It happens every year about this time. I start worrying about who will replace key players for the Oregon Ducks when guys leave due to graduation, the NFL or other reasons.
And every year I bet you think the same thing: no player will ever be able to replace (insert your favorite player's name here.)
But the magic of college football is that new kids come along each and every new season. They may never take the place in your heart of departing superstars, but they manage to get the job done.
This 2012 Ducks team is special. Lots of talent. Lots of speed. Lots of character. Except for Isaac Remington's little midseason boo-boo, Oregon's players have been good students and community members.
With issues like character and leadership in mind, it's not enough to just plug holes with the next 4-star recruit. Oregon fans also demand that their team be one they can be proud of, both on and off the field.
With that in mind, here are some gaping holes in the Ducks' roster as we look ahead to 2013.
It seems like forever that big No. 60 has been lifting up Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas in the end zone.
Ryan Clanton has been a huge part of a much improved Ducks offensive line in 2012. The junior college transfer from the City College of San Francisco started all 12 games for Oregon this season after being a key reserve in 2011.
Clanton switched from left guard to right guard this season to make room in the starting lineup for another JC transfer, Kyle Long.
The Ducks list several underclass offensive linemen on their roster, and 4-star recruit Evan Voeller has tons of potential, but it remains to be seen if there is a suitable replacement for Clanton in 2013.
Admit it: last year in December you were absolutely distraught at the thought of LaMichael James leaving for his next adventure. You just weren't sure if Kenjon Barner could step up and fill LaMike's shoes.
History repeats itself. Now you aren't sure if the next crop of Oregon running backs can possibly replace the most excellent All-American Barner.
I'm here to ease those worries for you. While Barner and his gaudy stats (1,856 total yards and 22 touchdowns) will be sorely missed, be confident that the RB position will again be a strength for the Ducks in 2013.
True freshman RB Byron Marshall was solid and, at times, positively electric in relief of Barner this season. There is no reason to think that Marshall won't continue to improve and will eventually make it to the NFL like so many of his predecessors.
That's if Marshall wins the starting job. There is this young man on the way to Eugene who you may have heard of—Thomas Tyner. Tyner is a 5-star recruit who is rated anywhere between the first and fourth best running back in the nation, depending on which rating service you prefer.
If Tyner signs with Oregon in February, look for him to challenge Marshall in fall camp. And if both Tyner and Marshall break their legs—that was a joke, universe—don't forget about 4-star recruit Dontre Wilson out of DeSoto, TX.
In an ideal world, Marshall and Tyner are fabulous in 2013, and the equally fabulous Wilson redshirts. But in any event, while Barner's departure will leave a hole, it will be nicely filled by youth.
Oregon's place kicker in 2012, Alejandro Maldonado, will be a senior in 2013. Raise your hand if you think Maldonado should be the starting place kicker again for the Ducks next year.
I don't see any hands up.
While there may not appear to be a big hole on the roster at place kicker, in real life it is a gaping one for the Ducks.
But there is good news. Verbally committed to Oregon is standout Matt Wogan from Indian Trail, North Carolina. Wogan has been called by some the top kicker prospect in the nation. At 6'2", 195 lbs, Wogan is strong and athletic.
Premier kicking coach Chris Sailer said about Wogan:
"He's got a huge leg, probably the biggest kickoffs in the United States," evaluated Sailer. "Field goals are now tremendous off the ground. His hit balls could be in the NFL right now."
If Matt Wogan is not the starting place kicker for Oregon on August 31, 2013, Duck fans should boycott.
Linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso will both leave the Ducks for greener pastures in 2013.
Of Oregon's three terrific starting linebackers, only current junior Boseko Lokombo returns next year. Several returning linebackers on the Ducks' roster saw action this season: Rahim Cassell, Isaac Ava, Anthony Wallace and Rodney Hardrick.
The Ducks also just received a verbal commitment on Dec. 9 from linebacker Joe Walker, a JC transfer from Los Angeles Harbor Community College. At 6'3", 230 lbs, Walker was also sought after by Texas A&M and Syracuse, among others.
It is thought that Walker will potentially fill Alonso's position. He does have that sort of crazy, intense look about him that Alonso has—probably a good thing.
But unless the current reserves and/or Walker really step up in fall camp, the linebacker hole might be the biggest problem area for the Ducks.
Don't you think that in this photo Washington quarterback Keith Price is thinking: "Beam me up, Scotty! Now!"
The Ducks' superstar defensive end Dion Jordan is predicted to be drafted as high as No. 5 in the 2013 NFL Draft. The 6'7", 243-pound senior is one of the premier pass-rushers in the nation.
Jordan is the kind of player a team needs on defense to be successful in the pass-happy Pac-12 Conference. Throughout his Oregon career, Jordan has made many quarterbacks extremely uncomfortable.
Oregon has several good young defensive lineman who might be able to take over for Jordan next year, but as of today, the Ducks have not recruited any top DE prospects.
Are there any terrific, young budding pass-rushers out there? If you are big, strong, quick and hate quarterbacks, apply here.
I gotta be honest here. If I were Bryan Bennett's mother, I'd tell my kid to transfer.
Bennett is too good to be relegated to mop-up duty, and it's clear that, unless injured, Marcus Mariota is not going anywhere. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bennett pull a Ryan Katz and transfer to a San Diego State-type school where he could be the starting QB next year.
If that happens, who is Oregon's backup to Mariota? If you are a Ducks fan, I guess you have to assume that one of the two freshman QBs—Jeff Lockie or Jake Rodrigues—is good enough to take over in case of disaster.
But we don't really know that, do we?
There is the niggling suspicion that if Bennett does bail, the backup quarterback position could be a teensy black hole for the Ducks in 2013.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.