Urban Meyer has made public his thoughts about Braxton Miller’s status for Ohio State’s game against Cal this Saturday night. The Buckeyes’ coach believes that his Heisman candidate quarterback will be on the field in the team’s first road game of the season.
But I’m not interested in that today. The most interesting storyline under center – or, more accurately, in the shotgun – for Ohio State this week is backup Kenny Guiton. Miller’s knee is undoubtedly more important to the Buckeyes’ long-term prospects, but most of the quarterback intrigue this week centers on the man they call Kenny G.
Guiton, a fifth-year senior from Aldine, Texas, has proven himself to be a serviceable backup. In fact, Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer guesstimated this week that Guiton would start for 75 of the 124 non-Ohio State teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. That’s just over 60 percent. Is that figure accurate? Probably not. Lesmerises admitted that in close calls he leaned towards Guiton. But, even if you subtract 10 of those teams that Lesmerises surmised would start Guiton today, then the Buckeyes backup would still start for just over half of the teams in FBS.
How, one might ask, could one know how skilled a backup stuck behind the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite truly is? Well, it turns out that we actually have a decent sample size on Guiton’s ability to lead the Buckeye offense. Entering this season, he had quarterbacked parts of 14 different drives. On seven of those, the Buckeyes came away with a touchdown. In the first two games of this young season, Guiton has seen action on an additional 14 drives and has replicated his success, leading the Buckeyes to seven touchdowns. Call me crazy, but I think most coaches, even at the top programs in the nation, would not hesitate to sign up for a quarterback who boasted a 50 percent touchdown rate.
Granted, 28 possessions is only about two to three games worth of playing time. However, Guiton’s action has not only come as a janitor doing mop-up duty. Actually, Guiton has been placed into a number of high-leverage situations and his smooth jazz style has proved to be just as effective then as it has in blowouts.
Last year, Guiton entered the Purdue game at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes trailing 20-14. His first three drives were shaky, ending in a missed field goal, a safety, and an interception with the Buckeyes in the red zone. Following those miscues, Kenny G found his footing. He led a 61-yard touchdown drive – and added the two-point conversion – on a possession that started with just 47 seconds on the clock. That forced overtime, where Guiton calmly led the Buckeyes back to the end zone in just five plays. Purdue failed to respond, and Ohio State retained their perfect season thanks to the moxie of the Buckeyes’ seldom-used backup quarterback.
More recently, Guiton appeared two weeks ago in the season opener against Buffalo. With the Buckeyes up just 10 points in the third quarter, Miller was forced to the sideline with cramps. An unfazed Guiton entered the game and took just five plays to get the Buckeyes into the end zone via a 21-yard pass to Chris Fields. From there, Meyer’s squad switched on the cruise control to finish off the victory over the Bulls.
Last week against San Diego State, Guiton was called upon once again. Miller went down and lost his helmet, prompting many to surmise he had suffered a head injury. While it turned out to be a sprain of the left MCL, the Buckeyes backup was needed all the same. All Guiton did was complete 19 of his 28 passes for 152 yards, two touchdowns and an interception through the final 57 minutes of the contest. On the ground, he added 83 yards on nine carries, including a 44-yard touchdown keeper. On six of the 13 drives he was in the game the Buckeyes found the end zone – although four of those drives came in the fourth quarter with the score already 42-7 in Ohio State’s favor. San Diego State could obviously not match up talent-wise when they entered Ohio Stadium last Saturday, but that should not in any way diminish the poise that Guiton displayed when he entered for the injured Miller with the game still scoreless.
With those stats in mind, it becomes abundantly clear that Guiton should be the starter on Saturday evening in Berkeley if there is even the slightest question about the health of Braxton Miller’s knee. Miller’s health is paramount if Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes hope to claim the B1G crown and compete for a national title. There is no sense in risking further injury against the Golden Bears’ defense that has allowed 74 points in its first two games – 44 to Northwestern and 30 against FCS opponent Portland State.
Luckily for Ohio State, the man who would take Miller’s place is more than capable of keeping Meyer’s spread offense operating quite smoothly.
Amazing Guiton photoshop via ElevenWarriors
Not-so amazing Guiton action shot via Associated Press