- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The key to a seamless transition into the lineup for Kenny Guiton has never really been a secret.
The Ohio State senior has consistently been praised for his embracing of mental reps, standing about 10 yards behind the first-team offense, going through the same drop-back as Braxton Miller and then working through the same route progression to ensure he's on the same page if he's needed to fill in at quarterback.
But those simulations really only help keep Guiton sharp. It takes something more to make the move from starter to backup look as seamless for the rest of the offense as it did repeatedly last year in short-term appearances or last week in a complete outing for Guiton, and the Buckeyes have a practice plan designed for successful transitions that includes giving live reps in practice to their second option that serve a purpose for more than just snapping him a ball.
"Coach [Urban] Meyer always talks about taking game reps and taking mental reps, and mental reps are just as important as game reps," tight end Jeff Heuerman said. "Kenny is awesome, and he takes more mental reps than anybody does.
"But the coaches also put us in situations sometimes like that where they take Braxton out, and, here, Kenny’s in now and you still have to go about the game. We do that in practice a lot, and you just have to go about practice."
That business-as-usual approach when the Buckeyes are forced to make a switch at quarterback during a game has become the standard not just because Guiton keeps himself ready to do anything at any time, but also because the rest of the offense has become accustomed to seeing him in the huddle on the practice field.
The continuity was obviously critical for Ohio State last season with Guiton coming off the bench to finish off a handful of touchdown drives while Miller occasionally received medical attention, with his heroic work late in the fourth quarter against Purdue most notable among the appearances in relief. But over the last two weeks heading into Saturday's meeting with Florida A&M, Guiton has been called on to lead the offense for all but seven snaps thanks to Miller's sprained knee, and there hasn't been even one moment of panic for the Buckeyes even though they're playing without a truly dynamic athlete who finished fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy last year.
"We’ve got a backup who can step in and do a pretty good job," wide receiver Philly Brown said. "When Kenny comes in the game, everybody is 100 percent confident that he can do the same things.
"I mean, Kenny has been around here a long time ... and he does everything that Braxton does at practice. Kenny gets the same amount of reps as Braxton does at practice, so the timing and everything is always going to be there."
Guiton helps make sure of that by simulating every play even when he's not an active participant. The rest of the Buckeyes handle their part by never blinking when Guiton is thrown out there to work with them, be it during a practice on a Wednesday or the fourth quarter on a Saturday.
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