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Pitt’s receiving corps begins to take shape

A pecking order appears to be forming among Pitt’s wide receivers

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi was asked which wide receivers stood out behind presumed starters Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson, and his answer provided some long-awaited clarity on the situation.

Earlier in camp, freshman Dontavius Butler-Jenkins was standing out. Only two weeks ago, he was being heralded as a player that was “going to really help” the team this year, according to Narduzzi. But now, it seems others have risen to the top.

“You look at (Rafael) Araujo-Lopes, he has done a great job. He works his tail off. He’s been very consistent, maybe the most consistent of all,” Narduzzi said, according to a press release from the university. “Maurice Ffrench has done a nice job. Those are the guys that stand out to me and are probably the top four at this point.”

This section of the depth chart has been something of a question mark since Tre Tipton went down with a season-ending knee injury in July. Until then, Tipton, who amassed 142 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches last season, was presumed to be Pitt’s No. 3 receiver, leaving only the No. 4 spot in question at that point.

Ffrench seemed to be in the mix for one of the jobs as of last Friday. That day, Narduzzi was asked if the receiver would play a bigger role in the offense with Tipton out, and his answer was fairly unambiguous.

“No question about it,” he said. “Maurice is a great player offensively and defensively, and anytime a guy goes down, it’s that next-guy-up mentality. Whether Maurice beats out Tre Tipton in camp or Tre is not there and the job is there for the taking, Maurice is going to hopefully have a major part in this offense.”

Ffrench also earned himself some praise from Henderson, who described him as “electric” and “another explosive player that you should watch out for this year.”

With that said, it was somewhat surprising that Araujo-Lopes’ name was the first one out of Narduzzi’s mouth Wednesday, since so little had been mentioned about him to that point.

Araujo-Lopes was only involved in nine plays on offense last season in addition to three kick returns. Of course, he also happened to excel in everything he did, averaging 32.7 yards per return, 12 yards per reception and 5.3 yards per carry, so it’s unsurprising that one of his many talents caught Narduzzi’s eye.

Still, considering Narduzzi said on Tuesday that the depth chart had yet to be finalized and this revelation came after the 14th day of training camp, there may be more movement to come. But for now, it’s good to see a few receivers pulling away from the pack with the season opener less than three weeks away.