Justin Falcinelli will know he is doing his job right when no one knows his name.
“On the offensive line, no one knows who you are unless you mess up,” the redshirt sophomore said recently.
For that reason, Clemson’s newest center, who has the luxury of replacing two-time All-ACC center Jay Guillermo, does not believe he has as much pressure on him as the four quarterbacks who are vying to replace Deshaun Watson.
“In can be (pressure),” Falcinelli said. “The quarterback probably has more pressure. Most people don’t know who I am.”
But right now everyone does. Everyone is watching because replacing Guillermo is a big deal at Clemson. Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott definitely thinks it is. He said they had a comfort level with Guillermo, who was quick at reading defenses and getting the offensive line lined up.
Elliott says the center position sets the tempo in Clemson’s high-powered offense. The Clemson coach says the center position is especially important because of the speed of their offense.
“There is no doubt Falcinelli can fill his shoes,” Elliott said. “Obviously, he is going to have to learn like Jay had to learn, but he has the skill set to do it.”
Falcinelli just has to do it faster. Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell says as smart as Falcinelli is he is sometimes unsure of himself and indecisive when he is making his calls. Falcinelli says that is something he is trying to improve on this spring.
“Things will happen so fast up at the line that you will go out with a play and then things will change immediately,” he said. “A lot of times, I will be thinking too hard and will be reading too much into it. I just need to make a quick decision, go with what I see and what I know and get after it after that.”
In other words, Falcinelli just needs to trust his gut. However, Elliott said he likes what he has seen from his young center so far this spring.
“Now that he knows that it is his job to go and win and has a true opportunity to compete, you are seeing a different confidence level,” Elliott said. “The biggest thing there is just gaining that experience. Even Jay, early on, it took him a while to gain that experience.”
Before coming to Clemson, Falcinelli had never played center or even snapped a football.
“Snapping, it is hard to get used to,” he said. “Once I got that down, it is learning all the little things, making the quick decisions and learning what the defense is doing.”
Falcinelli says it helps he played guard before making the move to center.
“It helped coming from guard because I helped the center on just about every play. So I have an understanding of what to do,” he said. “The guard still has some calls to make, but the center directs traffic and it is just being able to take up and being able to be the guy who leads as the captain of the ship and tells everyone where they need to be is a big step up.”
And it’s a step he hopes no one knows he is taking.
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