Domenic Betts rushed for a state-best 1,772 yards, an Orange Coast single-season record in 2011 as a freshman, but he is ineligible this season. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / November 5, 2011)

Outside linebacker Austin Bennett, whose 43 tackles as a freshman ranked fourth on the squad, is another veteran deployed by defensive coordinator John Young.

Sophomore Jordan McNaughton is slated to be the middle linebacker.

Sophomore ends Vince Coleman and David Martinez, both shared the team lead with 3.5 sacks last season, while safeties Kellen Truxton, a Newport Harbor product, and Hunter Vanderpool both saw plenty of action in the secondary.

Clay Guess, a sophomore who had one interception in 2010, and Billy Moore, a sophomore transfer from Azusa Pacific, are the front-runners at cornerback.

Taylor said sophomore defensive tackle Talon Sudbeck (6-5, 260) is also one to watch.

Special teams should be a strength, as kicker Jackson Dionne, a first-team all-conference performer last season, booted 10 field goals as a freshman, including makes from 53, 51 and 48 yards.

Dionne could also punt this season, replacing Ricky Carroll (now a Miami Hurricane).

The Pirates, 4-18 against conference foes the last four years, open conference play Sept. 22 at home against Palomar.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5