- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Without knowing any better, figuring out Kenny Guiton’s normal role at Ohio State would have been almost impossible.
The fifth-year senior was right in the middle of the action during warmups, taking the first-team snaps and commanding the attention and respect of teammates the way only a quarterback and a captain can.
There were no visible signs of nerves, and Guiton certainly looked like he’d been leading the Buckeyes on offense for a long time as he settled in almost instantly, delivering a devastating, perfectly-placed bomb for a touchdown on just the second offensive snap of the game.
But after sprinting down the field after the score with his arms held wide, simulating a plane with a celebration he used as a reminder for the Buckeyes that it was “time to take flight,” his secret was subtly revealed.
Holding on the extra point after the longest play in Ohio State history? Isn’t that a job for a backup?
“Oh, no, that was actually cool,” Guiton said. “You know, I’ve been holding for a year and a half now, so I didn’t want to change that up.
“Just because I’m the starter for the week, I didn’t want to not be the holder and then Braxton [Miller] comes back and then I’m not even holding even more.”
Guiton’s spot remains secure there on special teams, but after stepping in and doing a spot-perfect performance as a starting quarterback, the Buckeyes now have to think of other ways they can use their second option exceeded almost every reasonable expectation for a first-time starter on the road. He racked up 368 yards of total offense, didn’t thrown an interception while completing 21 of his 32 attempts and sent the Buckeyes off on their jet-propelled start with three touchdowns in the first 6 minutes -- including the 90-yard strike to Devin Smith on the second offensive play.
While Miller is unquestionably the starter when he returns from his sprained knee, which could happen as early as Saturday against Florida A&M, Guiton is setting the bar high for himself while he has the chance.
Just about the only person who didn’t come away shocked by the numbers was Guiton himself, who told a few close teammates that he had apparently not quite cleared that bar against Cal, though he claimed national offensive player of the week honors.
“That was crazy,” Guiton said. “But the one thing I like to do is set my goals real high, that way if I fall short, falling short is already good.
“That’s exactly what I did, I set my goals real high, I fell short -- look where it got me.”
Where he’ll land next remains unclear, though Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer is giving more thought about ways to include Guiton in the game plan along with a healthy Miller moving forward.
Miller’s explosive rushing ability and a stronger arm helped him not only win the job in the first place but also finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year, so he’s not in danger of being replaced on a permanent basis. But given the chance, a career understudy provided some evidence that he could do more than just hold Miller’s place on a short-term basis like he’s already done numerous times in the past.
“If he’s one of the best 11 [players], you have an obligation to get him on the field a little bit,” Meyer said. “I haven’t said he’s one of the best 11 yet, but that’s something we’re in the process of identifying as coaches.
“The good thing is, once again, there are some choices now. ... Kenny Guiton has earned some time.”
Obviously he’ll keep getting some as a holder, and Guiton made it clear he didn’t want to lose that job as he flew down the field to take the snap after a record-setting touchdown.
But another secret came out on Saturday evening as well, and it wasn’t nearly as subtle: Guiton is much more than just a backup.
3dDan Murphy and Austin Ward