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State of the Roster: Wide Receiver

Breaking down the wide receiver position heading into Fall camp.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The position previews roll on, as we will look into the wide receiver position today.  It will be a new look of sorts for the offense as Tyler Boyd has taken his talents to the NFL. Pitt was so reliant on Boyd these past three seasons, and it will be interesting to see how the offense will change it's philosophy without such a presence on the field.  Like with the other previews in this series, I spent time talking on MarkRogersTV a few months back about the position.

Projected Starters

-- Dontez Ford 6'2" 210 Senior / 2015 stats - 26 catches, 505 yards, 2 Touchdowns

-- Zach Challingsworth 6'2" 200 Junior / 2015 stats - 12 catches, 171 yards, 1 Touchdown

As the lone senior in the bunch, Dontez Ford assumes the role as a leader in this unit. He started opposite Boyd most of last season, and did reasonably well in his first year as a starter.  Ford proved to be a solid down field threat as evidence to his 19.4 yards per catch average.  He won't have the luxury of Boyd taking attention in underneath routes, so his role and how he plays may have to change.  Ford is a veteran leader on this team, and while he isn't a Tyler Boyd or a Devin Street, he's a solid college football player that will make plays this season.

While Boyd and Ford were the established starters last season, a true number three never really emerged. For a brief stretch in the middle of last season, Zach Challingsworth did show some signs of being a true threat.  The junior from South Fayette made some big catches last season, and there is hope he can expand on that this season. While I project him as a starter, it's far from a sure thing.  Other guys can and will compete for this spot.

Top Backups

-- Jester Weah 6'3" 210 Junior.  2015 Stats: N/A

-- Quadree Henderson 5'8" 190 Sophomore. 2015 Stats: 2 catches, 1 yard

Jester Weah is one of those players everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen. He looks the part with a big 6'3" frame. He has the speed you would expect, as a former state sprinting champion back in high school. Everything looks to be there, except it hasn't happened yet. Weah saw some snaps last season even some targets on some passes, but he did not record a catch. Weah will get every opportunity to make his mark this season. He won this year's Ed Conway Award at spring practice as the most improved offensive player, so hopefully he has a breakout season.

Quadree Henderson looked to be a guy that would be a main piece in the offense last season. In the opening game against Youngstown State, they had plays designed for him and he was getting touches. After that, he went silent throughout most of the season. He did show back up in the tail end of the year with two big returns against Miami and Navy, with the latter return going for a touchdown.  He has explosion and perhaps new coordinator Matt Canada can find some use for his game-breaking speed.

The Freshmen

-- Tre Tipton 6'0" 190 pounds

-- Ruben Flowers 6'3" 190 pounds

-- Maurice Ffrench 5'11" 185 pounds

-- Aaron Mathews 6'4" 195 pounds

Pitt has an intriguing bunch of freshmen entering the program, and perhaps we can see a number of them making an impact this season. We know Ford will be a factor, but the other three players I mentioned are not set in stone. One or two of these freshmen could challenge for those snaps.

Tre Tipton was on the team last season, and even played in some games.  He never recorded a catch in any of those games however.  Due to his limited action and a season long injury, Tipton was granted a medical redshirt and comes into this season with four more years of eligibility. The staff last year saw enough from Tipton to not initially redshirt him, so there's a good bet he will see the field this season.

Maurice Ffrench is an athletic playmaker from New Jersey, and his speed could get him on the field.  He will be competing for time in the slot with guys like Quadree Henderson and even Tre Tipton, but if he is the most explosive player he will get the playing time.

Ruben Flowers and Aaron Mathews are two downfield threats given their respective  6'3" and 6'4" heights. Flowers comes in with some higher recruiting ranking, and he may get some time this season if he can pass Jester Weah. Mathews is currently expected to take a redshirt, but seeing the staff's willingness to play guys regardless if they are a freshman or not, Mathews will at least get his chance.

The Rest

-- Chris Wuestner 6'2" 210 Senior

-- Rafael Araujo-Lopes 5'9"  185 Sophomore

-- Kellen McAlone 6'2" 205 Sophomore

Rafael Araujo-Lopes is an intriguing name to watch. Like Henderson and Ffrench, he profiles more of a slot receiver that would operate well in open space. He will be in the mix for playing time there for sure.  He was a late add for the 2015 recruiting class out of a junior college in California, and he redshirted in 2015.

Chris Wuestner is now a senior. He is currently a walk-on, but did spend a season or two on scholarship. In fact, Wuestner actually has two career catches to his name, and has appeared in some games. He is capable to play a snap or two when called. McAlone is a walk-on, but is entering his third year in the program.