10 Things We Learned from Guiton’s Big Day in the Bay
By Brandon Castel
Urban Meyer did a good job keeping us all on the hook Saturday to see which quarterback – one-time Heisman Trophy front-runner Braxton Miller or his backup Kenny Guiton – would be the guy leading Ohio State into battle this week.
While Miller, who injured his left knee in last week’s win over San Diego State, made the trip to Berkeley with the rest of his teammates, indications were that his only impact on the game would be as a decoy. Even that wasn’t enough to spook Cal coach Sonny Dykes, as he prepared his team to face Guiton – a fifth-year senior out of Texas making the first start of his OSU career.
They probably thought they were facing the real Heisman candidate, as Guiton put up nearly 400 yards of total offense in a 52-34 win over the Golden Bears on Saturday. Here’s a look at the 10 Things We Learned from Guiton’s big day in the Bay
1. This team is getting better. At least offensively. Forget the fact Ohio State was essentially without its starting quarterback – Miller – and starting tailback – Carlos Hyde – on Saturday. This offense looked a lot more like the unit Meyer envisioned when he brought his system to Columbus nearly two years ago. Instead of the one-man Braxton Miller show, the Buckeyes were spreading the ball all over the field against Cal. Jordan Hall, Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson all had big games and the offense seemed to operate with much more efficiency and consistency in week three of the 2013 season. Clearly Hall and Wilson give the Buckeyes an element of speed in the open field they were missing last season, but it’s really about the whole group coming together to become a weapon of destruction for opposing defenses. They aren’t quite there yet, but the offense is better now than it has ever been since Meyer arrived.
2. It all starts up front. We will get into the play of Guiton and some of the skills guys in a moment, but nothing good can be said about the offensive performance on Saturday without first mentioning the guys up front. Guiton is going to get most of the credit for orchestrating a 50-point game for the Buckeyes, but it was Ohio State’s offensive line that really controlled this game from start to finish. Corey Linsley had a few tense moments with a couple of his snaps, but other than that, this group looked a lot more like the one we saw at the end of last season than the one we saw two weeks ago in the season-opener. A lot of credit has to go to Marcus Hall and Taylor Decker on the right side of the line. Between Decker (week one) and Hall (week two), that area had been maybe the biggest disappointment on the team so far this season, but those two guys stepped up and played some impressive football this week. It allowed Guiton to have the time back there to make the right decisions and find the open guys down the field. It also allowed Urban Meyer to be aggressive in fourth down situations because he knew his guys were moving the line of scrimmage up front.
3. Kenny Guiton is more than a backup. This certainly wasn’t Guiton’s first experience in a big moment, but let’s not confuse stepping in to finish of one of Braxton Miller’s drives for stepping out there as the quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes. With Miller on the sideline in street clothes, Kenny G got his first chance to direct the troops as the general on Saturday. It’s hard to imagine the butterflies going on inside a kid from a small Texas town making the first start of his career on the road a couple thousand miles away from anything he’s known, yet Guiton was as cool as can be on Saturday. It probably helped that two-thirds of the stadium was wearing scarlet, but he didn’t flinch under the pressure. On his second play of the game, he connected with Devin Smith for the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State history. He looked like a kid in his third year of starting for most of the game, and played so well that people started to talk about how OSU would handle Braxton Miller when he was ready to return.
4. Tom Herman deserves a lot of credit. How many teams around the country could afford to lose their Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback and not miss a beat offensively? The answer is not many. That’s a testament to Kenny Guiton, but also to the job Meyer and Tom Herman have done transforming him from a kid who wasn’t ready to play a single down two years ago to a captain who is ready to step in and orchestrate this offense to near perfection. Herman and Meyer dialed up a perfect play call on the second play of the game, setting Devin Smith up for 1-on-1 coverage on the outside and they had enough trust in Guiton to let him air it out from his own 10 yard line. That really says a tremendous amount about the way this kid has matured as a football player under Herman’s tutelage. He very well may be the best backup quarterback in America, and if that’s true, what does it say about Herman as a quarterback’s coach?
5. Jordan Hall is here to stay. 72 touches. 436 yards. Six touchdowns. That’s Hall’s stat line this season in three games as Ohio State’s starting running back. He posted a career-high 168 yards on the ground Saturday to go with three rushing touchdowns, and he also caught five passes out of the backfield. Outside of the quarterback position, Hall is the most dangerous weapon the Buckeyes have right now. There’s no question Hall is playing his best football, and it’s clear now why Meyer has repeatedly touted him as the only guy they had outside of Braxton Miller who could make people miss in the open field. It will be interesting to see how his role develops once Carlos Hyde returns to action, but it’s hard to imagine him coming off the field very often while he’s playing like this.
6. Carlos Hyde will have to earn his carries. It seems strange to think this team might not have enough touches for Carlos Hyde, but that’s where we are right now. Clearly he is going to be a part of the offense when he returns to action – presumably next week – but with the way Jordan Hall is rolling right now, it’s not like we can expect to see 34 in the backfield carrying the football 25 times a game. This team could definitely use a physical presence in the backfield to compliment the shifty running of Miller, Guiton, Hall and Dontre Wilson, but it seems unlikely Meyer is simply going to hand Hyde his starting job back. Rod Smith, Warren Ball, and Bri’onte Dunn never really got an opportunity to show much while Hyde was out, so the good news for Hyde is that he’s really only competing with one tailback for those carries.
7. Remember the name Dontre Wilson. Speaking of Wilson, can we agree this kid is more than just hype at this point? I think a lot of us envisioned what he could become in this offense, but how many of us truly expected him to jump in and make this big of an impact already? Remember, this is a true freshman who didn’t take his first hit in practice until August, yet Wilson looks like he was born to play that hybrid flex role in Urban Meyer’s offense. After nearly breaking off a big run in the opener against Buffalo, Wilson has proven to be more consistent than dynamic over the last two weeks. His longest play has gone for just 26 yards, but his ability to pick up 8-12 yards a pop on those jet plays is almost unstoppable. It’s only a matter of time before he gets free on one of those and goes the distance, but Wilson is already averaging nearly 10 yards every time he touches the football. He had over 100 yards of offense on Saturday with just eight touches and it’s clear Meyer has plans to get the ball in the hands of No. 1 more and more every week.
8. They need Bradley Roby to be Bradley Roby. The other No. 1 for the Buckeyes certainly didn’t look like himself on Saturday. Playing in his second game of the season, Roby looked a little out of sorts against Cal wideout Bryce Treggs. He didn’t put up big numbers – only 7 catches for 51 yards – but got the better of Roby a couple times out there. One of them looked like a touchdown catch and the other one was a touchdown catch. It’s hard to be too critical of Roby after all the great games he has played, but Cal wasn’t afraid to challenge Ohio State’s best defensive player on Saturday. I’m not sure Roby was expecting it, but it should serve as a wakeup call that teams may decide to test how good he really is. Now he has to go out and prove it.
9. Christian Bryant is playing his best ball. Who would have thought Bryant would look like the best player on the field for the Buckeye defense Saturday? That’s not a knock on the senior safety, he’s usually one of the better players out there because of his knack for being around the football, but this may have been Bryant’s best game as a safety at Ohio State. It certainly felt like it with the way he was patrolling centerfield and knocking down passes all over the place. The Buckeyes need that type of guy on the back end of the defense and it’s good to see this kid playing his best football right now.
10: This OSU defense is very average. To me, this was the biggest take away from Saturday’s win over Cal. I realize the Bears are trying to play fast and put up points in a hurry, but that doesn’t make it acceptable for a championship caliber defense to allow 371 yards through the air to a freshman quarterback on an average football team. This wasn’t Johnny Football out there. This was Jared Goff, and the fact Cal put up 500 yards of offense and 34 points should be a little alarming for the Buckeyes. It’s easy to dismiss that reality because the Buckeyes put a 50-spot on the board, but the reality is this offense is going to have to carry Ohio State every week unless this defense progresses the way it did last season. That certainly seems possible, and getting a healthy Adolphus Washington back should help, but there is no Zach Boren waiting in the wings this year. What you see is what you’re going to get with this group. I think they will improve as they gel and learn to play together as a unit, but I’m not convinced this group would hold up against teams like Alabama, Clemson, Oregon, and Texas A&M. Then again, even ‘Bama allowed 600 yards and 42 points on Saturday, so maybe defense doesn’t matter all that much anymore…