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October 8, 2014

Scott Shafer

SCOTT SHAFER:  Well, we're looking forward to hosting the No.1 team in the country, maybe one of the best teams in the last decade in college football.  Florida State has done a great job, as we all know, under the leadership of Coach Fisher at really putting a special team on the field.  It'll be a great challenge for our kids.  We're working hard to prepare, and with that, any questions?

Q.  I wanted to just look at obviously getting back to practice, you're in a unique situation.  I know you don't want to give up the quarterback and what's going on, but how do you feel Mitch Kimball and AJ Long and Austin Wilson have looked being given this opportunity later on in the season?
SCOTT SHAFER:  There were some good things yesterday at practice, obviously a lot of things that we need to continue to refine and work at, but the work ethic of the kids and their excitement, knowing they're going to get an opportunity, has been great.  We're just looking to clean up a lot of things from yesterday's practice, simplify some things down, and continue to prepare for this Florida State team.

Q.  And then as far as the wide receivers, they had started to grow, there was some talent that was showing itself with Terrel Hunt.  Now that they're in this new situation, how have you seen the rest of them respond to the situation?
SCOTT SHAFER:  They've responded well by just coming to work every day.  They're trying to encourage and bond with the other quarterbacks and try to come up with some good rhythm.  You know, they've been really working hard at it.

Q.  I just want to ask you, this was the game last year that ended Julian Whigham's season.  What's the feeling when you have to leave a town and leave a game and leave one of your players back in the hospital?  And secondly, talk about his determination to get back from where he's at right now.
SCOTT SHAFER:  Yeah, well, it's one of the hardest things as a coach because you worry about these kids and their well‑being.  So for Julian, it was difficult.  Luckily his family was there, and between his family and our medical people and my wife Missy, we all kind of got together there, and once he got out of the hospital and everything, tried to work through the difficulty as well as we could.  But it is very hard to leave a kid behind, and you worry about him.  But it was good to hear his voice the next morning and to know that he was in good spirits and that he was looking forward to bouncing back as quick as he could, and he's done that.  His diligence to work hard and get through an injury is admirable, and he's looking forward to getting back on the field against Florida State here at home.

Q.  I was just curious when you told George about the demotion if looking back on it there's anything you would have done differently, be it the way you told him or the fact that it was over the phone?
SCOTT SHAFER:  Well, it wasn't over the phone, but I think that's between George and I.  A difficult decision, tough decision, but as you look back, you don't want to live in the 20/20 hindsight mode because that's not reality.  So we move forward.  Obviously not easy, difficult situation for all involved, but at the end of the day, George and I and the whole staff are united, we're united today, and we agree to move forward and work hard together for the betterment of the team because we definitely understand the team and the kids are our number one priority, and that's our focus now.  So you get over the hurdles in the road and you stumble a little bit here and there, but you fight back together for what's in the best interest of the team, and that's where we are today.

Q.  Assuming there was a conversation between you and George and possibly others after he addressed the media last night, what was that like, and how did you guys kind of come to this footing moving forward where you have a united stance?
SCOTT SHAFER:  Well, the statement I gave is the end and start point of all the discussions we had, one‑on‑one and as a staff, and we sat around a room and we talked about it like a family, and we made the decision to move forward, like I said.  To be honest with you, I'm anxious to get back on the field and do right by these players.  I'm anxious to get the kids together for our pre‑practice meetings and step it up and move forward as men.  It's up to us to lead the right way, and we're all looking forward to doing that today.

Q.  I believe Jimbo Fisher spent some time with Julian in the hospital when he was left behind, as well.  Did you ever talk to Jimbo about that?  What did that mean to you guys and your program?
SCOTT SHAFER:  Oh, yeah, you know, yes, he did.  He stopped by to check in on Julian.  Boy, that meant the world to both Julian and I.  You know, it just really showed that Jimbo does care about the kids, whether they're his players or our players, and I think for me it spoke volumes to his character.

Q.  When you announced the changes at offensive coordinator, you used the word unselfish to describe George.  In light of his comments last night about saying he never would have left Arkansas if he knew a demotion was possible, how would you explain that kind of disconnect between your words and his words?
SCOTT SHAFER:  Oh, just like any relationship any of us have with people.  You're going to have emotional times, and I know George was emotional.  This morning we sat, we spoke, he apologized to me, and we decided that we wanted to move forward together.  There's a sense of‑‑ there's truly a sense of excitement to do so.  Like I mentioned to Steven bail I there a couple minutes ago, the whole focus is on moving forward for these kids, these kids that are a part of our team, and I think it's a great opportunity to learn and use this situation as a life lesson for them.  I think as role models and adults, it's our duty to do a great job making reparations with our own relationships so we cannot just talk the way but model the way, and that's what we're doing today moving forward.

Q.  Do you think that partnership can continue beyond this season?
SCOTT SHAFER:  You know, we don't deal in the what‑ifs, we deal in one day at a time.  That's a creed that I believe in.  So George and I together with the rest of the staff and this team are fighting to win the day, understanding that you can't look too far down the road and you can't look too near or behind yourself to move forward.  You've got to win every minute the day that you're living, right here and now, and that's how we're approaching it.
If I had to go through a difficult time like this, I would do it again with George McDonald.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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