UA receiver Wharton impresses in scrimmage
Pure athletes thrive in Rich Rodriguez’s system. Arizona wide receiver Garic Wharton is the definition of an athlete. It could be the perfect marriage.
“Garic’s a fast guy and he’s a talented guy,” Rodriguez said. “I think his time has come. He’s going to get a great opportunity. We’ve moved him around from inside receiver to outside receiver and he’s made a few plays. He’s a hard worker and I know he’s hungry to prove himself and we’ve given him that chance.”
Wharton didn’t get that chance in his freshman season under ex-head coach Mike Stoops. With Juron Criner, David Douglas, Dan Buckner, Gino Crump, David Roberts and Austin Hill serving as quarterback Nick Foles’ top targets, the skinny freshman with blazing straight-line speed was an afterthought.
Wharton, who also runs track for the UA, did find a way to contribute as Arizona’s top kick returner a season ago. The Las Vegas native returned 14 kicks for 322 yards last season, good for a team-best 23 yards per return.
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat
Wharton is expected to once again hold kick-return duties, but that won’t be his only contribution in Rodriguez’s first year as the UA’s head coach. Wharton, who played inside receiver until early last week, moved to outside receiver and has been turning heads ever since.
He burned cornerback Shaquille Richardson for a long touchdown catch from quarterback Matt Scott during Saturday’s scrimmage and finished with three catches while running with the starting unit.
“He’s fast, man, that’s all you can say,” Scott said of Wharton, who ran a 4.42 40-yard dash in high school. “He can burn people and get open in a hurry and he got open today and I hit him for a touchdown.”
Wharton’s known by coaches and teammates as Arizona’s fastest player. He said he’ll continue to compete in both indoor and outdoor track after spring ball in order to stay fast on the gridiron. Rodriguez has given Wharton the green light to continue running track, and the 5-foot-11, 163-pound wide receiver will compete in the 60-meter dash indoor and the 100-meter, 200-meter and possibly the 4×100-meter in the outdoor season.
“I did all right last year,” said Wharton, who was the Las Vegas Review-Journal 4A track athlete of the year in 2008 at Valley High School. “I was a freshman, so I wasn’t really full speed but this time I’m ready to do anything I can.”
Wharton’s speed has carried him into the wide receiver rotation, but he knows he has to become a more complete player to really stick. Wharton worked toward achieving that goal when he and Scott met during the summer and offseason to work on their chemistry. Wharton is improving his route-running, but still needs to work on his blocking in order to stay on the field.
“I’m 165, 170 (pounds) so it’s a little harder for me but I’m just trying to become tougher, keep my hands up, and try to do anything I can do,” Wharton said. “Speed takes me a lot of places but it doesn’t make me a complete wide receiver. I’m still trying to be the best wide receiver I can be.”
The sophomore, who played receiver, defensive back and even some quarterback at Valley High School, admitted he still has a long way to go before becoming the complete receiver he wants to become. But under Rodriguez, Wharton is finally getting the chance to showcase his blazing speed at outside receiver, and if he continues to progress, Wharton could turn that opportunity into a legitimate role next season.
“It’s been going great,” Wharton said. Matt and I have a little bit of a connection so it’s working out well … This upcoming summer we’re all looking to put in enough work to get where we want to be, which is the Rose Bowl.”