very well at times, and I don’t think there is a reason to think they would take a step back.

        • Playing Devil’s advocate here if you don’t mind:

          Agree with all of those points but Phillips played in the ND game and they ripped off 220yds on the ground against us even with Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon in the backer positions who were both experienced backers at the time. That’s something to think about.

          WVU had a good day on the ground against those guys too and Tulsa was gouging them on the ground early until they fell too far behind and had to start airing it out in the 2nd quarter. I believe they had a long run called back on a penalty too.

          When I go back and look at it on a game-by-game basis all season, I see a defense that consistently struggled with the run against anybody with a pulse that even tried to run the ball, irrespective of who was in there. If this defense is what we think/hope they’re going to be this season, they will have to have made quantum leaps in improvement at all the front 7 positions because they won’t get to the Natty by giving up 200+ yard days on the ground to anybody, especially not 100 yards on the ground in 1 quarter to teams like Kansas. I agree they won’t take a step back because that doesn’t happen with Stoops teams. But, they better have taken a hell of a step forward if that makes sense.

          • 1. Jordan Phillips had already had back issues prior to that game and, if I’m not mistaken, only played a small part of that game, versus a team that could pound the ball well.

            2. This is an older team with A LOT more experience. They understand what Mike Stoops is trying to do now, and they’ve got an entire year of experience now…especially the front 7. After Nelson went down the team had to re-organize and put players with no experience into positions that required it…

            3. This team just beat Alabama and now believe in themselves a lot more. They know what they’re capable of and now realize they’re being looked upon to win big this year.

          • Super Keith

            Fair points, but I think a few things could apply:

            (repeating what Clint Lenard posted) Phillips was playing at less than 100% by the time ND rolled around. So, I don’t think we saw what he is capable of being when he’s healthy.

            I don’t think the light came on for Grissom until about the K-State game. He was playing well, but something just “clicked” in the last part of the season and he stepped up his game.

            Lastly, I think giving up rushing yards may just be a trade off for stopping the high power offenses. I don’t mind that if we’re able to score with the ball (i.e. the Sugar Bowl). What I don’t want to see is a repeat of the TCU (and to some extent WVU) games, where we aren’t able to score well.

            There’s no question the rushing defense could stand to get better, but I think there is plenty of reason to look forward.

          • I hope you’re right. I played defense and it personally pains me to watch anybody pound the rock on my boys like they did last season. Nothing more humiliating than somebody running the ball down your throat.

          • Taylor Willmann

            Ok I can’t listen to this anymore. They didn’t implement the 3-3-5 defense until summer/fall camp that’s 4 to 5 weeks before the season started. So yes new D scheme and undersized linebackers will cause us to give up some good chunks of ground game yardage. Like Stoops said. Durning spring ball last year they ha no idea what they wanted to do as far as the D is concerned. Come this year Stoops already said they are LIGHT YEARS ahead of where they were compared to spring ball last year. This year they not only had all their alignments and scheme down. Since day one of spring ball this year they have been creating packages and moving guys around WAY BACK in spring ball. Combine that with another year experience AND the biggest point is the D-line knew what they were doing but didn’t understand what offensive lines will try to do to counter the their own new 3-3-5 scheme. Now Jerry Montgomery not only has guys more experienced for his scheme they are now heavier stronger smarter and no what to expect Offenses to do to try and defend the 3-3-5, now he knows how teams will attack OU as far as opponents offensive lines are concerned. I will expect and believe our run D will make HUGE strides and be a strength this coming year. We will be in the backfield every other play. Now I got that off my chest bc I always read everyone’s comments now I had to reply. Read what I said above. They are so comfortable and so much farther along and have been tweaking what to do this season since spring ball. Remember spring ball last year Stoops acknowledged they were still finding an identity as a whole team to begin with.

          • FeedtheMonster

            Yeah, I think I’ve read or heard the coaches say just about everything you just wrote, which is why I am so excited about the D-line. Linebackers too, but I just have a great feeling about Phillips because of what Mike Stoops said.

          • I agree with everything you wrote and what you wrote is pretty much the point I was trying to make in that everybody better have taken a quantum leap forward because Philips return alone won’t be enough. It wasn’t just Jordan Wade giving up all those yards on the ground in Phillip’s absence and it wasn’t a good run defense before he and Nelson went out either. I think that’s valid.
            I know last year was their first year in the new defense but in hindsight, I never saw improvement in the run defense all season long is more what’s worrying me. I’m not trying to put a damper on anything. They will absolutely be a better defense this coming season. No doubt about that. Just raising what I feel are valid observations.

  • Ed Cotter

    Good stuff Super K, thanks for the breakdown.

    • Super K

      Thanks Ed. Hoping to breakdown your boy Ykili in the crimson and cream one of these days 🙂

      • Ed Cotter

        There was a rumor floating around that he was going to be at Centennial HS in Corona next year instead of at Poly, but he was involved in all the Spring workouts at Poly according to some of my 8th graders that were involved in the Spring conditioning there. He may have been playing with some of the Centennial guys in the passing leagues, and he does have a good buddy that goes to Centennial. Did you hear anything about this one way or the other? If I find out anything I will let you know. Keep up the great work.

  • Fear The Magic

    I like the idea of Julian playing cb against some of the bigger WRs OU might face. The smaller quick ones I have a wait and see attitude.
    Question: Does anyone think that the reason the coaches are shifting him to CB might be some lack of confidence in our other CBs? ( other than Sanchez of course )

    • Boom

      Magic, from what has been said, Julian wanted to see if he could make the transition due to having a better opportunity to get drafted. If he does well, he could really jump up the draft charts but that’s a long way off. I hope he knocks it out of the park as that would be great for him and us.

      • Super K

        Boom is spot on. It was a move Julian wanted to make.

      • Fear The Magic

        ok that makes sense. Im glad that it didnt have anything to do with our other CBs. Thanks

        • Boom

          It will be case of iron sharpens iron. Fun competition to watch unfold in the fall. I’m sure TFB’s will keep us on the inside loop.

  • Boom

    K, I hope Julian’s move is a win for all of us. Seems we could’ve used a larger corner on run support in the Sugar Bowl. I like the direction M. Stoops is going and hope Julian will be successful as that may bring more interest to this position for us. Great breakdown.

    • Super K

      I think it’s a recruiting win. CBs are going to be much more interested in OU when two of the 5 DB spots are coming open after next season. thanks for reading!

  • Josh

    I like the line about Baylor “hoping to get a little pick”… understatement of the day lol.

    • Super K

      lol indeed.

  • Sooner Ray

    I think Wilson can get it done. He’s got the tools, if he just sharpens his reaction time he’ll be solid.

  • Davey

    This is the type of analysis that us true football junkies thrive on. Thanks so much for all the hard work you put in and the hours you devote. Tell your families thank you from all of us Sooners! Not only did you break it down like a CB, you also did a piece on a potential starter and covered the friggen opposing players! Unreal work guys.

    • Super K

      You’re too kind Davey! Really nice comment bud.

    • Super Keith

      Gotta agree with Davey. THIS is the kind of stuff I LOVE.

      • PLAW0720

        This is the type of stuff that separates TFB from any other message board that I have followed in the past 20 years. Great work, fellas. Boomer!

      • JB

        Absolutely. I love this website! THIS is what separates this website from the others. OK, one of several things, but this is your long speed and drive on the ball! The camp stuff the other sites and radio stations offer is mostly speculatory fluff or ignorant guesswork. This is the kind of analysis others cannot offer. Imagine eschbach giving his analysis on this; everyone knows what that would be: “He looked really good in practice today…the coaches think he has a chance to be really special.” Some analysis.

        Instead, we get film breakdown with highlighted stills to show your points on 3 different WR matchups. I can’t say it enough…this is impressive work and a joy to read. It helps improve our understanding of the game, learn coaches’ terminology, and increase our ability to appreciate how good or how limited a player is. Bravo, TFB.

  • Super Keith

    I think Julian has a better chance than Cortez Johnson, to start opposite Sanchez.

    What I love about Johnson is his size, and Julian brings that to the position. Cortez seems a tad slow to read plays, and I noticed, more times than not, Stoops would give him a cushion when he was playing.

    About the only thing Johnson does better than Wilson (that I’ve seen) is tackling. That’s not to say Wilson can’t, or isn’t a solid hitter, I’ve just noticed that Johnson seems a little more aggressive.

    So, that leads me to wonder if a dual switch could be a possibility. Wilson to CB, Johnson to NB. Certainly makes sense, but I have no idea if that’s something Stoops is even entertaining.

    • Boom

      The change make sense on paper but I think they want Striker to man the nickel position on certain packages. Johnsons size is intriguing and it’s more fun to say our DB’s are 200lbs instead of 160. I’m sure it give M. Stoops & BJ Wright some good options.
      I know I sound like a broken record or a homer but in the future I would like to see Whitfield at nickel.

      • Super Keith

        You’re right, I think the plan is to have a more flexible package with Striker dropping back to NB. It’s going to be interesting to see how the DBs are used this year (and in the coming years), as we have amassed a nice little bit of depth.

      • Super K

        Whitfield would be a monster at NB. He’d bring true LB elements along with the ability to cover.

    • Cary Newman

      That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking, the eventual move of Johnson to safety.

      • Super Keith

        It seems like a more natural fit, but then again, I don’t see him every day. I do think Johnson is talented, and I would like to see him on the field more, but he probably isn’t the best cover corner on the roster.

  • Gary Robbins

    Hopefully good news for OU on the start of the 2 week dead period. Re: John Humphrey.

    • Super Keith

      At this point, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t end up a Sooner.

    • Wow……sounds like a done deal outside of getting his family up here to meet the staff and look around.

      “I just like OU. Just, period.”

      John, if you like your Oklahoma offer, you can keep your Oklahoma offer. Period.


  • Cary Newman

    This is great stuff. Thanks K.

    • Super K

      Welcome bud!

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    Julian’s straight line speed should never be questioned. I think in 40m-100m races Julian would be one of the fastest on the team. There’s a video of him at Southmoore running the second leg of the 4x100m relay. He completely makes up any stagger and blows by the others, effectively giving Southmoore the lead for good. He glides.

    However, while his speed can save him, I think, like you said K, his footwork and quickness of his feet (agility maybe) is an improvement area. Another thing I’ve noticed (perhaps it’s just me) is that he seems to play high. He’s a tall guy and that probably goes with being 6’2″. Perhaps he plays high because he isn’t comfortable staying low, shuffling his feet, and so on. I checked a few videos and he’s not terrible. However, he does seem to be pretty quick, at times, in getting high after the WR makes his initial move and sprinting with him. And he can sprint.

    Another thing that Julian could bring is a CB blitz off the edge. He isn’t a bone crusher. He can with his speed, however, close down the QB before you know it. Moreover, if the QB takes off he’s got enough speed to chase him down, that is, if Charles Tapper doesn’t win the race first (queue Tapper chasing down Amari Cooper, was it?).

    Overall, K, I think you’re right about Julian. If he doesn’t make some reasonable improvements (and he can) he may be able to be picked on a bit with slants, quick outs, digs, out routes, and so on; any routes where the WR will drive Julian into his sprinting tendency then make a quick move inside or outside. However, getting in passing windows and lanes, re-routing receivers, obscured coverage, and intense pressure can minimize his limitations, if they are a limitation.

    • Super K

      Great notes! And the note about him straightening too quickly is insightful.

  • Tim McGinnis

    Did the out route he jumped against OSU get mentioned. Huge Play in that game too!!!

    • Super K

      Good comment Tim! I’ll go back and look at it.

  • Shifty

    I think the open corner spot is between Wilson and Austin…I’m thinking that Austin will get it…love his footwork…but if Wilson wins out then I’ll know that we have two pretty good cbs back their…you can’t teach experience and Wilson has that and he’s made some nice plays for us

    • Super K

      The word out of the summer right now is that those are the two to bet on. But Stanvon is working hard this summer.

  • I feel like that little kid at the parade and I can’t see a damn thing, and suddenly someone puts me on their shoulders….and I can see the world…….you make us feel like we are part of something special and in today’s society that speaks volumes…..Pretty lofty heartfelt praise my friends all well deserved

    (trying to out do Davey’s compliment)

  • WilliamJack

    Great post! Really appreciate the education!