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HAMMOCK: Faulkner comes home to coach against Tech

The more he moves through the college coaching ranks, the more Buster Faulkner relishes his trips home to Georgia.

One of those happens this weekend.

The 2000 Parkview grad is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Middle Tennessee, which plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday. Between family and friends, Faulkner expects close to 25 guests to cheer his team against its ACC opponent.

Another visit to the Atlanta area is nice for Faulkner and his wife Tia, also a Parkview grad. They have three children, a son and two daughters, who are 5 or younger. This game gives them another excuse, outside of the holiday and summer trips, to come home.

"My wife's handling all that, getting all the tickets, thankfully," Faulkner said. "Between her family, my family, a bunch of friends, we'll have a lot of people there. When you play close by like that, they all want to come see you."

While it will be all fun for those fans, it's a business trip to Faulkner.

In his second year at Middle Tennessee (2-1), he was promoted to offensive coordinator in February after serving as quarterbacks coach last season, his first with the Blue Raiders (though he did call plays the last seven games of 2011).

The 31-year-old's offense averages 33.3 points with a balanced attack --it averages of 194.7 rushing yards and 226 passing yards. The unit's success has been boosted by new offensive line coach Matt Moore, who was North Gwinnett's head coach in 2005. Moore held the same position the previous five seasons at Texas Tech.

Faulkner calls the plays from the press box, which he said fits his high-strung nature better than being on the field.

"The last couple of weeks we've shown signs of what's to come," Faulkner said of his offense. "We've got a really young team and we're inexperienced, but we're working hard. And we've been able to put up some points the last few weeks."

That ability to score has been a signature of Faulkner's past offenses. It's why he's a rising star in the coaching world since his first job as a Valdosta State student assistant in 2005.

He followed that up with an offensive graduate assistant job at Georgia for the 2006 season, then went on a series of moves at the college level. He was quarterbacks coach at Valdosta State, where he was a prolific passer as a player, in 2007 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2008. He was quarterbacks coach both Central Arkansas (2009) and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Murray State (2010) before being hired at Middle Tennessee, his fourth team in four seasons, in 2011.

"I'm excited about it here," Faulkner said. "We've had a lot of moves in the last five years and we have three kids now. The family loves living in Murfreesboro. ... It's a good town. It reminds me of where we grew up in the mid '90s. It's like a smaller Gwinnett."

Speaking of Gwinnett, Faulkner has another reason for frequent visits home. He recruits the area for Middle Tennessee, which has four Gwinnett grads on its roster.

Collins Hill's Jordan Parker, a true freshman, leads the Blue Raiders in rushing as part of a running back by committee. Fellow freshmen Anfornee Stewart (Duluth) and Alex Jauregui (Peachtree Ridge) expect to take redshirt seasons. Redshirt freshman O'Shae Bridges of Norcross also is one of the team's defensive lineman.

Saturday's trip to Tech will be just as special for those players as it will be for Faulkner.

"It's definitely exciting for these kids to play (Tech)," Faulkner said. "At the end of the day, it's football, but our kids get excited to play a bigger game, in a bigger stadium, on TV. Plus a lot of our kids are from Georgia. It's a great opportunity for them to come home and play."

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.