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Friday, January 4, 2013
UCLA gains verbal from TE Duarte

By Erik McKinney

CARSON, Calif. -- Three-star tight end Thomas Duarte (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) put a quick end to his recruiting process on Friday, as the three-star prospect made a verbal commitment to the UCLA Bruins at the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

"The education is great that I'll receive and their football is on the rise," Duarte said. "I'm going to love to be a part of the revolution that is UCLA football."

Duarte surprised many by even scheduling his announcement to take place at the event. He said all season that he would focus on recruiting after the season and looked to have a busy January ahead of him. But the 6-foot-3, 223-pound, two-way threat felt comfortable enough after multiple unofficial visits to make a commitment to the Bruins.

He held offers from much of the Pac-12 and eventually narrowed his choices to a final four of Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and Washington. Duarte took unofficial visits to all but Notre Dame.

Duarte had a phenomenal senior season for a Monarchs team that surprised many by posting an 11-3 record. He caught 58 passes for 1,025 yards and 15 touchdowns, and also racked up 42 tackles 10 sacks and three interceptions on defense.

He has the ability to play multiple positions at the next level, but will begin his career as a tight end.

He is verbal commitment No. 20 for the UCLA Bruins, who needed a versatile tight end to bring in alongside a fantastic group of wide receivers. The Bruins were able to turn tight end Joseph Fauria into a dynamic weapon in the passing game this season, and they likely see the same ability in Duarte.