Entering the season, one of the biggest question marks on Pitt’s offensive depth chart were the wide receivers.
The position has players with potential but as the saying goes, potential just means you haven’t done anything yet.
As it stands, there’s only one player on the roster that has proven on-field production and that’s senior Rafael Araujo-Lopes.
Coming into the 2017 season, he only had 3 career catches but after getting an opportunity, Araujo-Lopes turned into a reliable target for the Pitt quarterbacks. Araujo-Lopes’ best game of the season came against Syracuse when he caught 7 passes for 100 yards.
ARAUJO-LOPES LAST 2 SEASONS:
2016: 3 catches, 36 yards, 12 yds/catch, 0 TD
2017: 43 catches, 531 yards, 12.3 yds/catch, 2 TD
Something very encouraging is the comfort level that’s developed between Araujo-Lopes and Kenny Pickett and how the two are on the same page after working very hard together in the offseason.
“It’s just been day in and day out of us working and communicating together,” said Araujo-Lopes. “I had to figure out where he wants me, he had to figure out where I want the ball. Since January, we’ve been working diligently trying to build our chemistry. I feel that right now we’re in a comfortable place where it can be like that.”
The fact that aside from Araujo-Lopes, this group of Pitt wide receivers has only 59 combined catches between them (Maurice Ffrench 25, Aaron Mathews 22, Tre Tipton 12, Dontavius Butler-Jenkins 0, Shocky Jacques-Louis 0, Michael Smith 0, Darian Street 0, Cameron O’Neil 0) has been a talking point among the fans and media, but Araujo-Lopes believes the room is better than people think.
“We have guys that can play. This is a very competitive, very focused group and a very talented group. We might not get talked about and hyped up by people but we don’t care about that. When Saturdays come around, we’ll show people.”
“Our receivers are motivated in practice because they know that every rep you get counts. Guys are taking it personal that every time they get on the field, they need to show something and make something happen. That’s kind of been the mentality throughout camp” said Araujo-Lopes.
With all the youth at wide receiver and the fact he’s the only senior, Araujo-Lopes has made it a point to lead by example and also talk to some of his teammates when needed.
“What I’ve been trying to talk to the young guys about is worry about what you can control,” said Araujo-Lopes. “Sometime you get flustered by things that are going on, the media, the coaches yelling at you, maybe a quarterback throws a bad ball, don’t worry about any of that. Worry about what you can control. Know your assignment, do your job, catch the ball when it’s thrown to you.”
Like most people, Araujo-Lopes has noticed the play of freshman Shocky Jacques-Louis and there’s one thing that really stands out to him about this special talent.
“He is a competitor. Shocky will compete. That’s how it is back in Florida so he kinds of reminds me of guys back home. He just loves to compete and doing everything right from the moment he’s stepped on campus. He’s definitely going to help us.”
This is the final season at Pitt for Araujo-Lopes who’s trying to enjoy every moment and is hoping their the surprise team in the ACC.
“In everything I do, I’m just trying to make sure I give everything I have, just trying to exhaust every opportunity that I have left. I do feel a sense of urgency because this is it. This has gone by quick but I’ve enjoyed everything and have no regrets.”