UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte joins list of NFL draft departures

UCLA Bruins wide receiver Thomas Duarte #18 looks at USC Trojans linebacker Su'a Cravens #21 after scoring a touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Cross town rivals USC and UCLS met at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. 11/28/2015 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte (18) is the latest Bruin to forgo his senior season in favor of the NFL draft. He led the team with 10 touchdown catches as a junior. (John McCoy/Staff)

UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte has become the latest Bruin to declare for the NFL draft.

His father, Tim, told the Orange County Register on Tuesday that the 6-foot-3, 225-pound inside receiver had filed his official paperwork a day earlier — after receiving a third-round grade on his draft evaluation. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s recent departure for Texas A&M, he said, was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in terms of Duarte’s decision.

As a junior, Duarte excelled in Mazzone’s spread offense, working the middle of the field and becoming the team’s most dangerous red zone target. After totaling seven scoring catches through his first two seasons, the Fullerton native found himself on the receiving end of 10 of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen’s 23 touchdown passes.

UCLA will enter next season with just one player who made at least a dozen catches in 2015: soon-to-be redshirt junior Darren Andrews, who recorded 42 catches for 429 yards and a score.

Duarte is the sixth UCLA underclassmen to enter the draft. Linebacker Myles Jack — who suffered a season-ending meniscus tear — and offensive guard Alex Redmond both left the team before the end of the season, while defensive tackle Kenny Clark, running back Paul Perkins and offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch declared shortly after the Bruins’ loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl last month.

Only three players had left early after head coach Jim Mora’s first three seasons: offensive lineman Xavier Su’a Filo (No. 33 overall, 2014), quarterback Brett Hundley (fifth round, 2015), and defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy (undrafted).

  • j metaphor

    No problem, leading rusher, best D lineman, two O linemen and our best receiver gone to the pros.
    No problem.
    Houston ????

    • Just Owns

      Mora, Mora, Mora, Mora of Mora. Those who can marginally matriculate to the NFL do so, instead of enduring another ugly year with the unprepared Mora.

      • gotroy22

        Marcia Marica Marcia!

    • Bizquiteen Trisket

      You mean three O-Linemen and our two best receivers,

  • 92104bruinfan

    For what it’s worth, this past season Clemson had virtually all new starters on both its offensive and defensive lines, new co-offensive coordinators, a bunch of freshmen starting, and a returning sophomore QB they felt pretty good about. They ended up doing ok this past season. Best wishes to Duarte and other Bruins pursuing their NFL dreams. Hope they visit and stay involved with the program as alums. Meanwhile, let’s hope for a strong recruiting finish and a huge off season of strength & conditioning. Upward and onward. Go Bruins!

    • Laker Rod

      Stanford lost 9 starters on defense prior to the 2015 season. It isn’t necessarily about returning starters. UCLA had the most returning starters in the entire Pac-12. UCLA also had the most returning starts by offensive linemen in the entire nation.

      The key to having a good team is having “veteran” upper classmen linemen which many Bruin fans FAIL to research, acknowledge and admit.

      Here is Clemson’s starting D line:

      DE – Dodd RJr
      DT – Watkins RJr
      DT – Reader Sr
      DE – Lawson Jr

      Starting O line:

      LT – Hyatt Fr
      LG – Mac Lain Redshirt Graduate
      C – Guillermo RJr
      RG – Crowder RSo
      RT – Gore Redshirt Graduate

      So out of the 9 linemen…6 of them REDSHIRTED. Two are graduate redshirts. Some people like to point out the lone “exception” of a true frosh lineman. Clemson didn’t win because of the true frosh left tackle. They won because of all the other guys.

      Clemson’s RB who ran for over 1,500 yards is a REDSHIRT sophomore.

      Their QB is a true frosh but he’s a RUNNING QB…not a drop back QB like Rosen. DeShaun Watson ran for over 1,000 yards in addition to throwing for over 4,000 yards in 15 games.

      Clemson’s LB’s consist of Blanks RJr, Goodson RSr, and Boulware Jr. All had past starting experience also.

      I highly doubt Clemson had 6 true juniors who left in 2014 also prior to their 2015 run.

      And Clemson didn’t have a bunch of freshmen starting. Where do you get your info from. Name those starters. I bet you can’t. Any freshman who played…they are NOT the reason Clemson had a good season.

      Who came through for Alabama? OJ Howard the TE for Bama is a junior and Coker is a graduate transfer. He’s actually a reject. Henry is a junior also. Bama wasn’t winning with true frosh. Heck…Bama won by coaching. The onside kick changed the entire game. Saban made a great call. How many times do we ever say that the UCLA coaches made a great call. They often get out coached.

      • 88 Straight

        Yeah, the Left Tackle wasn’t important at all. It’s not the most important position on the OL with a right handed QB. It’s not one of the most valued commodities in football. It was all the other guys on the line making up for the LEFT TACKLE!! How stupid can a post be?

        And according to their depth chart they also have a freshman starting on the D-line. Now both of these are the exception to the rule, but you minimizing their contributions and that of any other players of any class shows you will sink to any level in a weak attempt to prove your poor logic.

        The largest difference last night was on Special Teams, the onside kick and the kickoff return.

        • Laker Rod

          Quit twisting things around. Of course left tackle is important but it’s NOT the reason why Clemson had a successful year. Wake up. The original poster made up BS claiming Clemson played true freshmen everywhere. What a liar.

          You can’t even address the main point. Clemson won because the had a lot veteran upper classmen. Look it up. Do some research for a change.

          • 88 Straight

            Stupid. No one person is THE reason any team wins. Loser Rod.

          • Laker Rod

            But you and others like to claim teams are winning with true freshmen. LOL!! Wake up.

          • 88 Straight

            Some teams ARE winning with true freshman. Clemson for one. They don’t win because of them but with them. Keep trying.

          • Laker Rod

            LOL!! If this is how you truly feel then why are you and others so anxious to get true frosh out on the field and expecting UCLA can possibly go 11-2. LOL!!! What a tool!

          • 88 Straight

            Another lie for Liar Rod. You are REALLY is little troll. No need to say that I have repeatedly said that only exceptional freshman should be playing and only if they can make significant contributions. Just a dumb response from a guy that says he believes that not every freshman should redshirt and then criticizes every freshman that doesn’t. Which side of your mouth are you speaking out of this morning?

          • Laker Rod

            LOL!! You’re the liar. All you try to do is justify the play of true freshmen bringing up examples here and there. Don’t lie. Then when it serves your purpose you then say freshmen should redshirt if they don’t expect to play much.

            Every time a true freshman plays you try to spin justification for it. You talk crap out of your holes.

          • 88 Straight

            They went your way? Finally you admit it, you were pulling for SC to win in some little, sick immature belief that you win something. What a loser. Yes, UCLA is an academic school. THAT alone is proof you never even attended, let alone graduated.

          • Laker Rod

            Switching the subject yet again? I wasn’t pulling for SC to win. I’m just being realistic about the situation. A true frosh wasn’t going to win in that situation and I was proven correct. Deal with it. You’re the loser who can’t handle the truth. And it shows how dumb you are in your mindset and thinking of what true freshmen QB’s can accomplish.

            Trying to determine where I graduated from. LOL!! I repeat…you are an embarrassment to UCLA. You have no knowledge of college football. It’s proven. You’ve made a FOOL of yourself which is why you changed your name also ProbationU.

          • 88 Straight

            I am not trying to determine where you graduated. It’s clear to me that you didn’t. You can’t even comprehend your own words. You were gloating about UCLA losing to SC. Spin it however you want, little man.

          • Laker Rod

            Switching the subject again?

            I told you even before the season started that if it came down to
            this…UCLA was NOT going to win with a true frosh. Josh Rosen was
            presented with a situation which YOU fools thought he could come
            through. Rosen choked big time and you know it. He played just like a
            true freshman. Those were the words of many UCLA fans. YOU GOT
            CLOBBERED.

            And you do is talk nonsense. It’s no wonder you changed your name. LOL!! What a pea brain. Your old brain is just shriveled up. You still collecting unemployment? LOL!!!

          • 88 Straight

            Picking against UCLA makes you happy. Why don’t you go back and find where I picked UCLA to win the South or the PAC12? Oh. It doesn’t exist. Another one of your embellishments. That means a lie. Like your UCLA degree. Never happened.

          • Laker Rod

            Switching the subject again? I told you even before the season started that UCLA would NOT beat USC with Josh Rosen as a true frosh. Deal with it. Loser.

          • 88 Straight

            And UCLA would have won with Neuheisel? You just can’t escape what your choice was. Big losing record with Jerry. But you never line the best QB. It’s your pattern to prefer the backups.

    • gotroy22

      You mean pursuing Canadian football dreams.

  • gotroy22

    What’s going on down there? Yoy and double yoy!

  • 88 Straight

    It’s too bad he’s leaving and that Mazzone’s departure led to his decision. I am not sure of his position in the NFL. He isn’t really a TE and he isn’t really a wide receiver. He is a very solid player with great hands that will be missed greatly, particularly over the middle.

    • Sam Bam

      88 Straight. Not here to bust any ba**s. I respect you, Encinitas Bruin, and NYC Bruin, but I think the Bruins are gonna feel these early departures significantly and losing Jordan Payton makes it that much tougher. Offensively I don’t think the Bruins have the personnel to turn it around with all the key weapons gone. And a new OC might need more than a season to get things going. I thought Duarte was really good, maybe even a bit underrated. I’m scratching my head at all these early Draft entrees.

      • 88 Straight

        It certainly isn’t going to help. There will no doubt be some redshirt freshmen stepping into more minutes that originally planned, I would guess.

        You kind of have to break these into two categories, the expected departures and the unexpected departures. It was expected that Kenny Clark, Myles Jack and Paul Perkins would probably be leaving. Many predicted that. Many also thought Eddie Vanderdoes would leave but then he was injured.

        As for the unexpected departures, the most costly are Benenoch and Duarte. Alex Redmond was going to be academically ineligible and decided to hire an agent and turn pro. Not sure how to evaluate that because the players get a ton of help at UCLA. I am not sure about Caleb Benenoch’s decision but there were thoughts about the family needing the money. I think it is a premature decision, but who am I to judge or know where he might be drafted, but it seems very risky. And Duarte, he left because the OC left, according to his father. Maybe he thought his role would be diminished, who knows, but we will miss Benenoch and Duarte. Benenoch was a starter, but his departure hurts our OL depth. Duarte made many clutch catches in 2015 and others will have to step up.

        Utah, USC and ASU will have new QBs next year, so there is some uncertainty there as well. I don’t see any dominant teams in the South. In the North, Oregon has to find a QB. Stanford needs a QB, but he can be more of a game manager as they are traditionally strong in the trenches and McCaffery returns. I have never been a WSU or Mike Leach fan and am not sure what to make of them. The team that I think needs to be looked at very closely are the Washington Huskies. They have a strong defense, a good running back and improved QB play by the end of the year. And, they have an outstanding head coach. They could surprise a lot of people.

        • gotroy22

          Your penalties per game will drop significantly with Benenoch gone.

          • 88 Straight

            And Redmond

          • Laker Rod

            LOL!!! Maybe both should have redshirted so they wouldn’t have picked up such bad habits and reputations. You never get it. You never will.

          • 88 Straight

            Yep..you solved it again! I think you could solve any problem with people in life redshirting!

          • Laker Rod

            Of course. You have no better response back.

          • Laker Rod

            You sure about that? What if Klemm decided to play more true freshmen on the O line? He’s done it every freakin’ year since he’s come to UCLA.

            I mean seriously..what kind of incompetent fool can you be where you are playing true freshmen on your offensive line for 4 years straight.

      • Laker Rod

        Kennedy Polamalu is going to need more than one year. What a disaster.

        • Sam Bam

          Polamalu has some history of butting into other areas of the team, at least at SC he did. But i think Polamalu, Rosen, and the Bruins offense are going to struggle this season with too many key offensive guys leaving or moving on. And if Polamalu struggles I can see him and Mora off to a rocky relationship.

          • Laker Rod

            I’m not concerned about butting into other areas of the team related to KP. My issue with KP is that he has no play calling experience whatsoever. He probably has no experience developing a true offensive game plan either or even making adjustments within a game. I have nothing against KP personally and think he’s a great RB’s coach but he’s no offensive coordinator….at least not yet. If he were humble about this situation…he would know he’s not ready either.

            It’s ridiculous for anybody to even have high expectations for him. UCLA can’t instantly become a power rushing team either. They don’t even have the personnel for it.

          • Sam Bam

            i think it’s gonna take time to even establish the personnel for a power run game with the Bruins OLine losing three starters and Ulu-Perry. Will Polamalu stay true to his philosophy if things start out slow or will he start throwing it around? These are some valid concerns. Helton did the same exact thing, pounded the running game against UCLA and totally abandoned it against Stanford. And UCLA is losing it’s two top pass catchers in Payton and Duarte that makes the offense that much tougher and even more pressure for the run game and blocking to be on point. You know Rosen will be Rosen, but it’s gonna get rough for him next season in my opinion. I actually think Polamalu is a solid hire at OC, but I think the Bruins have too many key ingredients leaving and KP will need time.

          • Laker Rod

            It’s not really about UCLA losing 3 starters on the O line. UCLA gains back Scott Quessenberry who will most likely take over at center. He has starting experience but he’s more of a mobile pulling type lineman when he played guard.

            UCLA returns Kenny Lacy who will be a redshirt junior. The point I’m trying to make related to smash mouth football where the linemen would perhaps be expected to drive block more is that Connor McDermott and Kolton Miller are more pass blocking type tackles. They have great length and quick feet but they are not very powerful. Things can change for both with more off season work in the weight room.

            To add to this…McDermott and Miller are the type of tackles who don’t necessarily need a tight end next to them to help in pass blocking. Benenoch was the type of tackle who could have used a tight end next to him at times.

            I’m not too worried about the UCLA receivers either. UCLA lost Craig Bragg and Tab Perry their top two WR’s in 2004. In 2005, UCLA used Joe Cowan, Marcus Everett, and Brandon Breazell. None of them had many receptions the previous year. The Bruins returned senior Marcedes Lewis in 2005 which helped alot and of course MoDrew but the point is UCLA had new WR’s step up since Drew Olson was a senior which was the most important piece to UCLA’s 10-2 season in 2005.

            Darren Andrews, Kenny Walker, and Stephon Johnson all return at the F spot and I am hoping the coaches move Andrews to the Z spot. Eldridge Massington seems ready to take over for Payton. Mossi Johnson can play the Y spot also.

            I have no idea though if Coach KP can pull it off related to getting the right guys into the right spot and developing a sound passing game to go along with a solid rushing attack. In my opinion, Josh Rosen needs to bulk up and improve his speed and he has to run the ball some. UCLA can’t just switch to a pro style set where Rosen is under center all the time. This isn’t going to work.

            Since UCLA just recruited another QB recruit who’s more of a dual threat type…it at least seems like UCLA won’t abandon the zone read option which in my opinion is a good thing.

  • BruinBob

    Wow….an absolute horrible decision by Duarte. He’s not an NFL TE and he’s too slow for an NFL WR. To be lured to the NFL with a 3rd round projection while being a tweener is a stupid move. He and his family received some bad advise.

    • LTEfan

      He received that 3rd round projection from the NFL, so he had a sound basis for his decision.

      • Laker Rod

        Leave UCLA to be a 3rd rounder. LOL!!! I guess that’s better than Hundley or McCarthy. LOL!!!

        • gotroy22

          More dopey decisions.

      • Laker Rod

        Leave UCLA to be a 3rd rounder. LOL!!! I guess that’s better than Hundley or McCarthy. LOL!!!

      • gotroy22

        3rd round of Canadian football if he’s lucky.

    • Laker Rod

      The horrible decision was Mora playing so many true freshmen from the 2013 class. So many of them now gone. They would not be leaving as redshirt sophomores.

      • 88 Straight

        Duarte’s dad said he is leaving because Mazzone is leaving. Try some facts. When exactly did you single out that Duarte should have redshirted? Oh, it never happened.

        • Laker Rod

          If Duarte was only a redshirt sophomore…it’s a lot harder to leave. Wake up. Duarte contributed a grand total of 16.5 yards per game as a true frosh. LOL!! YOU were the who said that if guys are not on the two deep and not expected to play much then yeah…redshirt them. Make up your mind. Always contradicting yourself.

          • 88 Straight

            One trick pony. You have no real idea, just spew the same recycled garbage.

          • Laker Rod

            One trick pony. LOL!! You can’t deal with the truth. I repeat…make up your mind. Always contradicting yourself. You first claim guys should redshirt if they are not expected to contribute much. Then when they don’t you make up some excuse was to why they played as true frosh. LOL!! Then you brag about how a player wins “freshman” honors. LOL!!! That’s all UCLA’s crappy football program is good for.

          • 88 Straight

            I know, you like things simple because you have a simple mind. Your reading comprehension stinks. It all has to be black and white for Laker Rod…except when Laker Rod has to backtrack from being wrong again. When that happens, he disappears from the site for a week so everyone will forget when he was embarrassed by his simple thoughts and then reappears later assuming everyone forgot his idiocy. Welcome back!

          • Laker Rod

            I have a life. It’s obvious you don’t. You’re like on here 24/7. LOL!

          • 88 Straight

            Sure…you have a life! You got served, caught in a lie and disappeared as usual. Can you tell me who won the AFC and NFC titles this year? LOL

          • Laker Rod

            Never in a lie. You’re the one who’s always been WRONG.

            It’s amazing you’re still here after embarassing yourself. You claimed UCLA could go 11-2. LOL!!! Shows how delusional you are.

      • Damian Toohey

        Duarte was ready to play as a freshman, and we needed him then. Sure, playing true freshmen increases the chance that they leave early, but it still means 3 years of contributing on the field, and it increases the players’ chances of going to the NFL. I imagine prospective recruits like that about Mora.
        Maybe Duarte could have benefited from a 4th year, but would his draft stock increase beyond his current projection? Throw in the uncertainty of a new OC, and I think his decision makes sense.

        • Laker Rod

          We didn’t need Thomas Duarte as a true freshman. He had a grand total of 16 catches for 214 yards. That’s it. That’s 16.5 yards per game.

          And if UCLA can only attract players based on the possibility of potential early playing it goes to show why Mora/UCLA don’t get anywhere.

          Bottom line…if Duarte was a redshirt sophomore…he would have stayed because he could have made the situation work with potentially two more years in case 2016 didn’t work out.

          And it appears the reason why Duarte is leaving is because it’s obvious he doesn’t have confidence in the new assistant coaches taking over. I wouldn’t necessarily either.

          • Damian Toohey

            As a freshman, Duarte was our best receiving option at the Y, so we needed him. His size/speed/skill fit our offense well, which is why he started multiple games as a freshman and led all Y receivers in receptions, yards and TDs (Darius Bell also had 16 receptions).

            Besides, we didn’t have many TEs on the team that year, so he probably would’ve needed to play at some point no matter what.

            I get what you’re saying, though. Playing so many true freshmen definitely increases the number that leave early.

          • Laker Rod

            UCLA had other options…if they didn’t they you make it work with the personnel you have…not the other way around which is the problem Mora/UCLA continually has.

            For example…for 2013, UCLA could have used more tight end type sets. Nate Iese was a redshirt frosh and Jordan Barrett was a redshirt senior. As you mentioned there was already Darius Bell and even Jordan Payton could have played the slot receiver spot or Fuller could have been used here more.

            From on offensive lineman standpoint…Connor McDermott was a redshirt frosh also and he could have played tight end.

            I hope you can see the problem is simply “mindset”. Coach Mora holds no value to redshirting whatsoever. It’s proven. It’s totally backfired on him now.

            And yup….playing true freshmen definitely increase the chances one can leave as a true junior. You here that 88 Straight. Wake up.

          • Damian Toohey

            Nah, that’s a lot of effort just to avoid playing a true freshman. UCLA made good use of him his freshman year. Overall our offense was very productive, and we won 10 games that year.

            It’d be silly to avoid playing a kid who was clearly ready to play in 2013 just to reduce the chance that he leaves after 2015. Why would any coach think that way? You play to win each year, so you should put your best available players on the field each year. If a player leaves early after 3 productive seasons, so be it.

          • Laker Rod

            Maybe the whole point in this is that in reality UCLA should have already had somebody ahead of Thomas Duarte as a true freshman.

            You can spin it anyway you like and justify the play of true freshmen but in the mean time UCLA has a gang load of true juniors leaving before even winning a conference championship or at least a major bowl game.

            Stanford lost 9 starters on defense after 2014 but they replaced these guys with a bunch of redshirt seniors or juniors who have been waiting their turn. Stanford is able to do all this now because it’s obvious Jim Harbaugh didn’t perform this cycle of playing all these true freshmen. Heck…he even redshirted Andrew Luck. Think about if he didn’t. Would Kevin Hogan have redshirted then? Would Luck have left only after his true junior year?

            You claim play to win each year but is this what Harbaugh did his first year or second year? I repeat…he redshirted Andrew Luck even in his 2nd year.

            And I repeat….if you think the play of true freshmen really contributes to winning games so much…then it’s easy to see where the misunderstanding is.

            There is no point or justification for Mora to be playing as many true frosh as he has been over these past 4 years. What does he plan on doing for 2016?

            In my opinion, 2016 is a good place to start to stop this madness. Does he start back up in 2017 though. I have no idea why UCLA only has two O line recruits. We need some big freshman defensive tackles also.

    • gotroy22

      Yes he is a victim of too much self esteem.

  • Richard

    Wouldna played next year. Our “$ man” in 2015 can’t block and is slow. N/S last 2 games. # No chance to get Asiasi if TD stayed. We’re going jumbo + have 5 speedy receivers in 2016.
    God Bless him and Thank You Very much TD.
    He was the “Offensive Got To Guy” for the Bruins

  • BruinBob

    The spread offense is generally not used as a team’s primary offense in the NFL. At best, he will be a late round pick or a free-agent selection.

    • gotroy22

      At best. Hope he graduates in June.

  • Aero93

    Jack –
    how about an end of the football college year Q&A?

  • commentar

    This one sucks. I liked Duarte. Best of luck in the NFL! Get picked by the Rams and stay in LA!

  • Moises Rosiles

    These guys don’t understand the NFL is a whole other level…a different sport entirely practically. I’m really surprised by all these departures to the NFL, they are in for a rude awakening in the real world. And the “straw that broke the camel’s” back comment? I’m not sure what to make of that, one doesn’t normally use that saying unless it was an undesirable situation but he obviously felt he could only succeed in a spread type offense…those surely work in the NFL…right.