Positional Breakdown: Defensive Backs
By: Mike Reid
April 4, 2021
Continuing on the Pirates Positional Breakdown series, the defensive backs are next up. Pirates president and general manager Jawad Yatim put together a perfect blend of veterans and young players to form this unit, at one of the most important positional groups in the indoor football game. The DB room is 6 players strong, with 4 guys who will be making their Pirates debut. Let’s dive into the ballhawks that will be lurking in the defensive backfield this season for the Pirates.
The eldest statesman of the defensive back unit, Khalid Wooten is entering his 3rd season with the Pirates. He joined as a mid-season signing in 2018 and racked up 6 tackles and an interception in 2 games. Wooten then became a full-time player for the Pirates in 2019, in 9 games he had 30 solo tackles and 2 interceptions.
Wooten is a savvy veteran that brings all the necessary traits of being a really good DB in the arena game. He has solid size, (5’11”, 200 pounds) short-area quickness, instincts, and versatility, as well as being a sound tackler with a nose for the football. Durability is another strength for Wooten, at 31 years old he is still playing at the prime of his career.
Prior to joining the Pirates, Wooten was a standout cornerback and special teamer for the Nevada Wolfpack, appearing in 52 career games. In 2013, he was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the 6th round of the NFL Draft. After a few seasons in Nashville, Wooten ventured up north of the border for a short time in the CFL.
Wooten’s experience and time in Massachusetts will pay big dividends for this DB unit. His voice and leadership will echo through the Pirates’ locker room this season.
A name that has loomed large in Massachusetts football circles for the past decade is Al Louis-Jean. The former 4-star prospect at Brockton High School and Boston College product is staying in his home state once again for his 2nd year with the Pirates.
Louis-Jean brings good size to the Pirates’ defensive backfield. At 6’2” he has the ideal length for a cornerback. Pairing that with his track speed, Louis-Jean has the ability to lock down any wide receiver in front of him. In 8 games for the Pirates in 2019, Louis-Jean accounted for 9.5 tackles.
After his 2010 All-State season and 2011 MVP senior season at Brockton, Louis-Jean had offers from powerhouse college programs like Miami, Penn State, Maryland, and Notre Dame. Despite originally committing to Miami, he had a change of heart and decided to stay home and play at Boston College.
Louis-Jean attended BC for 3 years before declaring early for the 2014 NFL Draft. Despite going undrafted, he hopped on the Chicago Bears practice squad right before the 2014 season. Louis-Jean was quickly promoted to the active roster and appeared in 9 games producing 9 tackles and 1 pass defend. Louis-Jean had other small stints with the Washington Football Team, Miami Dolphins and even ventured up to the CFL with the Ottawa Redblacks. Louis-Jean’s experience and athletic ability will prove to be a key piece to this Pirates defense this season.
The first of four defensive backs that will be making their debut for the Pirates this season is Santos Ramirez. The word that would best describe Ramirez as a football player is physical. He is a safety who brings his lunch pale and hard hat to every game he plays and loves bringing down the ball carrier.
Ramirez was a four-year player and two-time team captain for the Arkansas Razorbacks and cut his teeth in the premier conference in college football, the SEC. He had one of the most decorated careers for a defensive back in Razorbacks history, being named to the 2010-2019 Arkansas All-Decade Defense Second-Team. He played 2,422 career defensive snaps while amassing a combined 228 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles.
In his junior and senior seasons (his two captain years), Ramirez was a menace to opposing SEC offenses. If you didn’t know where No. 9 in red was before the play, there was a good chance he would be laying the wood on the ball-carrier on that play. Ramirez posted 6 games of 10 or more tackles in his 2018 senior season.
In the smaller, more compact indoor arena Ramirez will make his presence felt immediately for the Pirates. He will give the defense versatility as he can play deep zone as a free safety or closer to the line of scrimmage as a box safety. Ramirez will certainly be up for leading tacklers this season for the Pirates.
Another SEC product that will be lurking in the Pirates’ secondary this season is Aarion Maxey-Penton. Maxey-Penton was a true lockdown corner and ball-hawk during his college career at Missouri. He will look to continue his impact playing ways in his first season in Massachusetts.
Maxey-Penton may not be the biggest in stature, at 5’9” and 185 lbs, but he brings incredible instincts, toughness, and ball skills. In his first 3 years at Missouri, Maxey-Penton developed into a very solid player for the Tigers. Putting up 5 interceptions, 24 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. Then in 2016 as a senior, he became one of the top defensive backs in the country. Maxey-Penton was an All-SEC First-Team selection, showing off his true ballhawk self with an SEC-high 5 INT, and a team-best 17 PD.
After going undrafted in 2017, Maxey-Penton had a brief stint with the LA Rams before playing up north in the CFL with the Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes. Then in 2019 he showed off his sticky coverage skills in The Spring league for the Generals.
Maxey-Penton can align on the outside or in the slot as a cornerback for the Pirates. He is ready to make a name for himself in the Indoor Football League and should find himself with plenty of opportunities to make some splash plays in the Pirates’ defensive backfield this season.
The Pirates defensive back group features players from FBS Power Five conferences. However, there is one name who doesn’t come from one. Southeastern Louisiana University’s own Harlan Miller will be joining the Pirates for his first season in 2021. Don’t let the small school fool you, Miller can play some football.
Despite playing in NCAA Division 1 FCS, Miller’s tremendous college career had him drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Miller has a tall but slender frame (6’0” and 182 lbs). His ball skills and instincts are what made him a standout at SLU. Racking up 11 career interceptions along with an incredible 33 passes defended.
Miller appeared in 7 career NFL games for the Arizona Cardinals from 2016-2017. Putting up 13 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 INT, which he returned 52 yards. In 2018 Miller had a brief stint with the Washington Football Team with 2 games played. Miller was then selected in the 7th round of the 2020 XFL Draft by the LA Wildcats. Playing in 4 games for the Wildcats, Miller had 13 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 INT before the league suspended their operations.
Miller can make a name for himself in his first season in the IFL. He has performed well against every level of competition that has been put in front of him. Don’t be surprised to hear “Harlan Miller with the interception” in a few Pirates games this season.
The final DB and most recent addition to the Pirates roster is Ahamd Dixon. The 29-year old safety brings plenty of football experience and a big-time physical presence in his first season in Massachusetts.
Dixon was a former blue-chip high school prospect in Hewitt, Texas, where he ranked 15th nationally as a DB by ESPN.com. He stayed local and attended Baylor University from 2010-2013. Dixon was a First-Team All-American safety for the Bears in his senior season, putting up 81 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT, and 6 PD. His dominant college career earned him invitations to the 2014 Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Then in the 2014 NFL Draft, Dixon was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 7th round.
Dixon appeared in 11 career NFL games during his rookie year in 2014, 5 of them with the Chicago Bears and 3 games each with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. Dixon then had a brief stint in the CFL with the Edmonton Football Team. Dixon was selected in the 6th round of the 2020 XFL Draft by the L.A. Wildcats. He was a force for the Wildcats, appearing in all 5 games and racking up 44 tackles.
Dixon gives the Pirates another versatile safety in the back-end. He can play deep zone and play close to the line of scrimmage with his linebacker tackling ability. Dixon will be flying around the field and will hear his name be called a lot.
This defensive backfield is one of the organization’s strongest and most versatile positional groups. Fans will have a fun time watching this DB unit as a whole this 2021 season.
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