It's always good to have experience and production coming back. It doesn't necessarily doom a team to be breaking in a new QB or to be in search of skill guys to catch and run the ball, but there's a reason that most teams that will be ranked in the preseason top-10 will have experience coming back at the skill position.
So how do things stand in the Pac-12 this spring? Who welcomes back their leading passer, rusher and receiver?
Glad you asked.
Four teams have all three leaders back: California, Oregon State, USC and Utah. Washington State falls short on that due to QB Jeff Tuel's injuries in 2011.
Three teams have zero leaders back: Arizona, Colorado and Oregon.
Here's the tally.
Passer: No (Nick Foles)
Rusher: No (Juron Criner)
Receiver: No (Keola Antolin)
Reaction: The Wildcats are starting over with a new coach and a new scheme, and they are starting over with new offensive leaders as well. While there are questions at receiver — the top three from 2011 and four of the top-five are gone — Matt Scott is the QB and Ka'Deem Carey is a heavy favorite to be the RB.
Passer: No (Brock Osweiler)
Rusher: Cameron Marshall (1,050, 18 TDs)
Receiver: No (Gerell Robinson)
Reaction: Marshall is a workhorse, and the return of Deantre Lewis should help ease his burden. While three of the top four receivers are gone, there's a solid stockpile of talent on hand at the position. The big issue is replacing Osweiler. With new coach Todd Graham bringing in a new offense, the competition will be wide-open this spring.
Passer: Zach Maynard (2,990 yards, 17 TDs, 12 INTs)
Rusher: Isi Sofele (1,322, 10 TDs)
Receiver: Keenan Allen (1,343, 6 TDs)
Reaction: While many Cal fans aren't yet sold on Maynard, it should be somewhat comforting to have this much experience at these spots coming back. If Maynard takes a step forward in 2012, the Bears offense could be pretty salty. Of course, there's a major void behind Allen at receiver, a position where incoming freshmen likely will see immediate action.
Passer: No (Tyler Hansen)
Rusher: No (Rodney Stewart)
Receiver: No (Tony Clemons)
Reaction: Stewart was actually the Buffaloes' leading receiver, and junior Paul Richardson was their best receiver, but there clearly are holes to fill on offense. Texas transfer Connor Wood is the favorite at QB, and Tony Jones and Josh Ford both have experience at RB. Receiver is a big question.
Passer: No (Darron Thomas)
Rusher: No (LaMichael James)
Receiver: No (Lavasier Tuinei)
Reaction: De'Anthony Thomas was basically a push with Tuinei as the Ducks' leading receiver, but he played a more hybrid role than a pure receiver. The Ducks also lost their third-leading receiver in TE David Paulson. While Kenjon Barner steps in for James, the QB competiton with Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota will be interesting to follow.
Passer: Sean Mannion (3,332 yards, 16 TD, 18 INT)
Rusher: Malcolm Agnew (427 yards, 5 TD)
Receiver: Markus Wheaton (73 receptions, 986 yards, TD)
Reaction: Mannion threw the ball a lot and had his moments, but it's never good to have more interceptions than TDs. Agnew flashed ability but had fumbling issues. And, of course, the Beavers' running game was terrible. Wheaton is an A-list receiver who gets lost among the parade of All-Americans in the conference at the position.
Passer: No (Andrew Luck)
Rusher: Stepfan Taylor (1,330 yards, 10 TDs)
Receiver: No (Griff Whalen)
Reaction: While replacing Luck is — justifiably — the headline story, the loss of receiving production also is a big question. Stanford's top-three receivers from 2011 are all gone: Whalen, Chris Owusu and Coby Fleener. On the plus side, Taylor leads a strong collection of RBs.
Passer: Kevin Prince (1,828 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs)
Rusher: Johnathan Franklin (976 yards, 5 TDs)
Receiver: No (Nelson Rosario)
Reaction: Prince is going to have to fight off redshirt freshman Brett Hundley to hold onto his job. The Bruins also lost third-leading receiver Taylor Embree. The pecking order at WR will be interesting to watch this spring, as coordinator Noel Mazzone likes to spread the field with four wideouts. Franklin leads a strong cast at RB.
Passer: Matt Barkley (3,528 yards, 39 TDs, 7 INTs)
Rusher: Curtis McNeal (1,005 yards, 6 TDs)
Receiver: Robert Woods (111 receptions, 1,292 yards, 15 TDs)
Reaction: Two All-Americans and a 1,000-yard rusher who averaged 6.9 yards per carry: That is why USC is a preseason national title favorite. This is the nation's best troika, and there's not even a debate.
Passer: Jon Hays (1,459 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs)
Rusher: John White (1,519 yards, 15 TDs)
Receiver: DeVonte Christopher (42 receptions, 663 yards, 5 TDs)
Reaction: The best scenario for Utah is a healthy Jordan Wynn at QB, which then gives the Utes an experienced backup with Hays. There's plenty of experience back at WR, so there are targets to improve the passing game in 2012. White was outstanding last year, and there's solid depth behind him, including touted incoming JC transfer Kelvin York.
Passer: Keith Price (3,063 yards, 33 TDs, 11 INTs)
Rusher: No (Chris Polk)
Receiver: No (Jermaine Kearse)
Reaction: Price loses Polk — his best buddy — as well as his top two receivers. That said, Kasen Williams, James Johnson and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins will provide quality targets in 2012. The competition at running back will be interesting with Jesse Callier, the backup the past two seasons, battling Bishop Sankey and — if healthy — Deontae Cooper.
Passer: No (Marshall Lobbestael)
Rusher: Rickey Galvin (602 yards, 5 TDs)
Receiver: Marquess Wilson (82 receptions, 1,388 yards, 12 TDs)
Reaction: This is deceptive because the Cougars actually welcome back starters in all three spots. In fact, the pair of Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday at QB is as good as any pair in the Pac-12. New coach Mike Leach probably will be pleasantly surprised with the skill he has to work with his first season.