To say that Kenny Guiton has made the most of his latest opportunity would be an understatement.
In the eight quarters of action since Braxton Miller left the opening series of Ohio State’s Sept. 7 win over San Diego State with an MCL sprain, the Buckeyes’ second-string signal caller has complete 40 of his 60 pass attempts for 428 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 175 rushing yards to his credit. Guiton has played so well, in fact, that OSU head coach Urban Meyer admitted that it will be hard to keep him off the field, even once Miller -- the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy -- returns to the Buckeyes’ lineup.
“Kenny Guiton has earned some time,” Meyer said. “He did a nice job.”
While both Meyer and OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman have downplayed the notion of a quarterback controversy with each sticking by Miller as the Buckeyes’ No. 1 signal caller, it’s hard to deny that the situation is anything but interesting.
It was Miller’s school record-setting season that played a key role in Ohio State’s undefeated campaign in 2012, with the Huber Heights, Ohio native racking up 3,310 yards of total offense en route to being named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year. Miller finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, although his completion percentage of 58.3 percent left something to be desired entering his junior season in 2013.
He may not possess the pure talent that Miller does, but Guiton’s rise in the past two weeks has been nothing short of remarkable. His 368 yards of total offense in the Buckeyes’ win over California on Saturday was good enough to earn him Walter Camp national offensive player of the week honors and matched Miller’s highest output from a year ago, which came in OSU’s season-opening win over Miami (OH).
Buckeyes wide receiver Devin Smith caught three balls for 149 yards and two touchdowns from Guiton against the Golden Bears, and while he stuck with the company line that Miller is still ‘The Guy’ inside the OSU huddle, he admitted that there’s something unique that each player brings to the team’s offensive attack.
“With Braxton, he can make guys miss and what not. Kenny can run, but he can’t make the moves that Braxton can do,” Smith said. “I would say Kenny’s probably a little more patient in the pocket than Braxton is.”
Asked if there’s anything that at this point the Buckeyes do better with Guiton in the lineup, Meyer pointed to at least one aspect of the OSU running attack. Whereas most of Miller’s 1,271 rushing yards last season came off of designed runs and quarterback counters, Guiton has used the Buckeyes’ last two games to showcase an innate knack for running the option and making timely pitches.
“Kenny is a natural option quarterback, Braxton is not quite as natural pitching the ball. I would say that's probably the one area that Kenny excels at,” Meyer said. “In the last two games, we've ran more option than we've run in a long time.”
Based on talent, track record, and perhaps upside, it will be Miller who starts at quarterback for the Buckeyes whenever he’s healthy, with Meyer listing the junior as “probable” for OSU’s upcoming matchup with Florida A&M. That doesn't mean that Guiton has exited the Buckeyes' game plan, however, as Meyer is yet to rule out the possibility of putting both signal callers on the field simultaneously.
“We're in conversation about that right now,” Meyer said. “If (Guiton's) one of the best 11, you have an obligation to get him on the field a little bit.”
Whether Meyer will actually use such packages, and just how much playing time Guiton will see once Miller returns remains to be seen. But rather than view the Buckeyes’ current quarterback situation as uncomfortable, the Ohio State head coach doesn’t see a dilemma, but rather a luxury.
“I think it would (be a problem) if there was personality conflicts, if there was agendas. There's certainly none here,” Meyer said. “I don't think there's any confusion, whatsoever.”