Former Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton finds success in coaching ranks

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Quarterback Kenny Guiton (13) became a favorite of Ohio State fans for his work in relief of starter Braxton Miller.

Kenny Guiton expected to work in coaching after he left the Ohio State football team.

Others in his family had followed a similar career path. For instance, his father and uncle were assistant coaches when he played at Eisenhower High School in Houston.

Photos:Quarterback Kenny Guiton

But Guiton never planned on a rapid rise through the coaching ranks, landing on a coaching staff at a Power Five college program before turning 30. The 29-year-old was hired last month as wide receivers coach at Arkansas.

“I never thought in a million years I’d be even a college coach,” said Guiton, who played at Ohio State from 2009-13. “To say Power Five, I’d be lying to you because I never thought I'd be a college coach.”

Looking back:Anatomy of a Powerhouse: An all-time all-star Ohio State football team

Columbus connections

The ascent for the former backup quarterback began through a Columbus connection. Tom Herman, OSU’s offensive coordinator from 2012-14, brought in Guiton as a graduate assistant when he was hired before the 2015 season.

Guiton’s biggest dividend, though, has been a relationship with Kendal Briles, forged in 2018 when he was the offensive coordinator with the Houston Cougars and Guiton had become the receivers coach.

Briles is entering his second season as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator and pitched Guiton as a candidate to head coach Sam Pittman when the Razorbacks had an opening on their staff this season.

“Kendal jumped up on the table for him,” Pittman said, “and that kind of got him in the door.”

Pittman formed a favorable impression himself during their earliest conversations.

“I love the guy,” he said. “He’s really mature. He’s a recruiter. He’s already won our players over. Just a very charismatic, exciting guy to be around. I felt that way on the telephone with him when I was interviewing him. I think he just fit.”

Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton had a monster game against California in 2013, passing for 276 yards and four touchdowns against the Bears and their hotshot freshman QB Jared Goff.

Dream team in Houston

While Guiton worked with Briles in 2018, they directed one of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation. The Cougars averaged 43.9 points per game, trailing only four Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring offense.

Guiton helped develop Marquez Stevenson, a prospect in this year's NFL draft who had a breakout season as a sophomore, when he caught 75 passes for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns.

Guiton, who spent the past two seasons coaching receivers at Louisiana Tech and Colorado State, looked back fondly on his stretch with Briles.

“We had an awesome year,” Guiton said. “We just clicked. And I think it’s gotten me where I am today, so I’m happy to have that relationship.”

As much as Guiton’s bond with Briles helped him join the Razorbacks this winter, his ties to Texas were as significant.

“Being at the University of Houston, I recruited throughout Texas,” Guiton said. “The Dallas area, Fort Worth, Frisco, the Metroplex, East Texas, so I kind of got a name throughout Texas.”

Arkansas often has found success when it recruits well in the bordering state rich with high school talent, going back to the years it spent in the Southwest Conference.

The league, which disbanded in 1996 and prompted the Razorbacks to join the Southeastern Conference, had mostly included schools from Texas.

Coaching inspiration

In recruiting, Guiton tries to relate to players through his experience at Ohio State and in the Big Ten, “a level these guys want to play at.” He was not a heralded recruit in high school, ranked as only a two-star prospect and boasting few scholarship offers, but said he feels he understands the process the prep players go through.  

While inspired by his father to enter coaching, Guiton also credits encouragement from Ohio State coaches.

As a backup quarterback for the Buckeyes, he played for both Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, calling them “legendary coaches.”  

They and Herman all encouraged him, especially late in his college career when he was selected as one of the team captains despite his reserve status.

“When they told me I had the chance to be on this level, I wanted to dive headfirst into it,” Guiton said. “So that's what I did. And it's been awesome. I'm happy I did that.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman