OL Justin Falcinelli (6'4/5 300) committed to Dabo Swinney last week to make the 14th commitment to the 2014 class. He committed after visiting Stanford and deciding Clemson was where he wanted to be. He has a 3.9 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society--so he is intelligent and should be another high character addition to Clemson. He is a consensus 3* player across the board with recruiting services. He plays at Middletown MD where the level of competition is not stellar. He actually plays both ways for his team as an offensive tackle and defensive tackle. His teammate is Rick Leonard who I will get to in a bit. At this stage he is a run blocker and will need to refine/learn technique as a pass blocker.
Middletown is a run option type of team and they just don't pass the ball all that much, so he just hasn't had the opportunity. They were undefeated at 14-0 last year. He plays tough, to or past the whistle and really moves people around with a nice punch and burst (granted this is lesser competition). He also moves well in space and gets to the next level of defenders quickly. He will be able to pull, effectively as a guard. I think his home will most likely be at guard at the college level. Seems to have good, quick feet but will need to see more film before I can definitively say. He does seem to play too high at times and will need to play much lower at the next level and work on leverage.
This comes as a bit of a surprise to me personally. I don't want to take anything away from Falcinelli--he is a solid pick-up and I am always in favor of bringing in more quality players along the lines. We had Nolan Kelleher more highly rated on our board though. I don't think the margin of difference is really that great, more that you don't exactly know what you get ultimately in Falcinelli (the total run/pass blocking combination). The Wando standout was thought to be committing relatively soon because he had been waiting on a commitable offer from the coaching staff. That happened a couple of months ago but what I am hearing is that Kelleher opted to go a different route. Very surprising, considering we had serious help in the situation.
Donell Stanley is the top rated player in the state of South Carolina in my book and one of the top offensive guards in the nation. This commitment shows how unlikely we are to land him. After leading very early-on last year for a short time for his services, it seems that Stanley is going elsewhere with Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina being the most likely destinations. We will still continue to pursue Stanley (probably not as intensely now) but the commitment of Falcinelli this early is certainly an indication that we have very little to no confidence in landing Stanley.We currently have 17 Olineman and want to carry 15 overall. Only Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley come off but there are easily three players who need to be 'graduated'.
What does this mean in relation to DE Rick Leonard (6'7, 260)?? The commitment of Falcinelli absolutely helps us with the recruitment of Leonard. He will visit Florida State in late July and should have his decision after that visit. He will be working out for FSU so I think this is a bit of a try-out. Clemson wants him at DE but FSU will take him as an OT or TE prospect as well (I'm not sure they are sold on him as a pure DE yet). Maryland is still an outside possibility.
I have seen some people in the Clemson blogosphere talking about how they want someone ranked higher than Leonard at DE. That is just silly talk. Leonard has played one year of organized football. In that one year he was absolutely dominant. He has the highest ceiling amongst the defensive ends left on the board. Andrew Williams (6'4, 245) is justifiably on the top of the board but Leonard is right behind in my mind. We did tell him that he would be the only DE taken but I see us taking 2 DE's at this point. Featherston is a nice prospect but is more of a project. All three are great prospects and we should be happy to have any of those three. If the commitment of Falcinelli helps us to land Leonard then this is a great move overall (calling it 'crucial' might be overstating the case but subtlety has never been one of T-net's strongest points).