The season-opening task for the Quad-City Steamwheelers is much more difficult than it first sounds.
"New team. New ownership. New players," Q-C receiver Keyvan Rudd said ahead of Friday night's debut against the expansion San Diego Strike Force at the TaxSlayer Center.
Besides marking the first Indoor Football League contest for both teams, the 7:05 p.m. start kicks off a 70-game regular season for the 11-year-old circuit.
However, the Steamwheelers were a playoff qualifier last season in Champions Indoor Football, in the reboot of a dominant franchise dormant for nearly a decade. San Diego, the IFL's first California club, is brand new.
"Nobody knows much about these guys while we have some guys back with the same head coach," Rudd said Wednesday during the Steamheelers first media luncheon of the season at the TBK Bank Sports Complex in Bettendorf. "They also haven't hit anybody else yet, whereas we had a three-team scrimmage (during training camp).
"So on paper, it might seem like we have the upper hand, but we can't take anybody for granted because they're obviously going to come in here and try and knock us off."
What is known about the Strike Force is they have a former NFL first-round draft pick for a coach in former San Diego Chargers pass-rusher Burt Grossman.
His assistant coaches also have ties to the NFL (one-time quarterbacking prodigy Todd Marinovich) and IFL (former Iowa Barnstormers QB Taylor Genuser is the offensive coordinator).
Among San Diego's players are a few familiar faces, too, such as QB Derrick Bernard, who threw for 49 touchdowns last season for Q-C's CIF conference rival, Salina.
Tray Boone, who returned three kickoffs for Bismarck in the CIF last season, and caught a TD pass against Q-C, also is considered one of Bernard's main targets heading into the season.
"But it's hard preparing for a team when you don't have any film," Q-C coach Cory Ross said. "Some of our personnel is different, but I'm still here, so they have film on us from last year. But we don't even know what their coach is like — (Grossman is) not only new to indoor, it's his first time as a head coach.
"So it'll be interesting to see what they come out with. We just have to be prepared to make the adjustments we need to make."
For returning Q-C defenders, including end Kewan Alfred, a key will be containing Bernard.
"We know how he plays, so we're going to try and use his weaknesses against him," Alfred said. "Make him move his feet and throw. Keep him uncomfortable."
Offensively, Rudd said, there's only one way to prepare for a "no tape" opponent.
"We prepare ourselves," explained Rudd, a Davenport Central grad and returning all-conference performer. "We make sure we're ready so we don't beat ourselves with penalties and turnovers and boneheaded plays. We just make sure we're crisp and clean since we don't have much film to go off of."
Part of the preparations for the opener included final training camp cuts Wednesday.
To get down to the league maximum, 25-man active roster, the Steamwheelers placed promising linebacker Perez Ford on Short-Term Injured Reserve after tweaking a groin muscle in practice this week.
Q-C also released a pair of hometown hopefuls in the final roster cuts Wednesday — offensive lineman Ed Beason and defensive back Logan Smith.
Now, the only decisions Ross needs to make before kickoff is which 21 players to suit up for the opener, and which quarterback he'll start — incumbent E.J. Hilliard or newcomer Dillon Turner.
"I've still got some tough choices in front of me," Ross said. "I'm not a two-quarterback guy, but that might change, and you might see them both in the opener."