With Pitt now missing wide receiver Tre Tipton for the season, I wanted to take a closer look as far as what this likely means for the team.
Tipton wasn't going to be relied upon as a starter with Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson assuming those roles. Assuming those guys stay healthy, Pitt isn't losing a starter. The team is, however, losing their No. 3 receiver heading into training camp and that's always a blow because that guy is usually the first man up in the event of an injury. If a starter goes down, now that's two guys with some good experience they've now got to try to replace.
The good news, if you want to call it that, is that the team has plenty of other options as backups, including Aaron Mathews, former four-star recruit Ruben Flowers, and Maurice Ffrench, among others. This also opens the door a little for a guy like Rafael Araujo-Lopes, who hasn't had a ton of opportunity yet but was praised by Narduzzi earlier this year during the spring practices. That doesn't even mention the incoming freshmen, including Michael Smith, who was also offered by Notre Dame. If there's one thing Pitt has at receiver, it's options. As was the theme last year, there are plenty of bodies here.
The counter to that is that those options are mostly very inexperienced. Of the backups, Mathews and Araujo-Lopes are the only two wide receivers to register catches last year and they combined for only nine. The incoming freshmen haven't played a game and Flowers redshirted last season. And while Ffrench did play last season, he was mostly only used for jet sweeps and didn't have a single catch.
Tipton didn't have a ton of experience himself, of course, but he easily was the most experienced pass-catcher of the backups. He had only 12 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown, but also missed about 1/3 of the season with an injury.
The injury is also a tough blow for him personally because this sort of puts him behind those guys for the immediate future since they'll get to be on the field, getting the practice reps, etc. From a team perspective, Pitt has the depth weather his loss as long as they get a couple of guys to step up as backups and remain injury-free. His loss will also be lessened if Henderson makes strides as a receiver and can be a little more effective, which has been a topic of discussion this offseason. It will be lessened even more if they utilize the tight end a bit as they have in recent years with the now-graduated Scott Orndoff.
There's no doubt that Tipton's loss hurts. But the good news is that the Panthers have plenty of options.
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