“We’ve got a great staff that I enjoy coming to work with every single day, we’re all on the same page, work well together, and when you do that you’ve got a chance to give yourself a chance.”
Faulkner, a former Parkview High and Valdosta State star, is now a veteran coach who knows what a quality offense looks like. For the past three seasons he worked with quarterbacks at Georgia and has been an offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee and Southern Mississippi.
His Arkansas State offense in 2018 scored almost 38 points per contest, and his Middle Tennessee unit in 2015 put up 34 points per game.
The Jackets would love to sniff those type of numbers in 2023.
“You got to always adjust to the players. What can they do well?” Faulkner said. “If they do certain things, those are the things we want to do. I believe in playing through the eyes of the quarterback and also protecting the offensive line. Those are the things we’ve got to do.
“It’s just trying to find the right pieces and get the right guys on the field on the same time to give us a chance to move the ball and score touchdowns.”
Tech scored only a tick more than 17 points per game in 2022, the seventh-worst average in the nation. It was shut out in a loss to Ole Miss and held to 10 points or less three other times.
The Jackets also ranked 126th in the red zone and in tackles for loss allowed, 121st on third downs, 115th in passing efficiency, 114th in total offense, 110th in total first downs and 102nd in time of possession. Even in Tech’s last eight games, in which it went 4-4 under then-interim coach Brent Key, it averaged only two points per game and 10 yards per game above its season totals.
Tech’s 206 points scored in 12 games was its lowest for a season since managing only 200 in 2019.
“To be quite honest with you, I hadn’t watched last year,” Faulkner said about all those stats. “I’m worried about what’s going on in the future. So whatever they did last year is in the past to me.”
Perhaps a new voice and a new system with Faulkner is what the Jackets need to head in a positive direction on offense.
Jordan Williams, one of four starting offensive linemen returning for the 2023 season, said he finds Faulkner’s offensive system easier to understand and execute. He added he is confident the Jackets also will be able to run the ball better after managing only 132.7 yards per game on the ground in 2022.
“Just seeing how it works against our own defense in practice in spring, and then just going through that and seeing how effective the plays are,” Williams said about what gives him hope for positive returns. “Then later finding out that was only half of the playbook (installed in spring practice)? Going into fall camp you just know the playbook is going to be even better. That gives you some confidence going into the season.”
Faulkner will have to help Key decide who will start at quarterback, whether that’s Zach Pyron, Haynes King or Zach Gibson. The wide receiver position is a bit of an unknown as well in terms of who will become a leading target out of that group. Dontae Smith is a veteran at running back, but experience is slim behind him in the backfield.
So Faulkner has his work cut out for him in taking Tech from stale to spellbinding. It’s work he appears excited to handle.
“Obviously, we have a job to do, we have a job to do for these kids and that’s to put them in position to be successful,” Faulkner said. “We take our jobs very serious, we have a great coaching staff on offense that’s highly passionate about what we do. We’re taking it one day at a time.”