With players scheduled to begin arriving next week and practices set to begin the following week, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Pirates special teams, defensive line, and linebackers coach Jerry Snay. I asked for his take on the current roster heading into training camp and how he believes the Pirates will fare on their three-game road trip to start the regular season. Before we dove into any details, Snay voiced that he’s ready to go and feels “amped-up”.

Other than Gabriel Rui, a placekicker who signed with the Pirates back in September 2020, the team’s special teams unit has yet to be determined. However, Snay was able to provide some insight on which types of players could fill those slots.

“In my talks with Coach (Rayshaun) Kizer, we plan on capitalizing on the athleticism that our defensive backfield brings to the table for special teams. I also see our linebackers, wide receivers, and running backs performing on special teams as well. Kizer and I have gone over some preliminary depth charts, where we want to slot guys in to start. Once we start practicing we’ll have a much clearer idea of what it will look like.”

The Pirates defensive backfield has quietly become one of the organization’s deepest and strongest positions. Khalid Wooten and Al-Louis Jean are the two returners from 2019. Wooten enters his third season with the Pirates after playing two games in 2018 and nine games last season. Louis-Jean returns for his second season in Massachusetts after suiting up for eight games in 2019. The four newcomers to the defensive backfield include Santos Ramirez, Aarion Maxey-Penton, Ahmad Dixon, and Harlan Miller. Ramirez and Maxey-Penton both hail from SEC football programs and Dixon and Miller are former NFL draft picks.

When asked about the Pirates linebacking core for 2021, Snay again used the term “athleticism” and feels confident in the group.

“There is so much depth and athleticism that we can plug players in and out of different positions. With opposing players coming in high motion on offense, we feel all of our linebackers can handle those players in coverage.”

Williams is returning for his second season with the Pirates and handled the JACK linebacking duties in 2019. Tavarus Dantzler returns for his third season with the club after playing 8 games in 2018 and 11 games last season. Martrell Spaight, who spent four years in the NFL, and Jonathan Celestin, a standout from the University of Minnesota, both bring fresh blood to the Pirates.

Snay got the most creative when talking about the defensive line. Similar to the Pirates linebackers, Snay believes the defensive linemen are capable of playing in multiple windows.

“Well first of all offenses are going to have to stop J.D. (Griggs) and R.J. (Roberts) from applying pressure on the outside. We feel J.D. can be plugged in at nose tackle and bounce Willie (Yarbary) or Youhanna (Ghaifan) to rush from the outside or vice-versa.”

Griggs, Roberts, and Yarbary are the three returners for the Pirates on the defensive line. Ghaifan is set to make his debut as a professional football player this spring after a stellar career at the University of Wyoming.

The Pirates will have about two weeks of training camp before flying to Louisville, Kentucky for their first game of the season on Saturday, April 24th. If Coach Snay has anything to be concerned about heading into camp, it will be adjusting new players to the indoor game.

“All of the new guys we’ve signed have great resumes and are top-tier professionals. The question is going to be ‘How will they adjust to a smaller field?’ Once we go over the rules and the players understand their assignments we will be in great shape.”

In addition to playing their first game in Louisville, the Pirates will fly to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Bismarck, North Dakota before returning to Massachusetts the week of May 10th for an elongated stretch. Snay says it’s never easy being a road warrior to start a season, especially after a long layoff.

“Coach Pass will expect no excuses and we won’t make any. We’ll play one matchup at a time and if we make mistakes we will go back and correct them. We’re not going to use traveling as an excuse. These are the cards we’ve been dealt and now it’s time to play our butts off.”

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single-game tickets will be available soon at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard