By Ramzy Nasrallah on October 23, 2012 at 1:00p

Ten seasons ago, Ohio State's most popular player wore the number 13.

Maurice Clarett wasn't the 2002 Buckeyes' most valuable player (Craig Krenzel) or their best athlete (Chris Gamble) but he was an enigmatic and conspicuous difference maker who garnered the most boisterous cheers every single time he trotted out onto the field.

And besides, Ohio State had a lot trouble winning without him. It's only been ten years; you probably still remember how that went.

Last Saturday with the Buckeyes foundering badly, another number 13 was unexpectedly thrust into the game. He had 15 minutes left to right the ship, and he used all but three seconds of it to tie the game and force overtime.

Nine plays into the extra period Ohio State was still undefeated, and Kenny Guiton was their hero. It took a full decade for number 13 to recapture Ohio Stadium's most boisterous cheers.

The kind words for Guiton have not stopped since Urban Meyer took over the program. Number 13 is one of the most popular players on the team, despite having spent his entire career behind every single other scholarship quarterback Ohio State has had from Miller to Terrelle Pryor and both of the players - Joe Bauserman (!), Taylor Graham (!!) - in between.

The backup quarterback regularly becomes the most popular guy on a team whenever the starter isn't performing to an acceptable standard. Ohio State's starter is the current favorite for the Silver Football and should be headed to New York City in December as a Heisman finalist, so that isn't a contributing factor.

This love affair with Guiton - which began long before his heroics on Saturday - is among the strangest phenomena that has ever been seen at Ohio State, let alone in football.

Every player seems to be rooting for Guiton's personal success, despite Miller's perch atop the depth chart. His fan club includes the most notorious number 13 in Ohio Stadium history.

"I had more fun watching number 13 playing today than you could possibly imagine," said Clarett on Saturday night via text message, following the Buckeyes' come-from-behind overtime victory over Purdue. "I was just so happy for him."

When he arrived, Guiton had Pryor's back. Now he has Miller's.

There shouldn't ever be a quarterback controversy between Miller and Guiton either: Number 13's future with a healthy number five available is limited to being a coach in pads or mop-up time custodian.

That would normally leave very little reason to get energized about his involvement in a live game. But as strange phenomena go, there is very little normal about Guiton's position within the current Buckeye football culture.

“You guys don't see him at practice," said John Simon to the media following the Purdue game. "(Guiton) gets every mental rep possible. He's coaching people all the time. Every time he gets in the game the team gets excited."

Remember: That last statement is about an unheralded backup. That last statement requires a Heisman Trophy frontrunner to exit the game. That last statement is breathtaking.

"You never want a starter to go down," said Simon, "but anytime you get to see Kenny go out there and perform and get everything he deserves, it is awesome to see."

Ohio State is always going to get everybody's best game regardless of whether Miller or Guiton is under center. They got Purdue's best shot on Saturday, and they can expect Penn State's finest performance to date this weekend. 

But unlike past seasons or in conventional situations, there is no fear in the backup replacing the prolific starter. Should Miller be unavailable or even just limited for the Nittany Lions - or in any game thereafter - there will be no downshifting in the confidence placed on Guiton. 

Conversely, it was alarming back when Bauserman was brought in to spell Miller by the previous coaching staff (if you're painfully recalling Nebraska's comeback last year with Guiton relegated to the bench, you're not alone). It was also always frightening to think about what might happen if Pryor ever went down.

And as you still remember from that undefeated season a decade ago, it was invariably scary whenever Clarett was unavailable to carry the ball. But losing Miller, while definitely not optimal, isn't terribly scary either. At least not with the kid who gets the team excited every time he gets into a game.

Opponents already fear what the Buckeyes' number five can do to them, and for good reason: Miller is a serious scoring threat every single time he touches the ball, which is just about every play that he's on the field. But that fear of the number 13 hasn't flared up for ten years.

It's still way too soon to call Guiton scary, but one thing is already certain: Ohio State isn't scared of him at all.


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

I've always thought 13 was a lucky number.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Alhan's picture

"Triskaidekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning "3", kai meaning "and", deka meaning "10" and phobia meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is fear of the number 13; it is a superstition and related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia."
-From Wikipedia

I learned something new today!  Thanks Ramzy!

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Ethos's picture

You know, even with all the things that have happened, I really hope Clarett gets a loud welcome in the stadium in November.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

Denny's picture

I think (hope) that he will, given his fairly well-documented past few years. I really, really hope so, at least.


AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I think it has to do with his character. There are guys in his position who might get bitter and start to see themselves as not being an important part of the team. Guiton seems to be the exact opposite.
The media is very good at shining the spotlight on spoiled big-program athletes and I am glad to see a guy like Kenny get some press for being a team player and having not just the respect of his coaches and teammates, but also for his committment and love of the game.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

German Buckeye's picture

As I read from a recent post in another article, tOSU should have serviceable, if not great back-ups ready for play.  We get top 10 recruiting classes yearly - our talent should be stacked and ready for prime time at any minute.  Kenny represents that best.  Now our linebackers...that's another story.

chitown buckeye's picture

Completely agree. Guiton exemplfies what a back up should be. Prepare like a starter, lead like a starter, and when your number is called play like a starter. I think Guiton and this experiance will help other younger back ups take notice on how you can still help the team even if your name isnt atop the depth chart. In the game of football you are literally only one play away.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Earle's picture

Triskaidekaphilia = love of the #13

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Buckeyeneer's picture

Clarett was so much fun to watch. 19 of 20 times the guy broke the first tackle and kept moving. Oh what could have been . . . . .

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Larryp713's picture

That is how I remember Mo from that magical year. What a freaking beast. There were times where he reminded me of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson - I truly think he had that potential.



Sgt. Elias's picture

How KG was behind Joey C-Deck and A Statue on the roster, I'll never really know. I suspect Walruses.  


"Okay -- I've got an El Camino full of rampage here." 

Kansas City Buckeye's picture

I keep reading that KennyG is a different player this year.  Maybe he was just horrible in the film room last year.  Also, why does Bollman keep getting blamed for Bauserman?  It seems as though Coach Fickell gets a free ride and none of the heat for that debacle last year. 

Poison nuts's picture

Sgt - where did you find this picture if you don't mind my asking?

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

brylee's picture

“You guys don't see him at practice," said John Simon to the media following the Purdue game. "(Guiton) gets every mental rep possible. He's coaching people all the time. Every time he gets in the game the team gets excited."

Almost jerks a tear from your eye, doesn't it?

osubuckeye4life's picture

Big Mo was awesome back in 2002. I'm glad he is turning his life around. His downfall was a tragic waste of talent. 
Kenny definitely has the mentality down for his role on this team. I'm so glad he didn't take the bus ticket back to Texas. He is currently one of the most vital cogs in this wheel because his name could be called at anytime to perform. A good back up QB is a huge asset for a team.
It is so awesome hearing about these turnarounds and/or transformations on this team!
Rod Smith, Kenny G, Chris Fields, Boren playing any position, Fragel moving to the o line, etc.