Not Much Changes From Miller To Guiton

Ohio State might have to turn to backup quarterback Kenny Guiton this weekend, but that's not as big a deal as it might have been in the past. Guiton provides a luxury to the Buckeyes, a veteran quarterback with a similar skill-set to starter Braxton Miller.

Urban Meyer didn't exactly hide from it – when he took over the head coaching job at Ohio State in November 2011, he did so knowing he'd have a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in Braxton Miller to tutor over the coming seasons.

What he couldn't have known at the time was that Miller wasn't the only quarterback on the roster he'd grow to love coaching over the next two campaigns.

In fact, it took Kenny Guiton a while to earn that designation. Meyer has said multiple times that he was "not a big fan" of Guiton when he first arrived, but the easygoing Texan was able to win the head coach over off the field and then on it.

His latest example of doing so came Saturday in a 42-7 blowout of San Diego State. Of course, by now, pretty much every Buckeyes fan is familiar with Guiton's performance – throwing for two touchdowns, running for another and efficiently piloting the Scarlet and Gray to an easy win.

By the time the first half was over, Guiton led OSU to touchdowns on five of his seven drives – upping his efficiency to 14 scores in 23 drives finished dating back to last season.

"Kenny was managing really well," Meyer said. "It was the kind of defense where management was really the key the whole game and getting us in the right stuff at the right time, and Kenny is really strong at that."

So unlike in 2008, when Jim Tressel tried to make the combination of Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor work, and 2011 – when interim coach Luke Fickell went back and forth between Miller and Joe Bauserman – the Buckeyes don't have two different types of players taking snaps when one is bounced because of either injury or ineffectiveness.

Miller and Guiton aren't 100 percent alike, for example. Guiton doesn't have the arm strength of Miller – something shown as he was short on a couple of deep balls, including one that was intercepted Saturday – nor the high-level speed or athleticism of Miller, but he is a mobile option who can run the Buckeyes' base plays with little change from what Miller does.

"Kenny does a lot of similar things that Braxton can do – except running, obviously," wideout Corey Brown said. "When Kenny comes in the game, everyone is 100 percent confident that he can do the same things."

Offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said 90 percent of the game plan is still in play when the Buckeyes switch from Miller to Guiton, a high percentage that assures continuity.

That could be important as the Buckeyes turn the page to their first road test of the season Saturday at California. Miller has been described by Meyer as "day to day" with the sprained MCL in his left knee, and Guiton is in the conversation to earn career start No. 1 when the Buckeyes face off against the Bears.

If Guiton – who Meyer often refers to as the "ole righthander" in reference to the fact the Buckeyes can go to their bullpen and get a reliable arm – does get the call against Cal, it will be business as usual, just like vs. the Aztecs.

"Playing against San Diego State, the key was just stick with the game plan, stick with what he's practiced, and know that if we need to make adjustments as we progress, he's a smart player and he understands and can make adjustments, but really, we didn't plan on changing anything," Warinner said.

"So we didn't really change much in that regard. There's a lot of confidence. You don't feel like all of a sudden half of the game plan page is eliminated because your second team quarterback goes in. We feel like that he's still very capable of executing just about everything on there."

In fact, there are some things Guiton does quite well in his own way. It would be unfair to say Guiton is a better passer – after all, the talk of camp was about how Miller had progressed a long way in that regard during the offseason – but Meyer often raves about Guiton's ability to distribute the ball to open receivers as called for in the offense.

In the running game, Guiton is a master running the option part of OSU's offense, especially when it comes to holding the mesh point and reading the play. He appears particularly adept at the inverted veer play and the speed option, which were run to great effect vs. SDSU.

And while he's not Miller's equal when it comes to running skills, Guiton can break the big one, as evidenced by his 44-yard TD run around left end against the Aztecs.

"That was a play that obviously had been designed for Braxton, and we still called it with Kenny and he broke it and scored," Warinner said.

The cherry on top is the fact that Guiton is a fifth-year senior who has been around for the entirety of his teammates' careers at OSU. That means chemistry is not a problem between the quarterback and his targets, who have worked together in practice for years now.

"Kenny's been around here a long time," Brown said. "Especially with this being my fourth year, I've been with Kenny since my freshman year. He's been the person I've been working out with a lot, especially with these routes and stuff. Kenny does everything that Braxton does at practice. Kenny takes the same amount of reps Braxton does at practice. The timing and everything is always going to be there."


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