Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
There might not be a player on the Ohio State football team who desires playing time more than Kenny Guiton, and the redshirt junior backup quarterback could get what he wants this season.
A second- and third-stringer in three seasons with the Buckeyes, Guiton has played in only six games. He has attempted five passes, all of which came in mop-up duty. One completion. One interception. But Guiton impressed Urban Meyer over the summer to the point that the first-year OSU coach is considering putting the redshirt junior on the field in meaningful situations this fall.
What Meyer is thinking about is using an offensive package in which both Guiton and sophomore Braxton Miller – the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback – are on the field at the same time. Meyer said at OSU media day on Aug. 12 that he had been scribbling down possible formations for the package on his notepad and has since implemented one.
Junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown confirmed Monday that OSU has practiced the package but, with a sly smile on his face, would not reveal any more than that.
“It’s a good package. I can’t really say too much about it, but it’ll be good,” Brown said. “I’m not sure if (we’ll use it on Saturday). But when we do unleash the package, it’ll be good. You’ll see.”
If Guiton is one of the Buckeyes’ top 11 offensive players, Meyer said it is the Buckeyes’ coaching staff’s responsibility to make sure he gets action, starting as early as OSU’s season opener against Miami (Ohio) this Saturday.
“If they’re our best 11 … it’s our job to get them on the field,” Meyer said, who used a two-quarterback system on the 2006 Florida team, with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, to win Meyer his first national championship.
Guiton, who admitted on OSU media day that he was a little down last year when Miller came in as a freshman and took a stronghold on the starting job, said he has been trying to “step up (his) game” since Meyer was hired in November.
“I’ve been working hard on it so just to show coach Meyer I am willing to work hard to get on the field,” Guiton said. “That’s been my goal since day one. I feel like I’ve done a great job with that and we’ll see what that does.”
Guiton has spent time practicing with the first-team offense since the spring and said the main reason for his good play is an increasing ability to see plays develop.
“I feel like the game’s really slowing down a lot,” Guiton said. “It’s totally, completely slowing down. So now, I know where my offensive line’s going, I know where my receivers are going to be, (and I’m) reading defenses better.”
The relationship between Guiton and Miller has evolved into a friendly rivalry, too. Guiton said he does “mental reps” while watching Miller practice. He notices the things Miller does that work, as well as the things that do not.
“Me and Braxton, we’re real cool,” Guiton said. “We’re always helping each other out. Any chance I can I help him out if I see something.”
Guiton said there is still plenty of room for him to improve, with his arm strength being the No. 1 priority.
“I’m just working on my velocity and trying to get (the ball) to the playmakers on the outside,” Guiton said.
While Guiton would be ecstatic if he got serious playing time, his teammates might be even more so.
There is a saying in football that the backup quarterback is usually the most popular player among fans. Meyer’s former quarterback, Tebow, might be the best example of that. Guiton’s admiration, though, stems mostly from his teammates.
“Kenny’s my boy,” said redshirt junior receiver Chris Fields. “That’s my best friend, on and off the field. I believed in him ever since he got here.”
Sophomore receiver Evan Spencer said seeing Guiton on the field would make him and the team happy.
“I know how hard (Guiton) works and how hard he worked in the offseason to get his body right or to get his certain mechanics right, so I’d love to see him on the field,” Spencer said.
The players do not just like Guiton as a person. They’ve noticed an improvement in his play, too.
“When he gets (with the first team in practice) he acting like he’s supposed to be there,” Fields said. “He’s been improving on the pass emphasis, running and just mentally, just knowing the game, he’s been improving.”
Despite Guiton’s success this offseason, Miller has firmly established himself as the starting quarterback and will get the majority of the snaps, Meyer said. That’s unlikely to change unless Miller gets injured. If both Guiton and Miller do get on the field at the same time this fall, though, it could be special.
At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Guiton has something Miller will probably never have: good size and an ability to easily see over the offensive line. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Miller possesses plenty of things you cannot teach: instincts, elusiveness and pure playmaking capability.
“They both have their certain attributes,” Spencer said. “Both of them, together, it’s perfect really.”