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The Garic Wharton train is chuggin'

Speedy wide receiver Garic Wharton finally got his chance to show his stuff for the Arizona Wildcats. Will he get more opportunities?

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Garic Wharton has waited his turn. The 5-foot-11 receiver didn't get an opportunity to put his speed to the test in game action as a true freshman, making this piece we wrote last year appear as a mythical tale more than a story about a legitimate contributor to the Arizona Wildcats.

But opportunity peaked for Wharton against the Washington Huskies with newly-inserted Johnny Jackson sitting out due to an injury and Richard Morrison clinging to the punt return duties -- where he did quite fine in his own right, by the way.

Wharton caught three passes for 59 yards, and scored a touchdown on a 33-yard burst in which he ran the incorrect route.

The Garic Wharton train is rollin' along, and now it's a question of what Rich Rodriguez will do once Jackson is healthy enough to play. He said that it'll be a day-by-day competition, according to Anthony Gimino.

"I think players like the fact that they have to perform every day, they have to compete every day," Rodriguez told the Citizen. "We have Richard Morrison, who we have a lot of confidence in. We've got Johnny Jackson, who earned a job before he got hurt, and now you have Garic Wharton."

With Rodriguez's emphasis on speed, the Wharton experiment could be quite tempting to prolong.

He's only a sophomore, and there are many parallels to what he'll be able to do and another speed burner in a spread option offense.

Look to Oregon for how De'Anthony Thomas has befuddled defensive coordinators. While Thomas' speed has been negated a bit by the increased competition in the Pac-12 and by producing the highlight-worthy tape in the nonconference schedule for defensive schemes to adjust to, it's that attention that is now lending help to Marcus Mariota and especially unheralded starting running back Kenjon Barner.

Wharton could be that -- maybe more as an every-down receiver -- for the Wildcats.

Like the 5-foot-9, 173 pound Thomas, Wharton's 5-foot-11, 163 pound frame might not hold up 100 plays per game. But with increased confidence in his playmaking abilities against UW, perhaps he will gain confidence, and maybe Rodriguez will give him touches in ways that Chip Kelly does for Thomas.

If you believe numbers don't lie, then believe that Wharton has the straight-line speed that could be considered tops in the nation. Yes, yes, football speed and track speed are a bit different, but not that different. compiled a list of the fastest NCAA football players' 100-meter times for 2012, and Thomas comes in only the honorable mention section with the fastest known 100m time of 10.57, which is presumably from high school. Wharton, who runs for Arizona's track team, was overlooked, but would come in above Thomas with his 10.49 personal record time in the 100m dash that he ran in May's Pac-12 Track and Field Championship.

It appears that Morrison has lost his job as a starting inside receiver based on the last two weeks. Jackson shined as a precise route-runner and a player who won't drop the ball with linebackers and safeties bearing down on him.

But Wharton brings something else to the table that's worthy of more looks, even if Jackson returns from his injury with a handle on the starting slot receiver gig.

I'm (still) on the Garic Wharton train. It's the really, really fast one.