“But, shoot, he was a little bit right,” Bennett said.
Faulkner also served as a go-between between Monken and Bennett, filtering out Monken’s (and Bennett’s) more choice words to deliver the actual message.
“Just because people say stuff in the heat of the moment, and ‘Monk’ is gonna say stuff, I don’t need to hear all that,” Bennett said. “He doesn’t need to hear everything I have to say. Just not important. Buster keeps me sane, keeps me in the moment, helps me out. ‘What are you seeing here with this play?’ And all that stuff. His presence is comforting, and he’s a damn good football coach.”
Indications are that Appalachian State offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay was also a candidate for the job. Key looked to Appalachian State to make his hire of offensive line coach Geep Wade. However, Wade and Faulkner also have a shared history, serving together at Middle Tennessee State 2013-15, when Wade coached the offensive line and Faulkner was offensive coordinator.
In those three seasons, the Blue Raiders were fifth, fifth and fourth in Conference USA in total offense (2013-15) and fifth, sixth and fourth in scoring offense.
Perhaps his most notable success was at Arkansas State 2016-18. As offensive coordinator, the Red Wolves led the Sun Belt Conference in total offense in 2017 and 2018, finishing first and fifth in scoring offense in those two seasons. He also helped develop quarterback Justice Hansen into a two-time league player of the year.
In an area in which the Jackets have struggled in recent seasons – scoring touchdowns in the red zone – Arkansas State wasn’t as productive, finishing eighth in the conference in 2017 and ninth in 2018.
Other metrics weren’t as favorable – Football Outsider’s Fremeau Efficiency Index rating ranked the Arkansas State offense 100th, 92nd and 82nd in Faulkner’s three seasons.
It appears Faulkner will coach tight ends in addition to his coordinator duties, which would allow Chris Weinke to remain the quarterbacks coach. Chip Long, the former coordinator whom Key dismissed the day after being made full-time head coach, also coached tight ends this past season. In 2019, Faulkner coached quarterbacks in addition to coordinating the Southern Miss offense – his most recent on-field coaching position before taking the position at Georgia – but coached tight ends in his last two seasons at Arkansas State.
Gabe Burns contributed to this story.