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MICHAEL GOULDING, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
UCLA's receiver and Mater Dei Thomas Duarte will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft, his father confirmed on Tuesday.

Former Mater Dei standout Thomas Duarte declares for NFL draft

STAFF WRITER

UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte will bypass his senior season and enter the NFL draft, his father, Tim, told the Register on Tuesday.

Duarte, a Mater Dei graduate, filed his official paperwork on Monday.

Last season, the 6-foot-3 Fullerton native caught 53 passes for 872 yards and a team-best 10 touchdowns and was named to the All-Pac-12 second-team.

Tim Duarte said Thomas received a third-round evaluation from the NFL's draft advisory committee. Players that request feedback receive three types of grades: first round, second round or third round to undrafted.

He called the departure of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who took the same position at Texas A&M last week, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“It kind of helped to make his decision,” Tim said. “He (Mazzone) really recruited him and really had the confidence in him coming out of high school. Thomas was a perfect fit for his offense.”

Duarte was the Y-receiver in Mazzone’s spread, up-tempo offense, a sort of hybrid tight end, the position he may play in the NFL.

"He was real comfortable," Tim said.

The Bruins are set to promote running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu to offensive coordinator, a move that may bring schematic changes.

He is the sixth UCLA underclassman to declare for the draft, following linebacker Myles Jack, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, offensive guard Alex Redmond, running back Paul Perkins and offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch.

Only Ohio State has seen more underclassmen depart from its 2015 roster, with nine Buckeyes leaving early to turn pro.

The loss of Duarte will make things tougher on quarterback Josh Rosen, who enters his sophomore season in 2016 after being the Pac-12's offensive freshman of the year this past fall.

Rosen targeted Duarte and receiver Jordan Payton, who was a senior, 44 percent of the time. 

The Bruins also now lose four of their top five pass catchers, including Payton (78 receptions), Duarte (53), Perkins (30) and senior receiver Devin Fuller (24).

The top returner is slot receiver Darren Andrews, who caught 43 passes for 443 yards and one touchdown.

Four-star prospect Theo Howard, who was considered one of the top wide receivers in the country by several recruiting services, enrolled for the winter quarter and is expected to participate in spring practice, bolstering the unit.


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