With Daniel Halverson's commitment status still up in the air, SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason is now taking a harder look at Fresno City C.C. linebacker Isaac Sarate.
Sarate has exchanged e-mails with Mason over the last two weeks, and the two are building a strong relationship. Sarate has not received an offer from the Ponies just yet but believes one could come before Christmas.
"Coach Mason told me that he really likes my film. He was impressed with my speed and said he really needs some help at linebacker and that I could play outside," Sarate said. "My current head coach knows Coach Mason and coached with him when he was at Fresno State so he's been talking to him about offering me."
Also helping with Sarate's recruitment is SMU freshman quarterback Kolney Cassel.
Last year, Cassel was very active in SMU's recruitment of other prospects from the northwest. This time around, Cassel is helping a former teammate. Sarate originally began his career at Yakima Eisenhower (WA) and was a senior there when Cassel was a sophomore.
"Kolney was a big part of why SMU started showing interest. He showed Coach Mason my high school highlight tape and then I sent him my JUCO film as well," Sarate said. "Kolney loves the program and told me that SMU is on the rise. It would be like a dream to play with him again.
"I'm really close to his family. They've helped me out a lot too. Kolney is like a little brother to me. It would just be great for his family to be able to watch me and him on the same field in college. In high school, I always made sure he kept his head on right and had a humble attitude."
Sarate is also receiving interest from Eastern Washington, Fresno State, Idaho, San Jose State and UTSA. But he says SMU is one of his top choices.
"I'm definitely considering going to SMU. I just have to figure everything out. I have to wait and see if Coach Mason offers me and invites me for a visit," Sarate said. "I want to find out more. I know SMU was a big time program back in the day because I watched Pony Excess, and they are in a bigger conference now, but that's about it. I definitely have strong interest in them though."
At 6-foot-1, 240-pounds, Sarate appears to be more of an inside linebacker prospect. Sarate, however, says SMU is recruiting him as an outside linebacker. This season, he moved to defensive end from his normal WILL spot and recorded 33 tackles and three sacks in nine games.
Sarate believes his quickness will allow him to succeed in SMU's 3-4 scheme and says he's more comfortable coming off the edge than he is inside.
"I think I'm more of an outside linebacker type of guy, and that's where Coach Mason wants me," Sarate said. "The last five games I was rushing the edge as a defensive end, and I feel like I did really well there. I had a good season, and we made it to the NorCal Championship. Playing JUCO football has helped me gain my focus and made me more mature on and off the field."
Sarate plans on graduating in the spring and will have two years of eligibility remaining. He currently does not have any official visits scheduled.
Mason Targeting JUCO Linebacker
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