Among the returning starters is sophomore Terrell Stanley, who despite being an underclassman, has been classified as one of the leaders of ECU's loaded defense.
Stanley, a 6-foot-2, 266-pounder, played both nose tackle and defensive end as a freshman and even though his 32 tackles – four for lost-yardage – doesn't seem all that impressive at face value, his impact was felt.
"We call him ‘Tasmanian Devil' because he's got a quick twitch, he's got long arms, he plays aggressive and has an understanding for the position," said defensive line coach Marc Yellock.
Defensive coordinator Rick Smith added, "Terrell had a great summer … He leads by example more than he does vocally."
The defense's most impactful loss from last year is nose tackle Michael Brooks, who filled up the middle of the line at nose tackle since the Ruffin McNeill era began in 2010. His replacement will be junior Terry Williams.
Despite missing two games due to an early season suspension, Williams compiled 46 tackles, but more importantly demanded a large amount of attention from blockers with his hulking 6-foot-1, 322-pound frame.
An often times overlooked contributor on ECU's defense is senior defensive end Lee Pegues. Having played in each of the Pirates' 13 games last year, the soft-spoken Pegues is now being looked on as a leader.
"When we do individual drills or team drills, (Pegues) always has an eye out for the young guys," said Yellock. "He's a veteran. He's that coach on the field for me … that corrects and gives them that locker room coaching that I won't be able to do on the side."
Some of the other names that will be a part of the rotation are Justin Dixon, Chrishon Rose and Johnathon White.
Out of those three, Rose, a 6-foot-4, 299-pound junior, has the most size and similar to Stanley, can play both nose tackle and defensive end.
Dixon's journey to the 2013 season has featured an eventful series of events. Most of them being unfortunate for the outside linebacker turned defensive lineman. Dixon suffered a season-ending left knee injury in 2012 and last year was limited to just the first two games due to a major right knee injury.
Following countless hours of rehabilitation and work to remain in game shape, Dixon remains in the picture at defensive end.
"He'll get over whatever is ailment is, and it's not really that serious," said Yellock when asked for an update on the injury-riddled senior, "He'll be ready to go, hopefully, for ODU."
Rounding out the second string is sophomore defensive end White. As a redshirt freshman, White got little playing time, but still appeared in six contests. Expect to see more of the 6-foot-4, 283-pounder this fall.
After that group of Rose, Dixon and White, there are numerous players with raw talent, but have seen little to no game experience; which could be a concern when injuries occur.
"I think the (defensive) line is doing very well, but we're thin. We're two deep right now," said Smith. "Those kids get pretty tired. Every snap they're pushing on another guy whose 300 pounds, sometimes 700 pounds when they get doubled."