National Signing Day has come and gone.
That’s OK, says Winter Park running back Rafael “RaRa” Lopes. The gifted playmaker, who has dazzling moves and speedy feet, especially with the ball in his hands, is confident his own signing day will come. When and where, we don’t know, but eventually, somehow, somebody will come calling.
“I’m not really talking to anybody specifically. I haven’t had any offers. I’m not in any rush to sign. I just kind of have to wait out the process now to see who falls through and see who goes where and maybe I’ll fall in somewhere,” said Lopes, who is the No. 28-ranked prospect in the Central Florida 2014 Super60.
He’s a multifaceted running back who also has the grades to play at the next level, even the Football Bowl Subdivision level if he’s fortunate enough to get a look. He is already fully qualified for admission through the NCAA’s academic clearinghouse.
So what has been the problem? Winter Park had a great season, going 10-2. Lopes, too, had a great season as running back, slot receiver and even wildcat quarterback. He also played defense when the big moments came and head coach Tim Shifflet needed his services.
He’s a tad undersized at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds, but that certainly didn’t slow him down his senior year. He ran for 1,015 yards on 144 carries, a whopping 7.04-yards-per-touch average, and scored 16 touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 511 more yards and five touchdowns, averaging 19.56 yards per catch.
The only thing that slowed him down at all during his high school career was a torn ACL he suffered during a 7-on-7 tournament prior to his sophomore season.
“It’s surprising, to a certain extent, I guess,” Lopes said. “I don’t know how much my knee injury affected [the recruiting]. I know going into the spring it was still a question mark, ‘Is he going to be able to move or cut?’ and stuff like that.
“I do know that coaches who came out in the spring and watched me in practice said they were very impressed with the way I was able to move and able to run, but a lot of schools didn’t come in the spring or didn’t get a chance to see me and I don’t think they really got the gist of my ability to run after having worn that knee brace.”
That part of it, Lopes understands.
“Recruiting is working earlier and earlier in your high school career now, and I think I just came up on the map late, so I just gotta wait my turn now,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to put up decent film. I do think I had some decent film my junior year, but I think with my brace it did scare a few coaches.”
One would still figure, however, given what Lopes was able to do on the football field that someone, anyone, would have taken notice, especially with Winter Park going through most of the season unbeaten and drawing plenty of attention to the team.
He’s a versatile back who can run and catch out of the backfield. But he’s under the radar, so far, in fact, Lopes is almost underground. Opposing coaches talk about him all the time. College coaches ask about him. No one offers him.
Shifflet is baffled to the point of frustration about the whole process of recruiting. He spoke with the Sentinel’s Alicia DelGallo last week about the situation.
“Coming out of August, most BCS-type schools are done recruiting. They’re all going to chase after 5-star kids here or there, but for the most part, all of their commitments are done. It’s a mistake in the way they’re recruiting because it’s a race. The problem is, kids like Lopes … they’re not even looking at them because they’re done recruiting,” Shifflet said, “It’s a mistake because a lot of these kids had great senior years and they have no scholarships left, specifically at skill positions: receivers, running backs, linebackers.
“I’ve had these coaches tell me they miss on kids like Rafael Lopes because they already locked in 23 commitments. A lot of schools will take a commitment based on what he did his junior year, but he stinks up the field senior year and they don’t go back and pull the commitment because it’s a bad recruiting process. They’re not recruiting seniors anymore. If you don’t have a great spring, or go to their camp in the summer, you’re screwed.”
I couldn’t have said it any better. Lopes will find a home, but it doesn’t have to involve this kind of aggravation. To his credit, RaRa is going with the flow. Not very many players handle such a situation like he has.
“Something will come,” he said. “I’m confident.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun