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Pitt, WPIAL Alums Mike Shanahan, Tino Sunseri Move Up Coaching Ranks at JMU



Two former WPIAL and Pitt Panthers football players received nice promotions and are moving their way up the college football coaching ranks.

James Madison head coach and Pittsburgh native Curt Cignetti has announced the the promotion of Mike Shanahan to offensive coordinator and the hiring of Tino Sunseri as the team’s new quarterbacks coach.

Sunseri joins the Dukes after spending the last two seasons as an offensive analyst for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Sunseri’s father, Sal Sunseri, is outside linebackers coach at Alabama and his brother, Vinnie Sunseri was also on the Tide staff before taking a job with the New England Patriots last season.

Sunseri worked last season with former Alabama offensive coordinator and new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, who spoke highly of him in an interview with Greg Madia of the Daily News-Record.

“Tino is a tremendous young coach with a really bright and innovative offensive mind,” Sarkisian told Madia. “He comes from a football family, was an accomplished quarterback himself and just loves the game of football. I really enjoyed my time working with him at Alabama and know he’ll do great things for James Madison.”

Before Alabama, Tino Sunseri was a quality control assistant at Tennessee in 2018 and Florida State from 2016-17. A three-year starter at Pitt, Sunseri went on to play three seasons for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning a Grey Cup in 2013.

While quarterbacking Pitt, Cignetti’s brother, Frank Cignetti, was Sunseri’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Sunseri will now be working with Shanahan, someone that he teamed up with for plenty of big plays while at Pitt. The Norwin grad will become an offensive coordinator for the first time after having served as wide receivers coach for Cignetti at IUP, Elon and James Madison. Shanahan is replacing Shane Montgomery, who left last week to take over the offense at Buffalo.

“Mike Shanahan is more than ready to take over an increased role as offensive coordinator,” Cignetti told the Daily News-Record.

Shanahan and Sunseri played together at Pitt for four seasons from 2009-13. Shanahan spent time with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL, but never played in a game. He returned to Pitt as a graduate assistant for two seasons, working with the team’s wide receivers before becoming receivers coach at IUP in 2016 under Cignetti.

Cignetti, a Pittsburgh native and West Virginia alum, also got his coaching start at Pitt as a graduate assistant in 1983-84 and was quarterbacks coach for the Panthers from 1993-99.

The three coaches with Pitt and Pittsburgh connections will have some talent to work with at JMU this season, as starting quarterback Cole Johnson recently announced that he’ll return for a sixth season this fall.

The Dukes finished the 2020-21 season with a 7-1 record and lost in the FCS semifinals to Sam Houston State on May 8.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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