FAYETTEVILLE — When Justin Stepp chose to go home to South Carolina, Sam Pittman moved fast to hire Kenny Guiton away from Colorado State.
Guiton inherits a talented group of wide receivers from Stepp. Treylon Burks and Mike Woods are among the best returning wide receivers in the SEC. Sam Pittman was pleased to hire Guiton with a recommendation from Kendal Briles.
“Kenny and Kendal Briles coached together at Houston,” Pittman said. “Obviously Briles thought a lot of him, heard a lot of nice things about him again whenever I talked to some of my colleagues about him. Really excited to have him here. He also obviously has Texas connections in recruiting. And I’ll say this, recruiting has to get better for us, and I believe that these guys that we hired are going to help us in that area, along with coaching on the football field.”
Pittman said the hiring of Guiton so quickly was by design due to the transfer portal.
“On Coach Stepp’s situation, I was made aware he was going to visit with coach (Shane) Beamer,” Pittman said. “So I went to work not knowing what he would decide to do. And I went to work trying to find a wide receivers coach. All these hires, guys, it’s not like a guy leaves and a guy comes in. Usually you have a few days of work in finding.
“My biggest thing on replacing these coaches was I wanted to make sure I had somebody basically in the building or close to in the building by the time y’all found out that we were losing somebody and the reason is because of the transfer portal. And I didn’t beat you. You guys beat me. But I wanted to simply because I’m concerned about our players sitting here a week without a coach. Especially in these times of transfers. So I went to work fast on every one of these hires, knowing what was going to happen. And so with Stepp it was the same thing. We’d been in conversations as soon as I found out there was a possibility he’s leaving I went to work on trying to find his replacement and I think the day he announced he was leaving was the day we announced we had a new wide receivers coach. That’s no disrespect to anybody. That’s me being concerned about the transfer portal.”
Guiton is pleased to be at Arkansas and working with Briles again.
“My interest is off the roof,” Guiton said. “I’m happy to be here and happy to get started, meet the players, get started on recruiting. It’s been awesome.
“And so my relationship with Coach Briles is what got me in the door. I worked with Coach Briles in 2018 at Houston. We had an awesome year and we just clicked. We just clicked. And I think it’s gotten me where I am today. So happy to have that relationship.”
Guiton brings strong recruiting ties to the Houston area and also other places.
“Other areas are just Texas period,” Guiton said. “I’ve recruited being at the University of Houston all throughout Texas. The Dallas area, Fort Worth, Frisco, the Metroplex area, East Texas. So I’ve gotten throughout Texas, also In spent a year at Louisiana Tech so I got some experience there as well. But just actually being myself. Having energy, being relatable to these guys. I’ve played this game to the level these guys want to play it at. And I’m at a school where I can not just sell it to these guys but relate to it. So my energy I always try to bring around and keep a smile on my face and just be a good guy with understanding what these guys are going through and helping them throughout the process as well.
“So it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s a lot of fun for me. I love to go out and hit the road. We haven’t been able to do that lately. But I love to hit the road and get the opportunity to meet coaches and giving these kids the opportunity of a lifetime. When they get that offer, it’s something big. So if I show the love I have for Arkansas I know that will bleed off on those guys and they’ll jump in and be ready to roll.”
Guiton played with Jaedon Wilson’s brother at Ohio State and now will coach the younger Wilson at Arkansas.
“That’s a very unique dynamic walking into, you know, to have a guy like Jaedon Wilson, who I played with his older brother my last year,” Guiton said. “He was a true freshman. I got a chance as a Texas guy being all the way in Ohio, I had to take care of my Texas guys. So, he was a guy I literally took under my arm. We have a great relationship to this day, and I’m sure that won’t change. Getting a chance to coach his younger brother, and I also recruited him at Colorado State, it’s just a family atmosphere, you know? It’s kind of a family affair type of thing. That’s awesome.”
The new coach also likes the group of receivers left by Stepp for him to coach.
“The room I walked into, it’s awesome,” Guiton said. “Coach Stepp did a great job of recruiting. 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 and Bryce (Stephens) coming this summer. So, I’m looking forward to it. Can’t wait to get my hands on these guys and really get a chance to develop the room because it’s a deep one.”
He also inherits a player many consider possibly the best wide receiver in the SEC in Burks.
“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. 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.’ So, that’s what he’s done in the past. Don’t expect that to change any time soon. Just can’t wait to coach him. I think he’s got some things he can work on and get even better. To be a great player and also have room for improvement is all you can ask for. He’s accepted coaching, and I know he’ll get even better.”
What led you to get into coaching and did you think you would have a Power 5 job at age 29?
“Great question,” Guiton said. “My dad is a high school coach in Houston, Texas. So, I was born and raised in coaching. My dad was one. His twin brother is a coach, and his oldest brother is also a coach. So, I was raised around coaches. I knew I wanted to do it. I never thought in a million years I’d be even a college coach. To say Power Five, I’d be lying to you because I never even thought I’d be a college coach.
“So, about halfway through my career at Ohio State, I got a chance to play under some legendary coaches. I mean legendary guys when you talk about Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer and Tom Herman is the guy that helped me get into the coaching world of college football. So, had a chance to play under some great guys, and when they told me I had a chance to be on this level, I wanted to dive headfirst into it. So, that’s what I did, and it’s been awesome. I’m happy I did that.”
When the Arkansas job opened up and Pittman came after him Guiton admitted it was an easy decision.
“In coaching, we all have great connections,” Guiton said. “My connection was Coach Briles as we talked about. We got a chance to talk to Coach Pittman, and Coach Briles talked awesome about Coach Pittman and I’d only heard great things about him. When I got a chance to talk to Coach Pittman, it was a homerun. It was a no-brainer for me.
“I get here and obviously you want to know what kind of room you’re coaching. So, I watched the entire season and a little bit of bowl season where your younger guys get a chance to practice more and scrimmage more and things of that nature. So, I got a chance to watch the full room. 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. This is a no-brainer. It’s a no-brainer, Hutch. Happy to be here.”
Of the 10 on-field assistants at Arkansas, seven are under the age of 40. Is there a benefit to that?
“Oh, I definitely do,” Guiton said. “I think we just have a certain energy about ourselves, you know. I think that a young group of guys are going to bring a different type of energy to the table. With that kind of energy, I just truly believe energy bleeds off of people. If you come in, you’re a dullard, you’re down, somebody around you is probably going to go get down, as well. But if you can bring energy, great energy, to the room, you might get somebody up that’s not having as good of a day as you probably are, but you might get a little energy boost into those guys. That’s what I think there.”
With Briles how has his offense changed since you worked with him in 2018 or has it?
“Honestly, I think he’d be cool with me saying it, I think it’s cleaner,” Guiton said. “I think it’s cleaner. It’s easier verbiage, you know. It’s easier for the guys to kind of get 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. But now, it’s more cleaner. I think guys can relate to things, and I think it’s easier on the guys to play even faster, which is kind of weird to say about that offense.”
Recruiting never ends in this day and age. Guiton shared what he looks for in a wide receiver.
“I’ll tell you one of the biggest things is toughness, toughness and consistency, really,” Guiton said. “We can talk about stars and all those things, but there’s different attributes every guy is going to have, but not every guy is going to come in and just be a tough guy, a tough guy that’s going to do the right thing over and over and over again. So, if you can be a consistent guy, and I know exactly what we’re going to get out of you, and you’re going to do it at a high level, and you’re going to be tough while doing it, you’re the kind of guy I want to sign up to coach.”