This weekend the IFL will open up the 2020 season with two games. Quad City Steamwheelers will travel to Cedar Rapids to take on the River Kings on Saturday and the San Diego Strike Force will travel to Bismarck and to do war with the Bucks on Sunday. Last year, the 2019 season, was my first exposure to this league and a year later I’m branching out and diving in head first into the IFL this year. I’ve followed closely this off-season doing my best to expand my knowledge of the game, style and coaches; I’ve worked hard on trying to get to know the players better and work towards becoming more knowledgeable about what each player brings to a team.
This is my first attempt at doing anything IFL related and I’ve stuck to power rankings for this year while I continue to learn and understand the game better. So, take it easy on your critique of my power rankings, or don’t, that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? Needless to say, I’ve done some homework and this is the end result for my early IFL power rankings!
1. Sioux Falls Storm – 2019: 11-3(IFL League Champions)
The Storm might not top most people’s power ranking lists but the reigning champions weren’t quiet this off-season. They’re bringing back the 2019 IFL United Bowl MVP in Lorenzo Brown and they signed Tommy Armstrong, Jr, the explosive QB from the recently folded Nebraska Danger. If the offensive coordinator for this team is creative, they should be able to find a way to feature both quarterbacks and that could spell trouble for the rest of the IFL and their defenses. It needs to be noted that Brown finished third in the league in passing yards per game last year and Tommy Armstrong finished second in rushing yards per game. So, the Storm signing Armstrong shouldn’t be overlooked by the IFL.
2. Arizona Rattlers – 2019: 14-0(IFL Runner-Ups)
The Rattlers had a sensational season a year ago and they looked almost unstoppable. They went undefeated in the regular season and saw their dream season ended by the Storm in the championship game. They re-signed QB Drew Powell, who had an amazing year last year. Kevin Guy returns to coach the team and they spent a lot of time in the off-season signing a slew of wide receivers to help Powell. Powell, who only had six starts for the Rattlers last year, threw for 807 yards and added an additional 328 to his season totals. He averaged 189 yards a game in combined offense during that span. The Rattlers will look to duplicate the success of a year ago and make another run at the championnship.
3. Tucson Sugar Skulls – 2019: 7-7
One of the biggest off-season acquisition for Tucson came at the head coaching spot as they hired Dixie Wooten to take over the reigns. Wooten, who left the Iowa Barnstormers, brought WR Ryan Balentine and IFL MVP QB Daquan Neal with him as they gear up for a run at the top. Neal and Balentine accounted for over 4,000 yards of total offense for the Barnstormers in 2019 – a massive upgrade for the Sugar Skulls heading into the 2020 season. It appears on paper that Tucson is looking to duplicate the success of the Barnstormers this year and have become a name to watch during the 2020 season.
4. Green Bay Blizzard – 2019: 9-5
The Blizzard, behind the play of QB Lenorris Footman, went onto a competitive 9-5 season in 2019. Footman, who had a combined 2,675 yards from scrimmage, was the Blizzard’s best offensive weapon. They had three wide receivers go for over 400 yards receiving and three of their top four receivers re-signed in the off-season. The Blizzard will need to have someone step up and help Footman on offense if Green Bay is going to make a championship push. Behind Footman, GB needs another rushing presence to keep this offense balanced.
5. Spokane Shock – Expansion Team
Probably the most surprising team on this list, the Shock will enter their first season of IFL play in 2020. They hired head coach Billy Back from the NAL’s Carolina Cobras, who brought a ton of talent with him to Spokane. Usually, I’m more reserved with expansion teams but feel with Billy Back’s success with the Cobras paired with his core group coming with him, the team chemistry shouldn’t suffer. Back also has experience with the IFL so the adjustment to the game shouldn’t be a huge learning curve. Out of the four newest IFL additions, the Shock could be a prime candidate to surprise a lot teams in 2020.
6. Duke City Gladiators – 2019: CIF Champions
The second of the four new teams to the IFL in 2020, the Gladiators experienced a lot of success, including back to back championships, in the CIF. This year, they take the “step up” in competition. Duke City, unlike two of the other new teams, will get to experience a chemistry already established from their CIF days; whether or not they achieve the same kind of success will be seen. The biggest challenge Duke City faces will be their ability to adapt to a different set of skilled players they didn’t see at the CIF level of indoor football. To help with easing their existence into the IFL, they hired former head coach of the Nebraska Danger, Pig Brown.
7. Quad City Steamwheelers – 2019: 6-8
In 2019, Quad City was on the cusp of the playoffs. In 2020, they’ll look to make the leap into the playoffs. They had an active, but important off-season, as they re-signed QB E.J. Hilliard. Hilliard’s 2019 campaign rivaled that of league MVP Daquan Neal and the Steamwheelers will need that same type of success to make the jump into the playoffs. They also re-signed two of the top three receivers on an at game average in the IFL in Quinton Pedroza and Keyvan Rudd. The importance of re-signing their offensive core was important. Despite the losing record in 2019, this team should open a lot of eyes this season and could be a pleasant surprise to fans and the league.
8. Iowa Barnstormers – 2019: 12-2
After a 12-2 season, the Barnstormers plummet down the rankings to start the season. Iowa, not only has a new head coach, but they have to find two new players to account for over 4,000 yards of offense. League MVP Daquan Neal and his most reliable and star wide receiver Ryan Balentine took their talents south to Tuscon. The Barnstormers spent the entire off-season revamping the offense, but they did sign 2018 CIF MVP RB Darrian Miller. They’ll need to lean on Miller and hope that their receivers and quarterback can elevate a completely retooled and new offense for the 2020 season. This season could be a shockingly bad season for Iowa or it could be a surprising successful season, but it all starts with new head coach Ameer Ismail.
9. San Diego Strike Force – 2019: 1-13
The late announced expansion team from last season, San Diego really struggled on defense. I know, I know, talking about defense in the world of arena or indoor seems like a moot point. Except, in this case, it was San Diego’s Achilles, as their defense couldn’t keep pace with their offense. They had trouble finding their identity on offense but that should improve heading into this year. They spent a lot of the off-season signing players on defense as they identified their biggest weakness. They had two receivers go for over 600 yards last season but those numbers will have to grow if they want to make a late push. I expect this team to improve but the playoffs might still be another year out for this former expansion team.
10. Bismarck Bucks – 2019: 2-12
Honestly, heading into the 2020 season, this team baffles me more than any other team. Last season, they finished 2-12 and were dreadful on the offensive side of the ball. They had two QBs, neither of whom threw for 1,000 yards on the year, lead the team in rushing. The problem? On top of dismal passing numbers, neither quarterback ran for over 400 yards; as a matter of fact, John Gibbs led the team in rushing with a mere 302 yards. Their leading receiver barely had over 500 yards receiving. Bismarck spent a good portion of the off-season revamping and bringing in offensive talent, but I’m not sure where they’ll get their offensive production. The Bucks could surprise if they find a hidden gem, but if they don’t, it’ll likely be another long season for Bismarck fans.
11. Cedar Rapids River Kings – 2019: 1-13
The 11th spot on this rankings feels a bit generous to me, but because of the last two teams being expansion teams, Cedar Rapids starts here by default. This team was in shambles by the end of the year with a lot of issues behind the scenes. Players quit mid-season and it left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. Moving forward though, it’s 2020 and a brand new season could bring new life to this team. They brought in QB Derrick Bernard from the San Diego Strike Force, who in 8 games, had more passing yards than anyone on entire River Kings’ team. They also brought Javin Kilgo, so they were dedicated to bringing players for competition. They signed former Auburn standout, RB Michael Dyer, which will help a practically non-existent running game from 2019. The River Kings will hopefully improve on the 2019 season, I mean, winning a second game shouldn’t too hard, right?
12. Oakland Panthers – Expansion Team
Generally, as a rule of thumb, my early power rankings, I rank all the expansion teams at the bottom. But due to established chemistry, I made an exception for Spokane and Duke City. Oakland joins the IFL ranks with name recognition behind them. Former NFL running back, Marshawn Lynch, is involved with ownership for the league. They immediately signed former Nebraska Danger RB, Davonte Sapp-Lynch, one of the better running backs in the IFL. The Panthers will need to find quality play from several players, but the quarterback position is the position to watch. Oakland will need steady play from that spot in order to avoid the same struggles that San Diego faced last year.
13. Frisco Fighters – Expansion Team
Rounding my list for the week one power rankings is the Frisco Fighters. They were the last team announced for 2020 play and it was announced well into the start of free agency leaving Frisco at a disadvantage. To compound the struggles of a late announcement, the IFL made a statement that anybody who played for the folding AFL, would be ineligible to play for the IFL in 2020. The Fighters did bring over former AFL head coach Clint Dolezel, which could prove to be their biggest signing in the off-season. Clint had a very successful coaching career in the AFL as a three-time ArenaBowl Champion and three time coach of the year honors, as well. He brought former QB Dan Raudabaugh with him as his offensive coordinator. It is possible this team could creep up the rankings.
There it is. My first attempt. It won’t be my last as I’m dedicated to doing this after each week. All I ask is be patient with me while I continue to learn and get a better grasp on the IFL and it’s players. I’m here to stay, that’s for sure, regardless.
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