When the Soul were eliminated in the first round of the 2014 Arena Football League playoffs, the loss solidified the front office's belief that it was time for change.

In the two previous seasons, the Soul had reached the ArenaBowl but failed to win the title. Last year, they were an aging, 9-9 team, one headed in a direction no one liked.

So coach Clint Dolezel and his staff embarked upon a massive retooling effort, the goal being to make the Soul younger, more athletic, and once again a legitimate ArenaBowl contender.

"We believe that we've accomplished that," Dolezel said. "We have just 11 players from last year's roster returning. But I like this group better than any group we've had here in the past."

The changes for the Soul, who open the 2015 season at 7 p.m. Sunday at Orlando, are radical. As an example, they traded fullback Derrick Ross, 31, the league's all-time leader in rushing yards (2,260) and rushing touchdowns (142).

"We had to make some hard decisions to make our team better," Dolezel said. "In order to get better you have to take some bold initiatives. We feel like we've done that."

In exchange for Ross, the Soul acquired first-team all-Arena linebacker Beau Bell, 28, from the Los Angeles Kiss. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder recorded 69 tackles and 13 sacks and scored one defensive touchdown last season. He should make the defense much better.

The most notable addition, however, is at receiver, where the Soul this month signed former Iowa Barnstormer Marco Thomas.

Thomas was named receiver of the year and first-team all-Arena after setting career bests with 151 receptions, 1,946 yards, and 39 touchdowns in 18 games. Thomas replaces Anthony Jones, now with Jacksonville, who had 1,646 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns.

"It's a great opportunity to come here and play in Philly," Thomas said. "We have the potential to do some really good things. This is the best group of receivers I've ever played with."

Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who last season completed 363 of 562 passes (64.6 percent) for 4,328 yards and 85 touchdowns, also has another potentially dangerous downfield weapon: Shaun Kauleinamoku, acquired from now-defunct Pittsburgh. Last season with the Power, Kauleinamoku had 124 receptions for 1,349 yards and 19 scores.

The Soul, who finished second in the league in total offense (5,139) and points per game (56.7) and third in first downs (364), also get back receiver Ryan McDaniel. McDaniel played just 12 games in 2014 because of a torn Achilles tendon, which he pronounced fully mended in February.

"A lot of new faces," Raudabaugh said. "It's a challenge to get everything to work. But guys are ready and anxious to get going."

jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer