“Looking good, Mrs. Wheeler…”

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—on behalf of everyone—that it appears one B1G team will be fielding a QB capable of completing a forward pass this upcoming season. The Indiana Hoosiers, who I’m hoping will be that team, made a significant move in the offseason with the appointment of former JMU head coach, Curt ‘The 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.

He didn’t join the program alone. Shortly after his appointment, he brought some of his Louis with him in the form of OC Mike Shanahan, and QBs coach Tino Sunseri.

Apparently, he wasn’t impressed with what he saw on the roster when he arrived:

CIGNETTI: You smell that Tino? That’s actually shit. Cow shit.

(Tino) I don’t see any cows…

CIGNETTI: Clearly you haven’t seen our QB room.

Cignetti quickly remedied his cow problem—replacing calf with a pig—bringing in the one they call The Maple Missile, also known as Kurtis Rourke, by way of Ohio University (MAC). Rourke is a known entity amongst the CFB degenerate. He was an entry in the prestigious ‘MAC daddies’ list after a stellar campaign in 2022 was cut short with a season-ending injury late in the year.

He failed to recapture that form last year with the Bobcats, but a change of scenery, and another year removed from that injury could provide a boon here in performance in 2024.

Here are a few interesting quotes from a recent practice report on IU QBs:

“I’m not going to tell you about the quarterback rotation. From here on out I may not really be very open about it,” Cignetti said Tuesday morning. “Although, I am impressed with Rourke’s progress, let’s just say that.”

“He just looks like the last two practices he’s been functioning, looking like a high-level quarterback,” Cignetti said.

Assuming Rourke begins the season as Indiana’s starter, it will afford valuable development time for IU’s collection of young signal-callers, especially Cherry, a four-star freshman from Center Grove, Ind.

The VP interns (and many among the CFF community) questioned me when I gave up a 2025 first-round selection in CFF Nate’s dynasty league in exchange for Rourke this past February. And to be clear, I questioned myself, as I really wasn’t that high on Rourke at the time.

Live look at VP when reading Cignetti’s quotes on Rourke

That’s how you do it, Rourke! That’s how you do it! Is basically what I shouted when I read the quotes. My excitement may be premature.

I have a lot of faith in Cignetti’s ability to produce lemonade when life gives him lemons, but it should be said, this program is not an easy one to win at. 

Typically, that means you have to do some strange things on offense to overcome the talent advantage against some of the bigger programs. Some would even say that it is a constant uphill battle—well, the Hoosiers have (apparently) found their quarterback, who will be running up that hill for the foreseeable future.

Cignetti, whose QB escapades have turned him into a multi-year recipient of my annual stuffed pig deliveries in mid-December, sent me this text over the holidays in response to my trepidation around Indiana’s success playing in the new B1G:

Love will find a way, just give it time…

Track Record at QB is Excellent

It has been said that when mathematician/economist John Nash was applying to Princeton, his undergraduate professor wrote as a reference, “John Nash is a mathematical genius”.

Indeed, sometimes, the simpler the endorsement, the better. My sources tell me that when Indiana’s AD reached out to JMU for a reference on Cignetti, JMU’s AD simply 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 term ‘QB whisperer’, like ‘genius’, 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.

This past season, as many of you know, Jordan McCloud finished as a top seven QB both on PPG and total points. It wasn’t a great to start the season. McCloud only netted 16, 17, and 13 points (four point passing TD) in his first three outings. Then he unleashed his inner Demogorgin on an unsuspecting Utah State squad when he passed for four TDs and added two more on the ground (39 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 ~26.2 points per game.

The offensive improvement throughout the season was noticeable, but not a unique feature of Cignetti’s programs.

The season before, Curt took another journeyman quarterback in CSU cast-off Todd Centeio. I saw 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 do not— 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 2,600 yards and rushing for another 366, adding seven more scores on the ground in only 10 games (approximate average of about 27.5 PPG). He was a dynamite CFF option and was one of my starters for one of my squads that season.

In 2021, Cole Johnson lit the FCS on fire, scoring 41(!) passing TDs to only four INTs. He passed for over 3,700 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 DiNucci, who—when he was not throwing passes for JMU, doubled as a mob extra for HBO in his spare time—passing for 3,441 yards and a 29-6 INT ratio. Of course, as is typical with Cignetti’s QBs, DiNucci also rushed 122 times for 569 yards and seven TDs. Again, that was prior to the FBS promotion.

Ben DiNucci 2019 Season Stats. Source: ESPN

Mike Shanahan—no, not that Mike Shanahan—followed Cignetti from JMU, where he’d been at since 2019. He joined as the WRs coach and was promoted to OC in 2021. He currently occupies the role of OC/WRs coach at IU.

Prior to coaching under Cignetti, Shanahan was the WRs coach of Elon, which is an FCS school. Given that Shanahan’s been attached at the hip to Cignetti, their numbers are identical. 

Over the last two seasons at JMU, the Cignetti/Shanahan QB1 has averaged 346 pass attempts, 3176 pass yards, 30 pass TDs, seven INTs, 96 rush attempts, 211 yards, and eight scores per season (~26 PPG in four-point passing TD formats).

Who is this Tino Sunseri Character?

Now, onto the QBs coach, Tino Sunseri. This man is not only well connected over the five boroughs of New York—making him always liable for a killer Italian dinner rezo—but his background in coaching is intriguing. He was part of the all-star crew at JMU, coaching QBs from 2021-23. He is now in the same role with Indiana, but also has the title of co-OC with the Hoosiers.

Prior to JMU, he was a graduate assistant at Alabama, where he undoubtedly learned a lot from Steve Sarkisian, who himself coached Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones to CFF excellence. Prior to Alabama, he served in quality control at Tennessee and Florida State. Sounds like a straight shooter with future SEC coach written all over him.

Kurtis Rourke — 6’5″, 230 lbs.

2023 STATS (11 GP) — PASSING: 195/307 – 2207 – 11:5 — RUSHING: 67-219-4

Rourke will be entering his sixth season of CFB in 2024 after playing five with the Ohio Bobcats. He currently is not being drafted in CFF drafts according to Campus2Canton’s ADP tool.

Unfortunately for Rourke, 2024 will be a much tougher test than his previous stint in the MAC. The good news is that IU is loaded with receiving options, including Myles Price, Elijah Sarratt, and Donaven McCulley, among others. 

The other good news is that it seems (based on reports) that Rourke is gelling nicely with his new environment. In addition to the above quotes, rumor has it that when Rourke arrived on his first day in the IU facility, he was greeted by one of the Hoosier NIL sugar mommies; and of course, being the smooth devil that he is, Rourke was quick on the draw:

Looking good, Mrs. Wheeler

Thank you, you’re not too bad yourself, Maple Missile…

(awkward pause)

…Gosh, I just love this song!

Rourke nods in agreement Kate Bush— melts my brain every time, fucking love the 80s classics. By the way, when can we talk deets about my NIL contract?

Wheeler quips back with a cheeky wink. “You net a 25-point average or more this season, and we’ll talk.”

Scoring 25+ PPG might be a big ask in regular formats, but Rourke has shown glimpses in his career that he’s an above-average talent at QB. His best statistical season came in 2022 when he passed for 3,256 yards, 25 TDs to only 4 INTs, and rushed for an additional 219 yards and four scores on 74 carries.

The dual-threat ability is crucial. Cignetti’s quarterbacks have always been asked to run under his system. Though they don’t necessarily accumulate a lot of rushing yardage, they do tend to score a lot of rushing touchdowns (eight per season).

Rourke is a big body who has shown he can dominate at a lower level. The questions that remain are: 1) his health, 2) how will he acclimate to the B1G, and will IU’s offense produce enough to support a strong QB asset, and 3) how will he fit in the Cignetti system?

You can find more articles like this here: VolumePigs.

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