You have no idea who this is do you?
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.
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.