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Indiana football, Curt Cignetti and 20 days of fourth-and-1

The Hoosiers’ new head coach got to work right away in Bloomington.

Syndication: USA TODAY Rich Janzaruk / USA TODAY NETWORK

Curt Cignetti still doesn’t know what Bloomington looks like. Not in the light, at least.

He lives there, in a university-owned house a couple blocks away from downtown, but time hasn’t been on his side. The best he’s done is the occasional drive past it, from that house all the way to the athletic facilities, his new office.

He leaves in the dark. He gets home in the dark, sometimes after midnight.

Those hours aren’t fun, but they’re necessary. A few hours now for months of a (hopefully) competitive roster next fall. This is the most important time of the year as a college head coach, and Cignetti wasn’t about to miss it.

“It was crunch time,” Cignetti said at signing day. “It had to be done.”

At the time of his press conference Indiana had signed 31 players, announcing all but seven. The seven were playing in bowls, he explained, and they’d be announced once the game had been played.

It’s not a complete rebuild, but reload isn’t necessarily the right word. The Hoosiers’ scholarship chart was a mess from the previous two offseasons of heavy portal use, so the new staff had some cleaning up to do.

The biggest wins are evident: Getting guys like Carter Smith and Donaven McCulley to withdraw from the portal, adding talent like Kurtis Rourke and overall inspiring some confidence going forward.

Those guys have substantial star ratings, but that’s not what Cignetti cares about. He just wants players, ratings be damned. Not all the four-stars will tear up the field and not all of the three-stars will waste away on the depth chart.

Micah McFadden, one of Indiana’s best players of the past decade, was the lowest rated recruit of Indiana’s 2018 signing class. Now he’s a difference maker on defense for the New York Giants.

So don’t overlook names like Alberto Mendoza, Brody Kosin, William Depaepe or Khobie Martin among freshmen or transfers like Nick Kidwell, Aiden Fisher, or Ty Son Lawton. Cignetti and staff saw talent there, and that’s what matters.

Cignetti didn’t come to strip the roster and rebuild for a few years. He wants to win immediately and, to that end, kept the pieces he liked and turned away those he didn’t. He’s won with some of these guys before, football is football.

Rosters are made during the offseason and Indiana probably isn’t done, but it’s hard to say the first few weeks of Cignetti’s tenure have been anything but a success.

One way or another, he’s got attention on a program that doesn’t get much.

Be it taking a microphone at Assembly Hall to declare that, not only does Purdue suck, but so do Michigan and Ohio State or replying “I win, Google me,” when asked about his recruiting pitch.

He has the attention and quite a few of the players he wanted. Wins must follow but, as he stated, that’s in his track record.