Faulkner was a member of two Big Ten championship teams as a running back at Wisconsin. He rushed for 1,064 yards in his career and seven touchdowns. He had three 100-yard rushing games, including 119 in a win over No. 14 Iowa in 1997 as a redshirt freshman, and began his coaching career in 2002 working with running backs.
After stops at Anderson University, Ball State, Northern Illinois and briefly at Pittsburgh, Faulkner returns to Wisconsin to further his coaching knowledge by working with the tight ends, a group he told Badger Nation is full of talent and a lot of fun to work with.
Talk about your journey to get back here. You had a good career here and a BCS opportunity in Pittsburgh, but it seems like this was a no brainer when this came up?
Faulkner: Well, shoot, my daughter's name is Madison Rose if that tells you anything. The opportunity to come back is something I definitely jumped at and I'm excited to be here.
Talk about your group as a whole and some of the things you are starting to learn about them?
Faulkner: They are very smart and they work their butts off. I really mean this – I can't imagine coaching a better group of guys. They do what you want on and off the field, they don't give me headaches, you don't have to chase them around to get them to do what's right, they work hard in the weight room, they come out and work hard on the field. They're coachable, they pick things up on the field and they pick things up quick. I just really think it's a special group. A lot of those guys can contribute. I have a good problem trying to get them all on the field.
A lot of people might think a transition for a guy who is a lifelong running back and running back coach to the tight end position would be a big leap, but it really isn't that much of a new challenge, correct?
Faulkner: Without a doubt. I spent one year as a graduate assistant coaching the tight ends, so there is some experience there. I have been a coordinator, so there is experience with knowing what everyone is supposed to be doing. All the years I have been coaching, you aren't just sitting in the meeting room talking about the running backs. You are talking about everybody out there on the field, so you pick up all those nuisances of things you want to carry forward in coaching. It's been a sweet, easy transition. I don't anticipate any problem with that.
You talk about having a lot of good players in your group, but what players really popped out to you when you started studying your group?
Faulkner: I think who is really has popped out to me, and I don't want to not mention guys, but Sam Arneson has really jumped out to me. He really is a bulldog and can handle at the point of attack beyond his years to me. He's only played a little bit, but it seems like he's a junior or senior and has been starting forever. Austin Maly and Austin Traylor jump off at me as guys that can do multiple things and run good routes. I think those guys are special players.
And with guys like Brian Wozniak and Jacob Pedersen, they've played and have some experience, so we have five guys right there that we can build off of. I think they can be pretty good and so can Brock DeCicco, the transfer from Pittsburgh. He's got experience playing and he's been doing a good job out here on the field. As a group we can be more consistent, but they all show flashes. If we continue to gain consistency, these guys can help us win.
You mention all the good things your group can do. It seems like Joe Rudolph left your cabinet pretty full with all the fine tuned details. It seems like guys that had that experience appreciate those little things, right?
Faulkner: Oh 100 percent. I can't be more complimentary of Rudy and what he's done recruiting and teaching the guys. I'll be the first one to tell you that I am coming into a really good situation as far as that is concerned, but I don't want to see any drop off because of the foundation that was built with the type of kids we have here. (Rudolph) and I are coaching the same things. It just might be a little bit different verbage, which is the biggest difference.
DeCicco has gone through a lot of transition in the past year, but is he a guy that seems confident in what he's doing and someone who can really help this year?
Faulkner: Absolutely. I've been very pleased with him. He struggled (Monday), but he knows that and he'll bounce back. I tell you, he's a guy who has played some football and he brings that experience to practice and to the film room. I expect him to continue to work his way up and get out on the field.
How impressive is Pedersen as a person and an athlete?
Faulkner: Great character, great kid and a great football player. I haven't had a chance to work with him a ton, but just having watched him the last couple years has me excited. He's back moving and doing some things, so I wouldn't anticipate any drop off with him.
What's it like recruiting for you now as a guy that has played here and who is now is a coach here? You can speak to the Wisconsin experience as good as anybody.
Faulkner: The best thing I say is that I am all in. At other schools you've been, you're recruiting and you are doing the best job you can, but you are always wondering what my Alma Mater is doing and how they are recruiting. I represent both entities of that now and that's absolutely exciting. I am going to do the best I can in that regard and gives me a little bit of a selling point when I am talking how great the school is, what type of character it builds and the type of degree you can leave here with. I lived that myself, so it's definitely an advantage.
What areas are you recruiting now?
Faulkner: I have the state of Indiana, the state of Michigan and northeast Ohio. I've always recruited Indiana. Michigan I recruited a couple a year and I have been in that part of Ohio. I am familiar with all the schools in the area, so it hasn't been a tough transition getting that going.
How much has this program and this school chance in the last 10 years since you were playing here?
Faulkner: I would say a little to stayed the same. The carryover and the things that you remember hearing as a player I can hear Coach B say the same thing. The way that the win hasn't changed and the details they go about their business with hasn't changed. It's always about a day at a time, a drill at a time and a rep at a time. That's why Wisconsin is Wisconsin. There might be a little bit different methodology from the top moving down, but it's all still the same successful formula.