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Pitt Football Spring Practices: Rafael Araujo-Lopes in for expanded role in 2017?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Araujo-Lopes came to Pitt for the 2015 season after a monster 1,200+ yard year in JUCO ball. That led some to believe he might even contribute to the team right away, with only Tyler Boyd as a 'sure thing' at receiver that season.

But Araujo-Lopes not only redshirted that year, but he was used sparingly last season. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, he managed only three catches for 36 yards.

Despite that lack of production, though, could this finally be the year he gets on the field more? If you listen to head coach Pat Narduzzi, that's possible.

Pitt had a closed scrimmage on Saturday and when asked, Narduzzi suggested that Araujo-Lopes was one of the guys that stood out. "I think the one guy that was consistent was Rafael Araujo-Lopes," said Narduzzi. "I was really proud of the things he did."

While he had only three catches last season, one area Araujo-Lopes did carve out a little for himself was in Matt Canada's explosive offense as a rusher. As one of the players involved in the coordinator's jet sweep plays, Araujo-Lopes did play a little in that role, with six carries and a 5.3 yard-per-carry average. Even with Canada gone, Narduzzi envisions him doing more of that this year, working alongside Quadree Henderson.

"I think that is what we are striving to do," Narduzzi added. "He was able to do some of those things last year. He did them in the game, probably not as many big plays as Quadree, but he had those opportunities. He's done those things; he's seen himself on video. I like the way he's working right now."

Araujo-Lopes still isn't a sure thing to play a ton. Both starters from last year, Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson, return. And to be honest, he even has work to do just to climb up the depth chart as a reserve. Young receivers Tre Tipton and Aaron Mathews both return, as does Maurice Ffrench, who played a role in the jet sweeps as well. That's not even mentioning redshirt freshman Ruben Flowers (rated as high as a four-star recruit last year) and the incoming freshmen, including Michael Smith, who had 1,500+ yards in high school last year and was offered by Notre Dame, among others.

For now, though, Araujo-Lopes seems like he will be a factor for playing time in the fall. And the more competition Pitt has at receiver, the better.

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