Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
OC Briles big backer of new assistant
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks were one failed scoop-and-score touchdown away from possibly seeing Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton in the Sugar Bowl after the 2010 season.
The new University of Arkansas wide receivers coach was a sophomore on that Ohio State team, which held off the Razorbacks 31-26 at the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 1, 2011.
Had the Razorbacks scooped a blocked punt instead of falling on it at the Ohio State 18 with 1:04 remaining, Arkansas would have led the Buckeyes heading into the final minute.
Instead, the Buckeyes intercepted Ryan Mallett at the Ohio State 17 two plays later and ran out the clock.
Because Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor suffered a leg injury and had to be helped off the field just before Colton Miles-Nash blocked the Buckeyes’ punt, Coach Jim Tressel would’ve had to call on either Guiton or junior Joe Bauserman to take snaps in the final minute.
“I wish I got in the game,” Guiton said Thursday during his introductory teleconference with Arkansas media. “It was my second year. If Terrelle didn’t play, I had a shot. Me and the second-string guy were kind of playing it out.”
The bungled scoop and score is a sour memory for Razorback fans, who yearned for a victory on the field in Arkansas’ only appearance in the BCS. Ohio State was later forced to vacate the win due to NCAA sanctions after playing with ineligible players.
Guiton, nicknamed Kenny G because of his good-natured attitude and spirit at Ohio State, hopes his stint with the Razorbacks creates sweet memories.
“I’m on the other side now,” Guiton said. “I’m a Hog now. So hopefully we can get back to that game and have a great outcome.”
Guiton, 29, has rocketed up the coaching ranks since ending a short pro career in 2014.
He crossed paths with current Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles in 2018 during Guiton’s four-year stint at Houston as a graduate assistant (2015-16) then wide receivers coach (2017-18) under Tom Herman and Major Applewhite.
“My relationship with coach Briles is what got me in the door,” Guiton said. “We had an awesome year and we just clicked. We just clicked. And I think it’s gotten me where I am today, so I’m happy to have that relationship.”
The 2018 Houston offense ranked fifth nationally with 43.9 points per game and seventh in total offense with 512.5 yards per game. The Cougars scored 30-plus points in all 12 regular-season games and went past 40 points in 10 games.
After single seasons at Louisiana Tech (2019) and Colorado State (2020), Guiton has fast-tracked his way to his first Power 5 assistant job.
“Obviously Briles thought a lot of him, and I heard a lot of nice things about him again whenever I talked to some of my colleagues about him,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said Thursday. “Really excited to have him here.”
Pittman said Briles thought enough of Guiton as a recruiter and a receivers coach that he was emphatic about wanting him on staff.
“Kenny and Kendal had a good relationship, and to be honest with you, Kendal jumped up on the table for him,” Pittman said. “That kind of got him in the door.
“I love the guy. 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.”
Guiton said he was ecstatic and called it a “no-brainer” to join the Pittman staff.
“It’s SEC ball, but not just the SEC, it’s SEC West,” Guiton said. “And to work for a head coach like that, that you hear only awesome things about — a guy that I know is awesome in how Kendal Briles talks to you about him and tells you, ‘Hey, it’s confirmed dude. He’s an awesome guy.’
“So, I get on the phone with [Pittman], we talk for a while, I mean a long time, and just everything was confirmed.”
A Houston native, Guiton has extensive recruiting ties in Texas, which will be his primary area.
“I’ve recruited, being at the University of Houston, all throughout Texas,” Guiton said, listing off the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Frisco and East Texas.
Guiton also recruited in Louisiana during his one season at Louisiana Tech.
He had high praise for the wealth of talented players he is inheriting with the Razorbacks.
“The room I walked into, it’s awesome,” said Guiton, who praised the work of his predecessor Justin Stepp. “This room, I think it’s deep. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and develop it more.
“It’s kind of weird. You get an extra year with some guys, like Mike Woods and Tyson Morris, to where it’s like you keep the depth in that room and also get to add to it with those freshmen coming in like Ketron [Jackson], Rocket [Sanders] and Jaedon [Wilson], and Bryce [Stephens] coming this summer.”
Guiton said he watched hours of tape — “the entire season” — and a portion of bowl practices to see younger receivers in action.
“I got a chance to watch the whole room,” Guiton said. “It’s awesome when you get guys and get your first meeting with them and they’re like, ‘Hey coach, what do you think I can work on?’ And you get a chance to really have true answers for them.”
Briles already has jumped into the updates of his offense with Guiton from the two years they were apart.
“I think he’d be cool with me saying it, I think it’s cleaner,” Guiton said. “It’s easier verbiage, you know. It’s easier for the guys to kind of get it down. Back when we were at Houston, it was a lot of memorization and guys just literally had to remember a certain signal, see it and go.”
Guiton, who said the top traits he looks for in a receiver are toughness and consistency, thinks the Razorbacks can play faster now than the Cougars of 2018.
Burks touted the top returning Arkansas wideout, Treylon Burks, who had 51 receptions for 820 yards and 7 touchdowns in basically eight games against only SEC competition.
“Treylon Burks, awesome player,” Guiton said. “You see the film, and it just doesn’t do justice, honestly. You watch him work out and it’s like, ‘OK, this guy is much bigger than the film tells you, and he’s probably much faster than the film tells you.’
“To have that kind of guy out there on the perimeter … it’s different. I’ve never seen the first guy tackle him. He’s just a guy, you get the ball in his hands and say ‘Hey, go big boy. Go make a play.’ ”
Wilson, the Arkansas freshman, was already familiar with Guiton, as his brother went to Ohio State at the same time and Guiton recruited Wilson while at Colorado State.
“I feel good about him coming in,” Wilson told the Democrat-Gazette in January.
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