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Steamwheelers tweaking things in Year 2 in IFL

Steamwheelers tweaking things in Year 2 in IFL

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Quad City Steamwheelers head coach Cory Ross talks to his players at the end of the team's first practice Saturday at the TBK Bank Sports Complex.

Keyvan Rudd finally broke down and did it in October.

For the first time in 10 years, the popular Quad City Steamwheelers wide receiver got a haircut. He reluctantly lopped eight inches off the dreadlocks he had been growing since his senior year at Davenport Central High School.

Rudd’s hair, which still extends far below the lower edge of his helmet, may be one of the most visible changes in the Steamwheelers as they enter their second season in the Indoor Football League, but it’s hardly the only one. Or the most significant.

There have been several changes, including some tactical things that won’t be noticeable until the team begins the season a week from Saturday on the road at Cedar Rapids.

“Coach (Cory Ross) has made some slight adjustments, but they’re major adjustments,’’ Rudd said after the team’s first preseason practice Saturday. “It’s going to take us a couple of days to get used to it, but we see the bigger picture. Once that bigger picture comes together, what we’re putting together here is going to look great.’’

Ross isn’t divulging a lot of details about the tweaks in an offense that already was among the best in the IFL.

“We’ve got some things we’re doing on offense that once we get it, I think it’s going to be very, very special,’’ he said.

But Rudd said the changes in the third-year franchise don’t just involve tactics.

“It’s everything,’’ he said. “How practice is run, facilities, treatment, even down to the vouchers so guys can eat. All these things they put together in the off-season and it’s going to be a good look.’’

The Steamwheelers also have some new personnel although about a dozen players return from a team that went 6-8 and narrowly missed making the IFL playoffs.

The returnees include the team’s primary offensive weapons: Rudd, fellow wideout Quinton Pedroza and quarterback E.J. Hilliard, all of whom earned All-IFL honors.

They also have added some new linemen and even more speed on both sides of the ball.

Rudd is one of five local products vying for spots on the team’s final 25-man roster along with defensive backs Leonard Smith and Quinlan Johnson, running back Amos Johnson and defensive end Robert Jones, who led the team in sacks last season but is currently sidelined by a shoulder injury.

“Our locals have always been good to us,’’ Ross said.

He said the biggest unknown in that group is Amos Johnson, who starred at Rock Island before going on to play at William Penn.

“His film makes it look like he played fullback because they played the wishbone …’’ Ross said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what he does coming out of the backfield.’’

The Wheelers worked out in pads for the first time Sunday and will go through two-a-days this week at their new facility at the TBK Bank Sports Complex, then will hold an intrasquad scrimmage Friday before making cuts.

The new facility at TBK is another big change as it brings the team’s offices, practice facility and other facilities all together into convenient location.

“It’s a huge win …’’ Rudd said. “The office is right there, the gym’s upstairs, we’ve got basketball courts, we’ve got the Genesis place right there … This is our biggest update right here having this indoor facility.’’


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