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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Curt Cignetti delivers stern message after ‘old Indiana’ football reappears

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BLOOMINGTON — Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Ta’Derius Collins stood on the sideline between Indiana football’s grass and turf practice fields on the north side of Memorial Stadium. 

Underneath Collins’ white jersey was a black long-sleeve shirt, while a red football helmet sat atop his head. Nothing was out of the ordinary — except for his cleats. 

Collins sported red Adidas’s with three white stripes littered with a repetitive three-word acronym: LEO, short for “Love Each Other.” It’s the slogan former Indiana head coach Tom Allen swore by and the basis on which he built his culture. 

But new head coach Curt Cignetti wants to create change. After all, he’s never had a losing season across 13 years on the sideline. Indiana is just 9-27 over the past three campaigns. 

And during Tuesday’s practice, Cignetti felt the Hoosiers resembled more the team they once were instead of who he hopes they become. 

“I think a lot of them were mature enough to come out, have the right mindset to get better,” Cignetti said. “But too many of them that people that follow Indiana ‘think’ are players came out like the old Indiana. And that’s what we need to eliminate — that kind of habit, choice, decision and mindset.” 

Cignetti was displeased, and he let his players know. After practice ended at around 10:40 a.m., the 62-year-old coach said he delivered a “pretty stern message,” recognizing the session didn’t meet his standard. 

Still, such a performance didn’t surprise Cignetti. 

Indiana gave its players an off-day Monday to watch the solar eclipse, and apart from a film session Sunday morning, Cignetti hadn’t seen his team since the first scrimmage Saturday. 

The Hoosiers usually practice Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, so the gap between Saturday and Tuesday wasn’t abnormal, but the off day was. 

The scrimmage was productive, Cignetti said, and even with his frustration, there were unnamed valuable lessons pulled from Tuesday’s session. 

But Cignetti doesn’t want such practices to become the norm — after all, under the prior coaching staff, they already were. 

“Knew it would be a challenge this morning, and it was,” Cignetti said. “I still think there’s probably a good core nucleus of guys who came out with the right mindset and got better, but too many didn’t. We can’t have practices like that and get done what we want to get done. So, we’ll keep plugging along.” 

Cignetti said he likes how lots of players and positions are shaping up this spring; he praised senior quarterback Kurtis Rourke, along with the running backs, receivers and the offensive line as collectives. 

Senior receiver Ke’Shawn Williams, who Cignetti said April 2 has been good in practice, was in a walking boot Tuesday. Similarly, Indiana’s defense is a bit shorthanded due to injuries, according to Cignetti. 

Still, players gelling isn’t Cignetti’s primary concern. Instead, it’s about on-field performance leading to a more defined pecking order come fall camp. 

“The cream rises to the top,” Cignetti said. “Who comes out and practices every day, day in, day out consistency. Who learns the plays, who does the right thing, who makes plays, who gives consistent effort, who doesn’t know their plays and who’s inconsistent.” 

Cignetti wants everything to be earned, not given — and doesn’t seem overly concerned about hurting feelings. 

“Our job isn’t to please them,” Cignetti said. “Their job is to please us.” 

So, when Indiana’s practices aren’t pleasing Cignetti as much as he feels they should, he speaks up. 

This is something he feels is his responsibility, not the players. Cignetti previously noted he’s still trying to figure out leaders on his team, though redshirt junior running back and James Madison University transfer Kaelon Black spoke to the team before a period of stretching. 

“Who you doing this for?” Black yelled. 

Collins later repeated the same phrase on the side to redshirt junior running back Trent Howland. 

The Hoosiers have a blend of returning leaders from last year, such as seventh-year linebacker Jacob Mangum-Farrar and sixth-year offensive lineman Mike Katic, but also an influx of veterans from the transfer portal. 

Still, Cignetti is taking charge. 

“It’s part of my job to have the team ready,” Cignetti said. “Day in, day out, maintain high standards. They become us; we don’t become them. Can’t compromise your standards, and when something doesn’t meet the bar, players need to know.” 

On Tuesday, the standard wasn’t met. It’s not a representation of Cignetti’s first spring in Bloomington, as he’s oft expressed satisfaction with the Hoosiers’ on-field product. 

But as practices dwindle and Indiana’s April 18 spring game nears, Cignetti is still trying to build the foundation for his debut season — a goal he feels has grown closer to completion since practice began March 21. 

“It’s hard for me to say where I wanted it to be because I never put a limit on any self-imposed limitations,” Cignetti said. “But I’ve definitely seen progress. Players understand how we practice — the way we practice — will make us better. I’ve seen improvement. We just want to make the most of every opportunity every day, every rep, every drill.” 

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana football offseason. 

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