CFF Series - Indiana's QB Whisperer Immediately Puts the Hoosiers on VP-Watch...
Hold onto your Eggo waffles, Hawkins, because Curt Cignetti is just what the doctor ordered in the B1G.
You smell that Max? That's actually shit. Cow shit.
(Max) I don't see any cows…
Clearly you haven't met the high school girls.
— Billy, Stranger Things
Let me kick this off by expressing gratitude—for everyone's peace of mind—because it seems there's hope for a B1G team to field a QB capable of completing a forward pass next year. The Indiana Hoosiers, who I’m hoping will be that team, made a significant move last Thursday with the appointment of former JMU Head Coach, Curt ‘The Paisano QB Whisperer’ Cignetti.
Cignetti has been all over the country in his lengthy coaching career, with stops at Alabama, Pittsburgh, NC State, Temple, JMU and now Indiana at the FBS level. He even spent a few years in the Lone Star state, coaching QBs at Rice in the 80s. But, for all of his travels, he had yet to set foot in the Hoosier state.
In fact, rumour has it that not only is Cignetti a QB whisper, but he’s also a huge fan of the TV show Stranger Things; so it’s no wonder that he attempted to recreate some of his favourite dialogue with his special assistant ‘Mags’ when they touched down in Indiana for the first time:
CIGNETTI: Ahhh… you smell that Mags? That’s actually shit. Cow shit.
(Mags) I don’t see any cows…
CIGNETTI: Clearly you haven’t seen the B1G QBs—Hello!
He’s quick on the draw— at least, that’s what they say about our man Cignetti. His QBs are too, which I will unpack in some detail in the following section.
For now, let me just say that I think this is a fantastic hire (hot take, I know…). At the very least, the CFF implications of this hire are going to be large, and there should be a lot of new value unlocked in the Hoosier program next season.
That’s how you do it, Hawkins! That’s how you do it! Is basically what I shouted when I heard the news. I mentioned in my weekly recap a few days ago that I was hoping IU would seek to recreate some of the Kalen Deboer vibes from a few seasons ago with its next hire, and — while Cignetti’s style is not air-raid — I like that he brings a strong pedigree in the passing attack from JMU.
This program is not an easy one to win at. Typically, that means you have to do some strange things on offence to overcome the talent advantage against some of the bigger programs. Some would even say that it is a constant up hill battle— well, the Hoosiers have found their guy who will be running up that hill for the foreseeable future.
My sources tell me that when Indiana’s AD reached out to JMU for a reference, JMU’s AD replied: “Cignetti consistently maxes out sets of bench press reps while ripping cigs and finishing with beer. Rocked Canadian tuxedos with a mullet when he was younger. Dude is the man.”
The only thing that could make this hire more epic, is if Cignetti took his introductory press conference to the media while pumping iron in the weight room with ‘Round n Round’ by Ratt blasting in the background, quoting only the lyrics to the song in his responses to their questions.
“Love will find a way, just give it time…”
Track Record at QB is Excellent (but was it because of him?)
The term ‘QB whisperer’ undoubtedly gets thrown around too much these days. But given what we’ve seen out of JMU, someone — if not Curt Cignetti himself — definitely deserves this designation.
Let’s just take a brief journey into history here for a moment. This past season, as many of you know, Jordan McCloud finished as a top seven QB both on FPG and total points. It wasn’t great to start the season. McCloud only netted 16, 17, and 13 points (4pt passing TD) in his first three outings. Then he unleashed his inner Demogorgin on an unsuspecting Utah State squad (43.16 points) in Week Four, slicing through defenders left and right as if he had some kind of telekinetic powers. McCloud proceeded to finish the year averaging 29.8 points per game.
The offensive improvement throughout the season was noticeable, but not a unique feature of Cignetti’s programs.
The season prior, Curt took another journey man QB in CSU cast-off Todd Centeio. I had seen a lot of Centeio in 2021 because I had a few shares of the CSU sledgehammer RB, David Bailey, that year. Frankly, I thought Centeio was awful. But, there’s a reason why Cignetti gets paid millions of dollars and I spend hours in my spare time writing CFF articles themed around TV shows— he saw enough potential in Centeio to take a shot on him. The transformation was ridiculous. Centeio finished the year with a 25-5 TD to INT ratio, passing for over 2600 yards and rushing for another 393, adding seven more scores on the ground in only 10 games (approximate average of about 27.6 FPG). He was a dynamite CFF option, and was one of my starters for one of my squads that season.
In 2021, it was Cole Johnson who lit the FCS on fire, scoring 41(!) passing TDs to only four INTs. He passed for over 3700 yards, and also rushed 86 times for 236 yards and six scores in 12 games. I won’t calculate that average since the level of competition was lower, it is not as relevant.
We’ll skip 2020 (mostly because data here is harder to find and that season was weird).
In 2019, it was Ben ‘big chin’ DeNucci, who — when he was not throwing passes for JMU, doubled as a mob extra for HBO in his spare time — passing for 3441 yards and a 29-6 INT ratio. Of course, as is typical with Cignetti’s QBs, DeNucci also rushed 122 times for 569 yards and seven TDs. Again, that was prior to the FBS promotion.
The question is, how much of this is due to Cignetti, and how much credit should be going to the QBs coach or OC? Well — contrary to what UM fans would tell you — the head coach oversees everything within the operation of a CFB program. So I am going to assume that Cignetti deserves at least some credit as it relates to JMU’s stellar QB development. Is he solely responsible? Unlikely, but all we can do is take things at face value.
At the very least, I think we can expect that whoever suits up for the Hoosiers at QB next season, that they are going to be running the ball a lot too. Cignetti’s track record suggests he seems to prefer a mobile QB.
There is also the possibility that Cignetti brings with him some of his former staff, which is a common trend we’ve seen when HCs switch programs. I would imagine that the QBs coach or OC might be a priority, but they’re probably also candidates to be the new JMU HC, so I’m not sure if they’d follow. Curt might also do the very Italian thing and hire his brother — Frank, recently relieved of his duties at Pitt, to fill in at OC. Only time will tell.
***FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE:
I suppose that puts an end to the concern of who the real QB whisperer was. Wheels up on the Hoosiers, baby!
Current Personnel & Upcoming Prospects
QB Timothy Carpenter (2024) — So first things first, I need to mention Carpenter. He’s actually not a Hoosier yet, but he’s a verbal commit. The three star gunslinger has a physical build that suggests he could be Cignetti’s guy in the future— but I doubt he’ll make noise in his freshman season in 2024. I just mention his name as one to tuck away. I’m hoping to acquire a share for myself in a rookie draft this offseason, so let’s just keep this one on the down low for the time being… just between (all of) you and me?
Side note, Cignetti coached Julio Jones as the WRs coach at Alabama, including his monster 2010 season. Other side note (spoiler), Indiana doesn’t have anybody like that on the roster currently.
RB Jaylin Lucas (5’9, 170)— Lucas is a RB but I feel like he could be switched to a slot receiver any day now. The sophomore playmaker caught 34 passes to his 67 rush attempts this past season. That dual usage makes him intriguing, and as I outlined in my rundown of JMU’s offence last offseason, Cignetti’s got a good history with the slot receiver position. We can add Elijah Sarratt’s 2023 season to that list of productive slot receiver campaigns under Cignetti. I don’t know that Lucas is that guy, but the writing on the wall is clear: we need to pay attention to whoever wins the starting slot role for Indiana next season. It might not be pretty to open the season, since there will be growing pains, but we could potentially see a midseason breakout like Sarratt had this year.
WR Dequece Carter (6’0, 200) — So, full disclosure, I don’t know whether Carter is coming back next season. I’ve given up on trying to understand eligibility in CFB. But, he was a decently productive player at the FCS level when playing for Fordham from 2019 to 2022— at least, enough to be able to make the shift up to the P5 (I guess it’s P4 now, that still doesn’t sound right…). Carter had some big games this year, particularly in the second half of the season. He finished his final three games scoring 11.8 or more points in PPR formats. His biggest game of the season came against PSU, where he scored 19.4 points, catching only three passes but taking a 90 yarder to the house.
WR Omar Cooper (6’1, 195) — I actually rostered Cooper in a dynasty league I was in this past season (Indianapolis has a good track record of producing stud wideouts, so I figured why not). His performance early in the year also warranted my attention. He had a big game vs. Indiana State, catching seven of his 10 targets for 101 yards, scoring 17.1 points in PPR formats. He also scored against Rutgers and PSU later in the year. Cooper is a redshirt freshman, so there is still a lot of potential here. I would say his build suggests he’ll play on the boundary if he’s starting for Cignetti, but after seeing Sarratt (6’2) line up in the slot in 2023, I am now of the mind that anything is possible with Curt.
QB Brenden Sorsby (6’3, 230) in portal — Sorsby was a pleasant surprise this year for the Hoosiers. Another redshirt freshman, he showed a lot of promise, and actually became fantasy relevant in deeper leagues in October and November. If there’s one thing we know about Cignetti, it’s that he wants mobile QBs. Sorsby actually excelled in this, rushing 112 times for 286 yards and four TDs in 10 games this season. Would he come back now that the Paisano QB Whisperer is in town? Something to monitor… I’d be very intrigued if he were to return.
Bring in a portal QB? Billy ‘Mind Flayer’ Atkins or McCloud at JMU — So this seems less likely, right? I’m not even sure McCloud could transfer again under the… I’m not sure what I should call them now… rules? Are there even any rules anymore with regards to the transfer portal? One thing I’d love to see, just because it would make this article theme complete, is an acquisition of one Billy ‘Mind Flayer’ Atkins via the portal.
Can’t you just picture it? It’s summer time in Indiana. Billy pops out of the dressing room — rocking some sick shades — and heads over pool side. On his way to his pool chair, he sees one of the Hoosier NIL sugar mommies:
“Looking good Mrs. Wheeler”
Flattered, Wheeler replies “Thank you, you’re not too bad yourself…
…Gosh, I just love this song!”
Billy nods “Kate Bush— melts my brain every time, fucking love the 80s classics. You know— we should have a private sesh some time, talk about my NIL contract?”
Wheeler quips back with a cheeky wink “You net me a 27 point average or more on my fantasy team this season, and we’ll talk.”
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