Camp Profiles: Ra-Ra Araujo-Lopes

You have no idea who this is do you?  screen-shot-2015-05-10-at-12-07-19-pm

For these camp profile articles I am trying to show fans the players that we’ll see get playing time but probably won’t be in the starting lineup.  I say probably because right now fall camp is going strong and the two-deep going into camp might not be the two-deep coming out of it.

Today we’ll look at rsSO WR Rafael Araujo-Lopes, who transferred in over the 2015 off-season from Reedly Junior College in… Reedly, CA.

That is funny because when I was a kid and got in trouble my dad would always tell my steaming angry Mom that “The kid’s just being Reedly“.

(BTW – I’m going to use RAL for him in this article like we all do with LaRod Stevens -Howling (LSH)  because his full name it is a lot to type every 30 seconds or so.)

Anyway, after reading more about him, I think he’s an under the radar type player who may come up big over the course of the season.  Maybe not ‘star’ big but will post production beyond what was expected of him.

For some background RAL, or “Ra-Ra” as he was known in high school, was a pretty darned good player before he went the JUCO route.  His play in HS was very productive yet he wasn’t offered any scholarships.

He’s a tad undersized at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds, but that certainly didn’t slow him down his senior year. He ran for 1,015 yards on 144 carries, a whopping 7.04-yards-per-touch average, and scored 16 touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 511 more yards and five touchdowns, averaging 19.56 yards per catch.

He was listed as the #26 player in Central Florida’s Top 60 players which might sound geographically restrictive but factoring in the immense amount of HS football players in FL that puts more emphasis on the #26 label. His school also played in the highest FL classification there is so he was out there competing with the big boy schools.

His HS Coach Tim Shifflet has an excellent take on one of the reasons a player like RAL won’t get any offers.  This is a good inside look at how some colleges recruit.  Remember back in my recruiting articles when I wrote that FBS school don’t recruit HS seniors, but lock in JRs instead…?

“Coming out of August, most BCS-type schools are done recruiting. They’re all going to chase after 5-star kids here or there, but for the most part, all of their commitments are done. It’s a mistake in the way they’re recruiting because it’s a race. The problem is, kids like Lopes … they’re not even looking at them because they’re done recruiting,” Shifflet said, “It’s a mistake because a lot of these kids had great senior years and they have no scholarships left, specifically at skill positions: receivers, running backs, linebackers.

“I’ve had these coaches tell me they miss on kids like Rafael Lopes because they already locked in 23 commitments. A lot of schools will take a commitment based on what he did his junior year, but he stinks up the field senior year and they don’t go back and pull the commitment because it’s a bad recruiting process. They’re not recruiting seniors anymore. If you don’t have a great spring, or go to their camp in the summer, you’re screwed.”

Thus an injury to RAL kept him out of his SO year in HS, then an average JR season didn’t light off any fireworks when the scouting services and recruiters started coming around and off to Reedly he went. Here is another article describing that situation in more detail.

But after one year in JUCO he was ready to test himself and Pitt was there for it.

Still, only Pitt was the only school that really came after him. Tennessee showed some interest, but that was about it. 

“I could have waited for others maybe, but when I stepped off [the plane] in the city of Pittsburgh … I loved it,” Lopes said. “It’s a place that feels like it’s growing and there’s a lot of opportunity there. .. not just football-wise, but career-wise. It’s a beautiful city.”

Head coach Pat Narduzzi was extremely instrumental in Lopes’ decision.  “Just meeting Coach Narduzzi … he is a great, great individual,” Lopes said. “The whole coaching staff, as a matter of fact, is amazing. I probably talked to five or six different coaches from there when they were recruiting me. They just made me feel wanted.

Last season he redshirted after coming in with Narduzzi’s first recruiting class. This season though he’s in the big leagues and ready to contribute.  Here is how we may see him out on the field come September.


As of now he is listed as one of the six WRs in the two deep but that is misleading.

He and Quadree Henderson, both smaller and faster WRs, are going to be playing mostly in the “slot receiver” position when we go to three WR sets as you can see in the listing above.  For readers unfamiliar of the term slot receiver this graphic might help. slide1_medium

Here you can see the S is the Slot Receiver; Z is the Flanker who sets up 1-2 yards behind the LOS; X is the Split End.  Y is the TE.

To visualize; when Pitt goes to this formation we may see Ford as the Flanker (Z), Challingsworth split out (X), RAL in the slot (S) with either Orndoff or Holtz as the TE (Y).

One interesting point I learned on Tuesday was that WR Dontez Ford was thrown to out of that slot receiver position a lot last season which I hadn’t really noticed.

RAL will have to win that playing time because his main competitor has already shown he can get the job done in various ways.  As a true FR Quadree Henderson made his name known mostly on kick returns where he ran 18 of them back for 504 yards (28 avg) and a TD in the bowl game.

But Henderson also ran the ball twice and caught two passes so he’s experienced at this level already.  RAL will be back receiving kicks and maybe punts this season also according to WRs coach Kevin Sherman.

Right now I think Henderson might hold the rail as far as getting that #1 slot receiver job but things change and at the very least we know we’ll see rotations at all the offensive skill positions save QB.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Rafael Araujo-Lopes can do with the ball and if he can be as exciting on the level as he was in HS and in JUCO.

Here are his highlight plays from his year at Reedly College…

A reader shared this – it is a lovely tribute from a son to his Pitt football father.



25 thoughts on “Camp Profiles: Ra-Ra Araujo-Lopes

  1. Reed, excellent. I also appreciate the graphic. Yes, most of us played or have watched football forever and know what’s going on, but the play graphic gives a good reminder of how much is going on every play.


  2. The great thing about this guy is that if he turns out to be good, we’ve got him for two more years after this season.


  3. Man, I can’t wait to see this kid return punts for us this year. Between him and QH we should see some real exciting returns and slot play. Yea Buddy! #H2P


  4. I know we all were burned when Dravon Henry picked WVU but he tore his ACL and is done for the season. Best of luck to him in his recovery.

    pmdH2P, I don’t know his specific reason but a lot of quarterbacks will to protect against those low hits as we saw on the Carson Palmer and Tom Brady hits.


  5. A quote from Narduzzi re the backup quarterback competition: Narduzzi said senior Manny Stocker and redshirt freshman Ben DiNucci “are neck and neck … if I had to guess. Maybe Manny’s got a head over him right now. (Freshman Tom) MacVittie’s shown some good things as well. There’s competition at that spot.

    I can’t recall many seasons where a QB doesn’t have to come out for a series or two after being ‘shaken up’. And, with the concussion protocol, one good hit on Nate might mean that we get to see how good the backup QB is for several quarters.

    The QB competition will be interesting to watch.


  6. The graphic was from the Tino years and the ball was thrown into the ground before it got to the “X”. Well, that’s what the graphic looks like. Don’t be haters.

    RAL has as good of an opportunity as anyone else. My sense is that if our WR’s struggle to get space and catch the ball, we may see the short receivers play more, like Oklahoma uses. It’s about getting open, catching the pig and blocking. Whoever does it best, plays.

    As stated before, I think if Lamont Wades handlers were smart, they would start pushing him as a slot receiver ala Tavon Austin. He could play both ways as a nickel too. I just see 5’9″ as too small for the league, not college. I guess it depends on your aspirations. I think Dark K mentioned Clairton and single “A”. I think it is more about talent. Wade has great hips and great speed. Mathews looked great against single “a’s” but has more physical attributes. Both will have success in college. It’s the next level which will be the differentiator. Mathews skill set translates nicer unless Wade changes to slot….in my opinion.


  7. Araujo-Lopes did not transfer in from JC during this off season. He came into Pitt with Narduzzi’s first recruiting class and redshirted last season. He had an injury that kept him from contributing last season and for the majority of the 2015 season he was sidelined in practices. Araujo-Lopes did return for the Spring practices however.

    He was a star at Reedly Junior College and earned All American honors at the JC level for his 2014 year there.
    Yes, the kid has a motor and he has good hands as well.

    I have no idea why kid is pictured in a #7 Jersey though. That is both true freshmen MacVittie’s & Henry Miller’s number per our team roster for 2016. Araujo-Lopes number is 82 per that roster list. Got me on that one.

    Now you know the rest of the story on Ra Ra.


  8. It’s hard not to desperately want Ben DiNucci to win the backup QB job. Manny Stocker by all accounts has been a wonderful member of the Pitt Football Team since he transferred in, contributing greatly with his efforts on the Scout team to prepare Pitt’s Defense.

    But Ben DiNucci winning that 2nd QB spot would be tremendous for Pitt Football’s growth as a program. He’s only a Redshirt Freshman, and it would be great for a young player from Narduzzi’s first class to step-up and take a strong spot in this new Pitt. It’s already time for the young players who came to Pitt with Narduzzi to take control of this program, moving-on from the Transfer+JUCO ‘stop-gapping’ Narduzzi had to perform to fill in the talent+athleticism Holes from Paul Chryst’s recruiting. Narduzzi said as much when the reporter asked about transitioning to “his team” with “his players”. Narduzzi’s quick-answer showed that he wants his recruits to step-up in a Big Way from their first days on campus!

    P.S. on that note I am still curious to see if Wisconsin gradually starts slipping into the Vat of Mediocrity of Paul Chryst — already in his recruiting classes the “athletes” he’s recruiting are looking eerily similar to what he did here (Irrelevant of stars/offers: Paul Chryst is just really bad at analyzing Speed+Explosiveness and athleticism for some reason) …..anyways.

    It’s been very well documented, from everyone who’s seen Manny Stocker at Pitt to everything about his time at N.C. State —- Manny Stocker is a stocky, tough, athletic kid, who just cannot throw the football in live-game + slam-bang situations. Manny Stocker is a taller, thicker Chad Voytik, period. And that gets you 10-21 Home losses to 5-7 (3-5 in MAC) Akron. Remember — in 2014 (along with more brutal losses against weak teams when James Conner couldn’t just run for 200+ yards and 3+ TD’s) that actually happened at Heinz lol.

    This sounds Rough, but if Ben DiNucci cannot beat out Manny Stocker for the #2 job, then that pretty much signifies that Narduzzi and Matt Canada have firmly established that Ben DiNucci is not even close to a Division 1 quarterback. It also 100% will illustrate that they both do not ever desire for him to actually be taking snaps for Pitt in a real football game. No, that’s not an exaggeration or any hyperbole. There’s a reason Manny Stocker got pushed alllll the way down the depth chart at N.C. State, didn’t do enough at JUCO to have any Division 1 or maybe even FCS QB opportunities, and has had to be a scout team walk-on for Pitt (……as a Wide Receiver until late this offseason). And again it’s well documented that Manny Stocker is not a player capable of making real Quarterback reads and accurate throws in a full-speed live game.

    So basically, Pitt fans outta earnestly hope that pretty soon the Pat Narduzzi and Matt Canada resoundingly declare that Ben DiNucci has outright Won the #2 job and will be the Backup to Nate Peterman. Because if not, fans can be pretty sure that no matter who’s listed #2 and #3 on the Program / Depth Chart, Thomas Macvittie will end up suiting-up if Nate Peterman is out for multiple games. *** Especially *** if Pitt is really competing for the Coastal this season.


  9. Dark Knight – there’s another QB (can’t remember his name) who transferred in and will be in the mix, I believe. Unless he has to sit out a year…

    I don’t know much about Tom Macvittie, but wasn’t he a WR in high school until his senior year?? If so, he may not be ready for college ball for a year or two (if ever).


  10. @rockymtnhigh yup, Bo Schneider.

    Played as a true freshman last year at UCF (UCF went 0-12, Schneider took his lumps with a not very talented team). He came to Pitt and this year is his redshirt year, and he will be an eligible RS Sophomore next season. Regardless this year is a Adapt and Learn, Eat, Train, Lift year —- which Ben DiNucci had last year.

    Basically this year at QB for Pitt it’s: (1) Nathan Peterman (I mean this as a positive: Great “Middleman”, “Transition” QB —- Basically Bill Stull Redux, which is 1,000X better than Tino Su*k-seri). He is the unquestioned starter.

    Then: (2) Redshirt Senior Manny Stocker (walk-on, was a scout team receiver til a few months ago. Did a little research, couldn’t even get any Quarterback playing time at Junior college 😦 😦 ) / **** R.S. Freshman Ben DiNucci **** : eligible to play this season-forward, got a whole year to Eat and Lift and Improve / then true freshman Thomas MacVittie, who the coaches+fans+everyone hopes can Redshirt this season.

    Even if he came here to compete for the actual starting job, Bo Schneider is just in all likelihood a “Depth Guy”. Not a particularly strong arm, nor any real “It Factor”. The type of depth-Quarterback that coaches hope can keep an offense “above water” should his number come-up during a season. Not a Nathan Peterman-arrival situation where Pitt’s QB situation was…..tragic + Laughable, due to Straight-up Negligence from Paul Chryst.


  11. So far recruiting is painful to watch. Back to RAL – he does look like he has good hands and control of his body to bring it in in-bounds. i love rags to riches, here’s hoping for the best.
    Huff funny comment but Tiny’s uncle wwb is downloading mounds of stats as I type. What is it with our inability to recruit and develop qbs.


  12. Thanks Dark Knight.

    Here’s to hoping that Nate doesn’t get so much as a hang nail during the season.

    Based on the picture, it wouldn’t take much for Bo to rock one helluva mullet hairdo.


  13. Digging the sound of our WR depth — hope its true. The talk early on in camp is the true freshmen are impressive as well, so that helps too. I am a little worried about backup QB — has anyone watched Dinucci throw and how does he look? My guess is Bertke thought Dinucci was better than he so that’s why he transferred — or Narduzzi didn’t like him? If a WR who was buried on our depth chart is our next best option, my guess is Canada and Narduzzi are eagerly hoping MacVittie gets up to speed really fast.


  14. Schneider concerns me for a couple of reason out of the gate. In one of the videos from another site, the film shows a qb drill where our qb’s are hitting a wide receiver type screen. The coaches can be heard yelling “Bo, you gotta move faster”. That is telling me that he isn’t going all out, which is problematic.

    I like the players on our team and the depth will create increased effort and competition during practice, which will result in improved play during the games. I have been harping on here for a couple of years that we will not see improvement in the team until we improve the depth for the reasons so stated above.

    @ RKB – that was direct from Tino’s playbook…..with a similar result. LOL


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