MADISON, Wis. - Bret Bielema's wedding just got a little more interesting. After three Wisconsin assistants left for new jobs at Pittsburgh with now-Panthers head coach Paul Chryst, it was Bielema's turn to lure an assistant away. This time it's former Wisconsin running back Eddie Faulkner, who rounds out the Wisconsin coaching staff as the Badgers' new tight ends coach.
Faulkner, 34, was briefly hired in January as Pitt's new running backs coach after spending a year with Dave Doeren and Matt Canada at Northern Illinois. Faulkner also was the special teams coordinator for the Huskies during his brief tenure at NIU. So when Bielema and his former employees get together for his upcoming nuptials, there's sure to be some interesting conversations.
"I'm excited to be able to bring Eddie back to Madison," Bielema said in a statement. "It's always special to be able to hire a former letterwinner. In addition to coaching our tight ends, Eddie brings great experience coaching special teams and has tremendous talents as a recruiter. He's obviously worked with Matt and he is highly-respected among the coaches on our staff."
Making the hire more interesting is that Faulkner has not coached tight ends before in his career. It's not uncommon for coaches to move around and coach different positions, but it will be interesting to see how Faulkner handles one of the Badgers' signature position groups.
"I'm very excited about the chance to come back to Madison and coach," Faulkner said via release. "Being an alum and coming back to the university I graduated from, I think that's an opportunity most coaches look for. I want to thank Coach Bielema for this chance. I worked for Matt Canada last year at Northern Illinois and he is a great coach and someone I really respect. I can't begin to say how excited I am about coming back and I'm looking forward to getting to work."
Faulkner played for the Badgers from 1996-2000, and was on board for both Rose Bowl championships under Barry Alvarez. After college, Faulkner signed a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers and briefly played in the Canadian football league.
Faulkner has spent the last ten years in coaching where he worked mostly with running backs, but was also Ball State's offensive coordinator for 2009 and 2010. This means that all of Bielema's new hires have coordinating experience, with the exception of safeties coach Ben Strickland, who was promoted after serving as a graduate assistant.
Faulklner's move to tight ends coach could also signify a desire to move up in the coaching ranks, as it's not rare for offensive coordinators to have experience coaching tight ends. The position in particular allows a coach to work with both the passing and rushing attack.
As for recruiting, Faulklner's connections to the Midwest could come in handy, if he gets to use them. The Badgers already have coaches with connections to Indiana and Illinois, but Bielema said he would wait to officially assign recruiting territories until his staff was complete.
Faulklner's hire means the Badgers have their entire coaching staff in place after a total of six assistant coaches left for other jobs following last year's Big Ten championship season. We can only guess about how much differently the Badgers will look in 2012, but for now the Badgers will finish their winter conditioning, and will show off what Bielema called a "rebirth" of Wisconsin football this spring.