After a championship season that featured an offensive line that progressed into one of Clemson’s top strengths, a veteran starter remains at all but one crucial spot.
Jay Guillermo leaves a big hole at center, and very big shoes to fill. He was the emotional and vocal leader of one of the best offensive lines in the country. Redshirt junior Justin Falcinelli will try to fill those big shoes and anchor what looks to be one of the few veteran strengths in a young Tigers’ offense.
Falcinelli, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound center from Maryland, says replacing Guillermo is almost impossible, he will try to make his own mark on the team.
“You cannot replace Jay Guillermo, he is a one-of-a-kind guy,” he said. “We’re moving on, reloading and getting back into it.”
After being a backup for several years, Falcinelli has patiently waited for his time.
“I’m the guy now. I gotta go out there and take the reins and be the guy that everyone’s gonna rely on,” he said. “I’ve been here three years, going on my fourth year grinding so it’s just getting that final opportunity here to put my work in.”
Falcinelli said he has been learning from some of the best in the country and working on his craft during his tenure at Clemson, but said he is just focused on one thing while preparing for the upcoming season.
“Just consistency, just every day I go out there being good, being someone that everyone can rely on,” he said.
It also helps to have loads of experience in Taylor Hearn and Tyrone Crowder lined up next to him on both sides, helping Falcinelli learn along the way.
“They’re big boys and they’ll help you out,” he said. “Just having all of that experience around me is just a big plus.”
In addition to having experience all around him, it’s easy to forget Falcinelli played in 11 of Clemson’s games last season, logging valuable minutes and gaining plenty of experience.
“I’ve played in almost every big game we’ve been in so there’s nothing overwhelming,” he said. “I’m used to it all. I’ve been playing with Taylor since I got here so we have good chemistry together.”