Arkansas State was in need of an offensive coordinator after Walt Bell left for Maryland following its loss to Louisiana Tech in the New Orleans Bowl. After a three-week search. Coach Blake Anderson last week announced the hiring of Buster Faulkner, who comes to ASU after five seasons at Middle Tennessee.
Faulkner and Anderson have never coached together, but Faulkner has coached with defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen at both Division II Valdosta State and Middle Tennessee. Faulkner has also operated a fast-paced, up-tempo offense similar to what Anderson has been dedicated to for more than a decade.
Faulkner conducted a phone interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Friday. The following is a partial transcript of that interview.
Q. Why make the move after five years at Middle Tennessee?
A. I think the biggest thing is No. 1 is Coach [Blake] Anderson. Just having the opportunity to work with him I think is going to be something to benefit my career. And it's obviously coming to a special place — a place that's won for the last seven, eight, 10 years it seems like. The people there are really engaged in what's going on. It seems like a special place. I know [defensive coordinator] Joe Cauthen and [former offensive line coach] Glen Elarbee — and I know Glen is no longer there — and [defensive line coach] Brian Early, and just to see how much they've enjoyed it and what a special place it seems to be to them. That's kind of what gravitated me to it.
Q. What is your past history with Coach Blake Anderson?
A. We've talked a lot over the last three weeks, but I didn't know him. I think I spoke to him one time before, but I did not know him. I've gotten to know him really well over the last three weeks. He's a great communicator, and I can tell he's a great leader and he's a guy I can tell you want your family around. His environment is something that I've always strived for — if I ever got to be in his position, the things that he was saying are the things that I always thought would be how I would want to do it.
Q. What was the timeline from the end of the season until this week?
A. You know, [Anderson] contacted me a few weeks back and small talk here and there. We're both finishing up seasons, you know Christmas and all that kind of stuff, and you want to take your time and when the season ends you don't want to make any irrational decisions, just kind of digest things and sit back and look at it from afar and what this could mean for me and my family. It's a crazy profession and just really excited about the opportunity.
Q. Was it a tough decision?
A. It was the toughest decision I ever had to make in my entire life. It really and truly was. I've got a lot invested here in Murfreesboro, it's a great place. There's no right or wrong answers. Just really excited about the opportunity to work for Blake, with Blake and the rest of the staff. I know Joe Cauthen, I don't think there's any finer of a football coach than him that I've ever been around. I knew him, and I trusted him, and I trusted what he said and where the program was and the things that were going on, and that was kind of big.
Q. Had you talked with Joe Cauthen during his two years at ASU?
A. Yeah. I had. Joe and I go back a long way. We've won a bunch of games together. I've been a player when he's the defensive coordinator. At [Texas A&M]-Commerce. I was the quarterback. And so I think that's where our relationship started obviously. Then at Valdosta, we were able to bring him on and win a national championship together. Just always have had a really good connection with him.
Q. How would you describe your offensive philosophy?
A. Well, I think, the first thing is coach Anderson is an offensive minded guy and one of the best in all of college football. So that was an attraction to me, just that alone, talking to him and watching him play over the last five, six years. I remember when he was at Southern Miss and I was at Murray State and I was watching those guys play. I would always say 'Man, we need to go study those guys.' You know, our philosophies are real similar, up pace, play at a fast tempo, throw the ball around, get the ball to your playmakers, keep it simple on the quarterback and just do the things that are necessary to be successful.
Q. How do you feel about being a coordinator when the head coach's background is on the same side of the ball as you?
A. [Middle Tennessee Coach Rick Stockstill] was an offensive-minded guy and he was around a lot. I think any time you've got good minds and you can bounce ideas off each other I think that's a healthy situation.
Q. How do you measure tempo, and what makes you satisfied you're playing at the right tempo?
A. Well, I think the first thing you look at it is obviously, how quick are you snapping the ball? None of that matters if you're not moving the ball. So we've got to, the biggest thing for us is that when you get the first, first down, usually the tempo is able to take place. So, we want to snap it as many times as we can, but we also want to play with the defense. Each game is different and we just want to make sure we do the things that are necessary to win.
Q. Middle Tennessee played faster in 2015 than in 2014, why?
A. We were definitely faster this year. Played at a much quicker pace. I think the quarterback dictates that. I think he's going to have to be the guy putting his foot down and getting everybody going. He's the control setter.
Q. Is it easier to go fast with an experienced quarterback?
A. Well, we had a freshman this year and he was a freshman all-American. So, the thing is that it's all the urgency that that kid can play with. The players will feed off him.
Q. Where did you pick up your philosophies from? Who are some mentors?
A. Where I've kind of got my background is Chris Hatcher [former Valdosta State coach], the head coach at Samford, he has a Hal Mumme and Mike Leach background. That's where I get a lot of my philosophies from and that's very similar to what Blake's been doing, the air raid type stuff. But he would be the one.
Q. What do you know about ASU's personnel?
A. They look like a very talented roster, I know they lost some receivers but the word I got was a bunch of guys redshirted that are really good, I know the backs are good and the O-Line is all back, they feel really good about their tight ends and then I was looking at the kids they were recruiting and to me they're putting together a great class.
Q. Thoughts on the quarterbacks?
A. I've looked at really all of them. I recruited DJ Pearson out of high school. James obviously had some success, he seems to be more of a passer then he is a runner and that's okay. And then the junior college kid [Justice Hansen] I was able to watch his film and he seems like a dual threat guy and he looks like there's going to be a place for him.
Q. Do you have a preference on a type of a quarterback?
A. I've worked with both types. I don't have a preference. The thing I look for in a quarterback is being a great leader and being the toughest guy on the field.
Q. You have worked at a lot of different levels — Division II, FCS and FBS — what have you learned from going throughout the lower levels?
A. Well, I think the biggest thing you learn from coming from the smaller levels so they say, is that it can be done with less. You don't have the staff, the kids don't have all the gear and the clothes and this and that, so you learn to do more with less and at the smaller places sometimes you've got to coach the quarterbacks and the receivers. Probably one thing people don't realize is you probably have a lot more responsibility at a smaller school than you do a bigger school. You learn how to be creative. At Valdosta, our best running back was also a third-down corner and we'd take a corner and move him over to receiver and won a national championship doing that. You've got to find a way to win a game.