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December 28, 2015

Sterling Shepard

Miami Gardens, Florida

Q. How has practice been going so far?
STERLING SHEPARD: Man, spot on. I feel like everybody is locked in and focused. Everybody is just ready to get this game underway. Everybody is excited about it.

Q. From last year's game, what do you remember about going up against Mackensie Alexander from Clemson. How tough is he in coverage?
STERLING SHEPARD: Man, it was what it was. They've got a physical defense. That's just all it is. That's about it.

Q. You were banged up last year. Are you good to go in this game, feeling healthier?
STERLING SHEPARD: Yeah, I mean, I wasn't feeling too good at all at the beginning of last game with them, and it just feels good to just be going into this thing healthy. It's always better when everybody is feeling good.

Q. Do these bowl practices this year compared to last year feel different for you guys?
STERLING SHEPARD: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I feel like everybody is focusing and we're locked in. We know what's at stake, and we know that's one of our goals at the beginning of the season was to make it to the National Championship. This game is kind of in our way, so we have to get there.

Q. What else is different about the offense this season?
STERLING SHEPARD: I mean, just the pace of our offense, scheme, different schemes, just different play calling all around. It's more exciting. It's an explosive offense that can make something happen at any time.

Q. How have you grown?
STERLING SHEPARD: Since when, like freshman year? I mean, just working on the little things: Route running, different releases. I feel like my releases are a lot better this year, and my route running.

Q. Charles Tapper yesterday was talking about all the adversity you guys have gone through. How good does it feel to be here after everything you've been through?
STERLING SHEPARD: Yeah, I mean, all the things that we fought through, those things that have made this team stronger, and we're excited to be where we are right now. But we know we're not exactly where we want to be, so everybody is striving for greatness, and we've got to keep pushing.

Q. When you look at things like the Texas loss, obviously you wish they wouldn't have happened, but have those things happened?
STERLING SHEPARD: Yeah, like I said, the things that we've been through as a team, as a unit, they've ultimately helped us come closer together. Even dealing with the locker room, it's been one of those deals where everybody just kind of draws closer to each other just because we're in such small quarters.

Q. You mentioned the small quarters. Who is someone that you've grown closer to?
STERLING SHEPARD: I mean, it's just guys on my defensive side of the ball. I have a locker next to Stanvon and Steven Parker, so those are both DBs. It's not like I'm just around the offensive guys like I have in the previous locker room. I talk to the defensive guys more. Like I said, Stanvon, he's my locker roommate right to the right of me, so he's probably one of the guys I talk to a lot that I probably wouldn't be talking to as much.

Q. That's just the organization of the locker room; you could have been next to Stan in the big locker room, right? Why wasn't it still organized by unit?
STERLING SHEPARD: I mean, it was so much bigger I feel like. You know what I mean? The other locker room is so spread out, you wouldn't have to worry about talking to somebody about picking up their stuff, things like that, so you just end up talking to people that you wouldn't have talked to just because we've got to keep everything clean. I don't know, it just kind of ends up happening that way.

Q. How much does your dad's National Championship motivate you in times like these, the days before you have a chance to go get your own?
STERLING SHEPARD: It motivates you a lot. My mom gave me his National Championship ring for graduation, so that gave me a little bit of extra motivation, just getting to see that ring, and knowing that we're two games away from designing our own.

Q. What do you remember hearing about that game growing up, stories that you were told in the last few years that you've heard from older family members?
STERLING SHEPARD: I mean, that's the biggest game I've ever heard about. That, and I think he made some play at Okie State. But other than that, I hear about the National Championship. I mean, that's what sticks with everyone.

I think any fan base, that's going to stick with them, the National Championship. I don't know much about the game. I don't think I got to really see the game yet. But that would be kind of cool to go back and watch that.

Q. When did you graduate?
STERLING SHEPARD: I graduated in December.

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