This time last year, everyone wondered if Justin Falcinelli was going to be able to fill the shoes of two-time All-ACC center Jay Guillermo.
As it turned out, Falcinelli did just fine.
The Middletown, Md., native became an All-ACC center himself, as well as an Honorable mention All-American on an offensive line that helped the Tigers average nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. With a year of starting experience under his belt, Falcinelli returns for his final season in the orange and white.
Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell says Falcinelli is one of the smartest people he has ever met. There is truth to that statement. Falcinelli is heading into his second year of a graduate program at Clemson and last year was an All-ACC Academic selection. He already owns a degree in management.
On the football field, Falcinelli is one of three starters back on the offensive line, joining All-American Mitch Hyatt at left tackle and Tremayne Anchrum at right tackle. Right guard Sean Pollard started at right tackle as well last year, but he has moved over to be Clemson’s new right guard.
The center position is as deep as any on the offensive line. Gage Cervenka, who can also play guard, is listed as Falcinelli’s backup on the preseason depth chart, while Zach Giella is listed as No. 3. Cervenka and Giella are both redshirt juniors.
As for Falcinelli, he recorded 22 knockdown blocks as he played in all 14 games in 2017. In his first career start, he had a team-high three in 41 snaps as the Tigers routed Kent State. The next week against Auburn, he had two knockdown blocks.
His best game of the season came against Georgia Tech in Week 9, when he had three knockdown blocks as the Tigers rolled to an easy 24-10 victory.
With Falcinelli literally leading the way, the Clemson offense averaged 194.1 yards per game on the ground. The running game had five 200-yard rushing games, including a season-high 342 against Boston College.
The Tigers also had 297 rushing yards against Louisville, 190 against Wake Forest, 183 against the Citadel and 184 against South Carolina.
Clemson will open fall camp the first week of August before hosting Furman on Sept. 1 in the season opener.
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!