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To the notes!
David from Calgary, Alberta writes: By now, most Oregon fans will have heard the fact that UO has offered a scholarship to Vernon Adams from EWU. To me, this doesn't look like the coaching staff at UO has a lot of confidence in the QBs that are currently there and have been in the system. Lockie and Alie have taken snaps with the UO offense, and Mahalak and Griffen have red shirted and been in the system. If Adams does end up going to UO, he has stated that he won't join the team until after a summer internship is up in August. Why would anyone want to take a 1 year "place-holder" who will have essentially 3 weeks to learn the play book and jell with the offense before the season opener, when you have guys who have been in the system for at least a year, and don't have as far to go?
Ted Miller: I would encourage Oregon fans to not overthink this, as it's pretty simple.
Marcus Mariota is off to the NFL. The Ducks' quarterback spot is open for competition in 2015.
Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost are going to play the quarterback who gives the Ducks their best chance to win next year. If they have an available scholarship for a quarterback who might be that guy, then it behooves them to invite him to become a Duck, whether that's Adams, Ohio State's Braxton Miller or Kal-El, a raw, underrated prospect from Smallville High School who can really fly.
This is an interesting opportunity for Adams to step out from obscurity and perhaps show the nation just how good he is. This is an interesting opportunity for Oregon to get a guy who fits the Ducks' offense and has experience carving up Pac-12 defenses. It also would allow the Ducks another year to develop its crew of promising but young quarterbacks.
(Quick Adams note, per ESPN Stats & Information: In two starts against Pac-12 foes, he’s been responsible for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 97.2 Total QBR. In 2013, he led Eastern Washington to an upset over No. 25 Oregon State, and last season he threw for seven touchdowns against Washington, the most the Huskies have ever allowed in a game).
You might wonder how the rest of the Ducks quarterbacks might react. That's easy. Their reaction should be, "Good. This makes us better. Another quality guy in the competition will help me leave no doubt with my teammates and coaches when I win the starting job and make this my offense. I want my backup to be the best available guy."
Nothing is guaranteed. Adams getting a scholarship doesn't make him the starter. He still has to win the job.
As for that internship, I'm skeptical. If Adams becomes a Duck, my money is on him showing up in Eugene as soon as possible. I'm guessing whoever enlisted Adams for an internship would understand.
Donovan from St. George, Utah writes: Why can't Utah keep an offensive coordinator for more than one season?
Ted Miller: You mean eight offensive coordinators in eight seasons is unusual?
Every departure has its own nuances. Andy Ludwig, who spent four seasons with the Utes, left for California after the 2008 season, and Norm Chow became Hawaii's head coach in 2012. You could say those departures were because of promotions.
The transition from Dave Schramm (2009) to Schramm and Aaron Roderick (2010) was head coach Kyle Whittingham trying to promote from within, and bringing in Chow in 2011 was getting a big name from without. Promoting Brian Johnson in 2012 also was an inside move that seemed both risky and inspired because of Johnson's lack of experience, and bringing in Dennis Erickson in 2013 felt a lot like the call to Chow -- a vacillation back toward a big-name veteran after an inside promotion.
Replacing Erickson with Dave Christensen last season felt like Whittingham jumping on an opportunity to get a respected offensive coach he also knew personally. At the time, it merited a raised eyebrow, but it also seemed like Whittingham might have gotten his man -- finally! -- a guy who knows the type of spread offense Whittingham wanted.
Nope. I think Kurt Kragthorpe reasonably reads the tea leaves here:
Christensen is eager enough to move that he's disregarding his 25-year friendship with Whittingham and abandoning Kendal Thompson and Jason Thompson, the quarterbacks whom he persuaded to transfer to Utah. His decision supports the theory that Christensen and Whittingham couldn't agree about the QB staffing this season. Travis Wilson twice was benched in favor of Kendal Thompson, who then missed the last four games with a knee injury.
As a reporter, Whittingham has always been great to work with -- accessible, insightful, straight-forward -- but there is pretty significant evidence that he's not always easy to work for. By the way, a lot of good coaches are difficult bosses. That whole accountability and demanding the best all the time thing.
What's clear is that Whittingham isn't afraid of change, and even in a year when the Utes broke through in the Pac-12, he's not satisfied. He would probably be a lot easier to work for if his offense averaged 35 points -- or more! -- a game.
It will be interesting to see who Whittingham hires. Despite Utah posting a quality season after two down years, there seems to be plenty of soap opera going on in Salt Lake between Whittingham and AD Chris Hill. Taking another step forward on all fronts in 2015, including retaining an offensive coordinator for more than one season, would certainly help settle things down.
Marcus from Canaan, Connecticut, writes: It's become increasingly clear to me that the ducks will never win a national title until they start landing 5 star recruits on a regular basis. Being that they have been the preeminent program on the west coast for the last decade or so, why are they still losing the majority of those battles to schools like USC?
Ted Miller: Got $1 that says Marcus wasn't an Oregon fan in the 1980s.
Oregon is never going to win the majority of its battles for 5-star prospects over USC/UCLA. Never. So get over it.
Why? Primarily, it's an issue of location. The vast majority of 5-star prospects on the West Coast play high school football near USC/UCLA. Further, the Trojans have the huge advantage of being perhaps the preeminent college football program in the nation, winning 11 national titles while producing the most NFL first-round draft picks and NFL Hall of Famers.
Oregon lost the 2010 national title game to Auburn on a last-second field goal. It whipped unbeaten defending national champion Florida State by 39 points in the first College Football Playoff semifinal. It beat Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl and Kansas State in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. Oregon has won at least 10 games and finished ranked in the top-11 for seven consecutive years. It has finished ranked in the top five in four of the past five years.
Oregon just needs to keep doing what it's been doing for the past six or seven years, which is trying to ... well ... win the freaking day. That probably includes a steady, but incremental, improvement in the quality of recruits.
But becoming obsessed with 5-star recruits is the worst thing the Ducks could do. It is the path to failure.
Thomas from Charleston, North Carolina, writes: It seems very strange that Colorado has been without a Defensive Coordinator for nearly a month. Some speculation has been that head coach MacIntyre may take over these duties for the 2015 season. Do you think that is a possibility? Has that ever been handled this way at other programs before? Love to get your thoughts on the situation.
Ted Miller: Even if MacIntyre takes over the defensive play-calling, he's going to hire a defensive coordinator. His doing so, of course, would reduce the number of interested A-list candidates because most coordinators want that control.
And, yes, I understand your frustration and impatience. If MacIntyre could have quickly engineered a high-impact hire, it might have given recruiting a bump, not to mentioned energized fans.
Word is MacIntyre made runs at a couple of guys but couldn't close the deal. With signing day closing in, he might have decided to regroup and refocus, which would explain a dearth of rumors on the post. He also might be waiting for a few more NFL dominoes to fall after the Super Bowl.
The good news is that the next coordinator is probably going to be better than the undistinguished Kent Baer, who has led more mediocre-to-bad defenses than good ones. His departure to UNLV, one suspects, didn't evoke tears from MacIntyre. The Buffs took a step back defensively this fall, despite better, more mature talent. With nine returning starters, Colorado has a chance to be much better in 2015, whoever the coordinator is.
Brian from Denver writes: An under-recognized reason for Stanford's disappointing season, in my opinion, was the tough road schedule. In 2015, though, we get UCLA, Arizona, Notre Dame, Cal and Oregon at home. Does the improved home-away balance outweigh 2015's brutal strength of schedule? I love that we play 9 conference games, insist on playing both LA schools every year, and play 3 legitimate nonconference foes -- there are no dud games this year! -- but should the schedule make me more optimistic or pessimistic overall?
Ted Miller: Well, Stanford's schedule will be among the nation's toughest in 2015, period. It plays three quality nonconference foes -- at Northwestern, UCF and Notre Dame -- which is even an uptick from past years. Though it helps to get Oregon at home, the Cardinal also is at USC in Week 3.
That said, it certainly is an advantage to play seven home games and do a 5-4 home-road split in Pac-12 play. Last season, the schedule was 6-6 home-road and 4-5 in conference play.
So be optimistic.
Tom from Seattle writes: [This is funny].
Ted Miller: Yes. That is funny.
A.A. Ron Rodgers!
Following my heart... #GigEm— Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) January 30, 2015
@HamiltonESPN: With this quote by five-star and No. 1-ranked quarterback Murray, a worried Texas A&M fan base let out a collective sigh of relief. The final decision by Murray to sign with Texas A&M also provides Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin with a shot in the arm in the final days headed to national signing day.
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Position to improve: offensive line
Why it was a problem: It's not necessarily that the offensive line was a problem, but there were certainly growing pains up front. The group opened the season with two freshman starters (Damien Mama and Toa Lobendahn) and started three in the final five games. To find the last time USC started a pair of freshmen on the offensive line in a season opener would require you look back to before World War II. With that much youth involved, it would have been unfair to expect much more than what USC got in 2014. That changes next year.
How it can be fixed: Get rid of the offensive line coach! Kidding, of course. With offensive line coach Tim Drevno off to Michigan to be Jim Harbaugh's offensive coordinator, USC remains without an offensive line coach. Whoever Steve Sarkisian hires as Drevno's replacement will be tasked with helping good players take the next step. It's a great situation as far as the talent the next O-line coach inherits, but the pressure will be high as the offensive line's development figures to play an important role in USC's ability to compete for a conference title and beyond.
Early 2015 outlook: With quarterback Cody Kessler and USC's usual stable of talented receivers returning, the offensive line is where there is the most room for improvement. Everyone that started a game will be back, including center Max Tuerk, who was voted the team's offensive lineman of the year. Left tackle Chad Wheeler, who started the first eight games before tearing his ACL, will be expected to regain his spot at left tackle, while right tackle Zach Banner will return after a strong sophomore year. However, with four freshmen that started games over the course of the season -- Lobendahn (13 starts), Viane Talamaivao (11 starts), Mama (four starts), Khaliel Rodgers (three starts) -- there is a strong potential for some shuffling.
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While Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots can’t boost of present day or former Trojans, if you are looking frantically for a reason to root for the Pats, they’re the franchise that once employed former USC greats such as running back Sam “Bam” Cunningham, fullback and special-teams demon Mosi Tatupu, and defensive giant Willie McGinest, who helped them to a Super Bowl along the way.
To add some tantalizing flavor to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX, current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was once fired from the Patriots, even though he had once led New England into the playoffs.
Carroll has modeled his highly successful Seahawks into what some refer to as the “Seattle SeaTrojans.” Using his competition model and modus operandi that he honed at USC during his remarkable tenure in Los Angeles, he has incorporated former Trojans personnel to great success.
Here is a quick look at those former Trojans that are now part of the Seahawks juggernaut who will be looking to acquire another Super Bowl ring:
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Jokes about “Big Ten speed,” or lack thereof, are hereby declared dead. They have ceased because of Urban Meyer and his staff’s recruiting.
Miller, the Buckeyes' quarterback from 2011-13, will be one of the country’s top playmakers regardless of where he plays. Most people in college football believe returning is his best option, even if it means a new, varied role.
Miller’s size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) compares well to NFL running backs such as Matt Forte, Darren McFadden and Arian Foster, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Miller, though, needs to prove to NFL teams that he can play the position without injury. Miller’s ability in space is uncanny, but I was surprised to learn that he rushed for 701 yards between the tackles in 2013 (508 outside). One more Stats & Info nugget: His 7.3 yards per carry since 2011 puts him behind only Melvin Gordon (minimum 320 carries).So, yeah, it would be highly intriguing to add Miller’s skill to the elite-level playmaking talent that’s already present.
As a redshirt freshman, Marshall was the team’s breakout playmaker in 2014. He scored eight touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing, one punt return). If something happened to Cardale Jones in the postseason, Marshall likely would have played QB, too.
Samuel, a freshman this past season, and Wilson, a sophomore, are similarly versatile. They’re the team’s primary kick returners, averaging 22.8 yards per return last season. They’re nowhere near their ceilings, either. You think new co-OC and QBs coach Tim Beck entered into a good situation?
Here are playmaker standouts from the non-Ohio State crop
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Three of the four running backs who averaged at least 100 yards per game will be back in 2015 with the exception being USC’s Buck Allen, who opted to leave early for the NFL draft. But the Trojans don’t need to fear. Sophomore Justin Davis is primed to enter the competition to be a top-5 running back in the conference, filling Allen’s shoes for USC.
But this got the Pac-12 Blog thinking: Who is going to lead the conference in rushing next season? There are plenty of arguments to be made for each of the top eight guys returning and the top spot could really go to any one of them. So, who do you think steals that spot?
1. UCLA’s Paul Perkins | 251 carries, 1,575 yards, 9 touchdowns
With Brett Hundley’s early departure, the Bruins will likely rely on Perkins even more next season than they did this past season to get things going for UCLA. Perkins averaged 6.3 yards per carry, a Pac-12 best for running backs who toted the ball at least 200 times. He’s not a little-by-little type of running back. Expect him to get his 2015 yardage the same way he got his 2014 yardage -- in big chunks. He led the league in rushes of 10-plus yards (46). A few big games could be enough to put him at the top of the list.
2. Utah’s Devontae Booker | 292 carries, 1,512 yards, 10 touchdowns
3. Arizona’s Nick Wilson | 236 carries, 1,375 yards, 16 touchdowns
Because of Oregon’s title run and the attention that got, Wilson’s accomplishments played second fiddle to the other star freshman running back in the conference (No. 4 on this list). But Wilson actually accrued more yardage on fewer carries than Royce Freeman did. Of running backs who carried the ball at least 150 times last season, Wilson was the most effective on third down, converting 58.6 percent. With Wilson and quarterback Anu Solomon both returning, Rich Rodriguez’s offense is going to be even more dynamic and more difficult to stop.
4. Oregon’s Royce Freeman | 252 carries, 1,365 yards, 18 touchdowns
Freeman was an absolute truck for Oregon this season. Give him a full season’s worth of starts next season and expect these numbers to go up. With the Ducks transitioning to a new quarterback, and one who likely won’t be nearly as mobile as Marcus Mariota, expect Oregon to rely more on Freeman and the run game to get some offensive yardage.
5. Cal’s Daniel Lasco | 210 carries, 1,115 yards, 12 touchdowns
Even though Sonny Dykes comes from the school of Air Raid, he has much more of a balance in his offense when it comes to rushing and passing. Enter Lasco, who made huge, huge strides between his sophomore and junior seasons. He only got better as the year went on, finishing with three 100-yard games in the Bears’ final four appearances. Like Wilson, Lasco will benefit from playing with the same quarterback two seasons in a row, which should help his total yardage. Plus, with Cal coming so close to a bowl game this season, don’t discount the value of a chip on the shoulders, especially on the shoulders of a senior.
6. ASU’s D.J. Foster | 194 carries, 1,081 yards, 9 touchdowns
What makes Foster so valuable as a running back is that he’s so difficult to defend. He managed to pick up all this rushing yardage while also tallying 62 receptions for 688 receiving yards -- which led the country for running backs. If he continues to develop his hands (and we’ve all seen what Mike Bercovici can do), he’ll just be even more difficult to game plan against.
7. Oregon State’s Storm Woods | 121 carries, 766 yards, 5 touchdowns
Woods might be one of the most interesting running backs to watch next season given the coaching change in Corvallis. Gary Anderson coached Melvin Gordon to two phenomenal seasons in Madison (549 carries, 4,196 yards, 41 touchdowns). Obviously Anderson won’t be able to turn Woods into Gordon overnight, but there should be several reasons for optimism around the Beaver program and what Anderson could do with the run game. And Anderson will be happy with the product he’s getting. Woods was the cleanest running back on this list this season, not recording a single fumble despite carrying the ball 133 times.
8. Washington’s Dwayne Washington | 132 carries, 697 yards, 9 touchdowns
Washington split carries with freshman Lavon Coleman this season for the Huskies, who averaged 188.6 rushing yards per game. It’ll be interesting to see who really takes over for UW next season as the competition between Washington and Coleman will be tight this spring. Expect bigger things from the Huskies in Year 2 of Chris Petersen’s tenure.
Moving in at No. 3 overall is former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. The former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is spending the school year at Trinity Valley Community College, and appears ready to make the move back to the FBS ranks and play one more season before entering the 2016 NFL draft. Fields is scheduled to visit Louisville Jan. 30 with the Cardinals the heavy favorite to land the Under Armour All-American Game alumni.
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We unveiled our No. 5 QB on Monday and No. 4 on Tuesday. Up next:
No. 3: USC junior QB Cody Kessler.
Statistics: 315-of-452 passing (69.7 percent), 3,826 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
Why he's here: The part of Kessler's game that jumps out right away when reading his stat line is the completion percentage. For a player to throw almost 500 passes and complete nearly 70 percent of those attempts is just insane. Kessler led the conference in completion percentage and was second nationally of QB's who attempted at least 300 passes. Because he was so accurate, his TD:INT ratio was -- unsurprisingly -- also very high, second only to Marcus Mariota in the Pac-12 and third nationally to Mariota and Northern Illinois' Drew Hare.
His clutch-ness didn't stop there. He led the conference in third-down completion percentage (47.6 percent) and his play was a huge reason why the Trojans finished 9-4 with a season-ending win over Nebraska in the National University Holiday Bowl.
Kessler's improvement between last season and this season is quite staggering. He improved his completion percentage by 4.3 percent from his sophomore season to his junior season, throwing 19 more touchdowns while being picked off two fewer times.
What might be the most exciting thing about Kessler's all-around performance this season is that he returns in 2015 to lead a squad that'll be more settled under second-year coach Steve Sarkisian. Kessler will lose a fair number of playmakers, but the Trojans' roster is more in reload mode than rebuild mode. Mark Schlabach put the Trojans at No. 4 in his Way Too Early Top 25 -- the highest ranking for any Pac-12 team. A huge part of that ranking is Kessler and his proven track record of improvement. If he makes the same kind of gains this offseason that he made last offseason, and continues to settle into Sarkisian's offense, Kessler is going to be very, very dangerous.
Super Bowl media day has come and gone. With it there were a few notable appearances and quotes by some former Pac-12 players (there are 18 former conference players and five former conference coaches between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots).
- Former Stanford DB Richard Sherman made a few comments about Deflategate when he and the Seahawks arrived in Arizona and on Tuesday Patriots owner Robert Kraft responded to those comments while also taking a bit of a shot at Stanford.
- The Huffington Post said that former California RB Marshawn Lynch's "I'm just here so I won't get fined" act was the best press conference ever. But USA Today says the league should fine Lynch anyway.
- The Washington Post put together an entire thread of former Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski-related items. And, some other Gronk nuggets.
- Former Washington WR Jermaine Kearse got a podium at this year's media day thanks to his game-winning catch against the Packers. Frank Schwab writes that this is what he'll forever be known for.
- Extra nuggets: If you're just looking for some general media day bites, here's an update from The Seattle Times. NJ.com compiled a list of the 10 worst questions asked at media day. And USA Today's Chris Strauss writes that the key to Super Bowl media day is to just embrace the absurdity of it all.
- Get to know Arizona commit Jace Whittaker.
- What are the odds that Arizona State gets DE Porter Gustin?
- Cal picked up a huge commitment on Tuesday night.
- Mike MacIntyre owned one of his players on Twitter.
- Marcus Mariota's younger brother will walk on at Oregon.
- Gary Andersen added to his support staff on Tuesday.
- What kind of a player is Stanford getting in Dylan Jackson?
- The biggest needs for UCLA's 2015 recruiting class.
- Matt Leinart has some big expectations for USC next season.
- Utah added an offensive line commitment on Tuesday.
- Some final changes for Washington State's staff.
- Washington State lost a recruit to Arizona State on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici and safety Jordan Simone attended Super Bowl media day to add to some of azcentral.com's coverage of the event. We'll have a story later on today with Bercovici's thoughts on the day and his advice to other reporters (now that he has such a deep understanding of the profession), but as a preview to some of the in-depth and exclusive content you'll get from the Bercovici-Simone media team, check out this tweet:
Just talked to Tom Brady about hair products... #BrotherFromAnotherMother— Michael Bercovici (@MikeBerco) January 27, 2015
We're sure it was enlightening. Someone get this man a Pulitzer.
Jones, the No. 1 ranked running back in the ESPN 300, is a highly acclaimed 6-foot, 187-pound explosive game-changer who rushed for 2,009 yards (8.4 avg.) and 28 touchdowns in 2014.
Both are solidly committed to the Trojans, and combined with speedy Southern California product Dominic Davis (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany), they make up what is sure to be one of the top running back classes in the nation come signing day.
It's been quite awhile since any coaches at USC have spent the time and energy recruiting the Lone Star State that Sarkisian and Co. have over the course of the past year.
USC did pull in John Plattenburg out of Houston (Texas) Lamar last February, but in that case it was actually at Corona (Calif.) Centennial -- where he spent his sophomore and junior seasons -- that the talented safety first caught the eye of the Trojans' coaches. Before that, the last time USC signed a player from Texas was back in 2008 when Houston Aldine offensive lineman Daniel Campbell inked with the Trojans. Campbell failed to qualify, however, and he never played a down at USC.
So how did the Trojans reel in two running backs from the heart of Big-12 country this time around?
For Jones, it actually wasn't that difficult. USC first grabbed his attention at a young age, when he watched former head coach Pete Carroll's teams bring home victory after victory on television.
"USC has just always been one of my favorite schools," said Jones, who de-committed from Oklahoma State in mid-December before choosing the Trojans over Notre Dame a few weeks later. "I grew up watching Reggie Bush and all of those guys, so I knew I would always look at them closely."
Ware's interest, meanwhile, stems more from his desire to branch out.
"I was born and raised in Texas," said Ware, who also held offers from the likes of Florida, Ohio State and Arizona State. "I want to get out and explore the world and experience Cali life, and just have fun outside of Texas. I want to experience new things."
The turning point for both players, however, came when they were able to check out the USC campus in person for the first time. That was especially true for Jones, whose mother was initially hesitant to let her son go to school so far from home.
"My mom didn't want me to go far at all," said Jones, whose mother accompanied him on his official visit to USC in December. "But once she was able to see it for herself, she said that she'd be a fool for telling me not to follow my heart. That official visit was big. I was always sold, but for her, that's what did it."
Ware took his official visit to USC in September, but it was following his earlier unofficial visit for the Rising Stars Camp last July that he made up his mind.
"When I first went out there this summer I really liked the whole environment and the players' and coaches' attitude about football," Ware said. "I could really tell that they were passionate about football, and I knew that was the place that I wanted to be."
Set to arrive on campus early this summer, Jones and Ware, in addition to Davis, all appear to possess the talent to vie for immediate playing time, especially with the recent announcement by last year's leading Trojans' rusher, Javorius Allen, that he will forgo his senior season at USC to enter the upcoming NFL draft.
But the Trojans also still have a pair of talented veterans returning at the position in junior Justin Davis and fifth-year senior Tre Madden. That, coupled with the fact that this year's crop will also have each other to contend with, means that competition will be the name of the game come fall camp.
But that concept doesn't bother either Texas running back. In fact, both Jones and Ware are more excited about the idea of playing each other, as well as Davis, than anything else.
"I love competing and working for it," Jones said. "I don't look at it like those guys are my rivals or anything. I think we can really complement each other. Back when USC was rolling, they would have different running backs with different styles that they would go to, and I think that's what we're doing in this class."
That's something that Ware, who was a part of deep tailback group at Cedar Hill, knows about first-hand.
"At Cedar Hill, my junior year, we had three running backs, and my senior year it was me and Denvre Daniels," Ware said. "When you have that much talent, you can rotate the running backs and wear the defense down. I like that. We can inflict a lot of damage."
And with that trademark Texas confidence, Ware and Jones are determined to do everything they can to ensure that they're more than ready to do their part in making that idea become a reality -- and sooner rather than later.
"We're going to bring that Texas flavor to Cali," said Ware. "We're going to show everybody how it's done."