The most senior area football coach, in terms of longevity at one school, doesn't have the most experienced group returning after the most successful Hancock College football season in years.
However, Kris Dutra feels pretty good about a lot of what he has coming back.
For starters, though Hancock lost reliable quarterback Jimmy Kelleher to graduation, "We have three (quarterbacks), Dyan Simons, Steven Schouten and Tommy Carr, and they're all pretty solid," the Bulldogs' veteran coach said.
Dutra will begin his 18th year as Hancock's head coach when the Bulldogs play at Los Angeles Valley College at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in their season opener.
The Bulldogs went 8-3 last year, including 5-0 in the Pacific League en route to winning the league championship.
"We think that momentum from last year will help us this year," said sophomore Hancock nose guard Dominic King.
"Hey, it took us to a bowl game last year," the American Championship Bowl which Hancock lost to Southwestern.
King had a solid year last year. He's one of the reasons Dutra is optimistic about his defensive line even though he lost ends Osa Omokaro, who racked up 13 sacks last season, and Santa Ynez native Connor Epley, who had 5.5, to graduation.
"We've got Dominic King, Josh Laurao, Seth Ollice, Trenton Carter and Tyler Valente," said Dutra. "We're going to be good on the defensive line."
With Isaac Bausley, Ryheem Skinner and Damon Whitmill Jr. all figuring prominently in a productive running backs rotation system, the Hancock offense had another big year on the ground in 2017.
At press time, Dutra said all three should be returning.
"Bausley's in the clear to play," he said. "Skinner and Whitmill need to get some summer eligibility cleared up. They should be able to play."
Skinner was Hancock's leading rusher last year, with 749 yards and seven touchdowns. Whitmill ran for 688 yards and scored four times. Bausley, a Nipomo High School graduate, had 488 yards and five touchdowns.
Hancock tight end Dominic Chance was the Pacific League MVP in 2017. He graduated.
Dutra does have some candidates for the tight end spot. "Chase Hansen gray-shirted last year. He's coming back," Hancock's coach said.
"We've got Miles Minnis from Morro Bay. We've also got Mike Dutra (no relation to the coach), who's been in the military."
Productive wide receivers Nick Kimball and Michael Ferraro graduated. "We'll have J.J. Ramirez, Spencer Pool, Daniel Drew and Jake Genovese there this year," asid Dutra. Genovese was the only one of the group that had any stats last year. Ramirez and Pool were standouts for Nipomo.
Hancock quarterbacks/receivers coach Anthony Maez said, "We definitely have some good quarterbacks and receivers coming in this year."
The strongest part of the Hancock's game last year was its defense, but the Bulldogs' linebacker corps took a huge hit from graduation. Basiru Jobe, the team's leading tackler in 2017, is one of the graduated linebackers.
"I'm a little worried about the linebacking," King acknowledged.
"I'm sure the coaches will bring in some really good talent there."
Dutra said, "We're pretty much starting over at linebacker." At press time, the only starter he'd settled on there was Lompoc graduate Jelani Henderson.
With the departures of Lenny Roundtree Jr. and Ben Wilkomm in particular, graduation also delivered a blow to the Hancock secondary.
Domanic Chapa, though, is back. Despite missing two games to injury, Chapa was one the leaders in the Bulldogs' secondary last year.
"We're looking at Tristan Durfee, Edwon Works and Alex Cecchi," to join Chapa as regulars in the secondary, said Dutra. "We've also got an abundance of new guys."
Cecchi, an Arroyo Grande graduate, had a productve freshman year for Hancock in 2016. He went down with an injury in Hancock's opener last year.
"He had to have surgery after that," said Dutra.
RJ Grice, Joseph Moscato and Jacob Bouzard all figure to return and help anchor Hancock's offensive line this year.
Though it's early in Hancock's pre-season workout regimen, "I think the line is in sync as far as run-blocking," said Moscato.
"We're going to be big up front (on the offensive line)," said Dutra. "We're definitely going to be bigger than we were last year."
Hancock is in a revised Pacific League that also includes Santa Barbara, Pasadena, Los Angeles Harbor, Santa Monica and Los Angeles Pierce.
Pierce and Santa Barbara were in the league last year. Hancock is familiar with Pasadena, having played the Lancers multiple times in the recent past.
It's been a bit longer than that since the Bulldogs have played Harbor or Santa Monica, though both were once their league rivals.
"You never know what you're going to get with Harbor or Santa Monica until the game comes," said Dutra.
"There's a lot of turnover at those places. They have a lot of good athletes."
When it comes to what he has coming back, Dutra is very happy that veteran coordinators Rick Aguilar (defense) and Seth Damron (offense) are returning.
"I have the best coordinators," Dutra said.