Thomas Duarte commits at Semper Fi Bowl

Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei tight end Thomas Duarte has been pretty quiet all year in regards to his recruitment. The athlete said he wanted to focus on his senior season and then would take all of his official visits in January.

Thomas Duarte, arguably the top ‘big receiver' in the region decided he didn't need to take his visits after all and committed moments ago to UCLA. Duarte announced on NFL Network during the Semper Fidelis Bowl.

"UCLA is where I felt the most comfortable," Duarte said in an earlier interview. "Every time I was around the coaches and players, they always made me feel like I was already a part of the team and I really bonded well with everyone. I like the coaching staff a lot and it will be cool to play close to home.

"My final choices were UCLA, Notre Dame, Oregon and Washington. I liked USC too but they never offered. I was going to take my official visits but I've already seen Oregon and Washington and I felt comfortable enough with UCLA where I didn't feel like I needed to see anyone else. It's the perfect fit for me and I'm thrilled to be a Bruin."

The offense UCLA runs was another big plus for Duarte.

"I was recruited as an F-Back, the same position Joe Fauria played," Duarte said. "It's not a traditional tight end role, it's more of a hybrid receiver-H-Back and that's exactly how I was used at Mater Dei. They'll move me around to take advantage of mismatches and I'm really excited about my role in the offense.

"I really like the direction the program is going and I think we'll have a shot to compete for the Rose Bowl next year. I like Coach Mora a lot and I get along well with the rest of the staff. I was disappointed to see Coach Tuiasosopo leave since he was the one that was recruiting me but I understand it. I've already talked with Taylor Mazzone, the new coach and I like him and I think he'll be a good coach for me. There's a great opportunity to come in and play early and I'm going to work as hard as I can to make that happen."

Greg Biggins has been covering recruiting for over 15 years, covering the West since the mid-1990's and currently serves as a national analyst for
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