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).

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UCLA offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch enters NFL draft

UCLA offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch (74) is the third Bruin to declare for the NFL draft in less thank a week. (Scott Varley/Staff)

UCLA offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch (74) is the third Bruin to declare for the NFL draft in less thank a week. (Scott Varley/Staff)

UCLA offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch has joined the exodus to the 2016 NFL draft, becoming the third Bruin to declare this week.

The three-year starter, who has played both guard and tackle, announced his decision to go pro on Thursday morning — joining nose tackle Kenny Clark and running back Paul Perkins in leaving the team this week. Benenoch likely projects as a late-round pick, but has physical upside at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds.

“I am excited to pursue my dream and I will never forget the memories I shared with my teammates and friends at UCLA,” Benenoch wrote on Twitter. “The bonds that I formed with my brothers will last a lifetime.”

Part of a lauded 2013 recruiting class, the Katy, Texas moved into the first-string lineup midway through his true freshman season. He leaves UCLA with 35 starts under his belt, playing mostly at right tackle. Continue reading

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UCLA running back Paul Perkins declares for NFL draft

UCLA running back Paul Perkins (24) will enter the 2016 NFL draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA running back Paul Perkins (24) will enter the 2016 NFL draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA’s Paul Perkins has declared for the 2016 NFL draft, leaving the Bruins as one of the most productive running backs in school history.

Perkins announced his decision on Tuesday afternoon, one day after nose tackle Kenny Clark did the same. The former led the Pac-12 in rushing as a redshirt sophomore in 2014, and followed that performance with a 1,343-yard season on the ground. He finished as one of the top-five rushers in the conference despite being slowed by a knee injury midseason.

“Although I am excited about leaving,” Perkins wrote on Twitter, “my heart feels bittersweet to say goodbye. It has been an amazing journey. I have made many great friends and will take with me great memories.”

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Arizona native ran for 3,491 yards in his career, the third-highest total in school history behind Gaston Green (3,731) and Johnathan Franklin (4,403).

To replace him, UCLA will likely use some combination of Nate Starks, who ran for 320 yard and five touchdowns in his second collegiate season, or soon-to-be sophomores Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi. The former was second on the team with 404 rushing yards, but racked up most of his numbers late in games.

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UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark declares for NFL draft

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) has announced his intention to enter the 2016 NFL draft. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) has announced his intention to enter the 2016 NFL draft. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark has declared for the 2016 NFL draft, announcing his decision on Monday afternoon to forgo his final season of eligibility.

The junior was the Bruins’ only All-Pac-12 first-team selection this year, and finished his final season second on the team with 75 tackles and six sacks. He recorded a career-high 11 tackles against Nebraska in Saturday’s loss in the Foster Farms Bowl.

“The last three years have been the best of my life,” Clark wrote on Twitter. “I am ready to take the next step forward and (am) excited to pursue my dream toward being the best player I can be in the NFL.”

Clark said last week that he received a second-round grade on his draft evaluation.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks recently praised Clark’s upside, calling him an intriguing prospect who can supplement his run-stuffing skills with “sneaky pass-rush ability.”

To fill the void left by Clark, UCLA will likely lean on defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. The former five-star recruit was expected to partner with Clark to form one of of the top defensive line duos in the conference, but tore his ACL in September.

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UCLA RB Paul Perkins still mulling NFL draft decision

On Monday, someone asked Paul Perkins if he’s thought about what he wants to do after the season.

“Uh, sleep?” he said. “Eating?”

As for the NFL, the UCLA running back insisted that he hasn’t yet made a decision. The redshirt junior was the Pac-12 rushing champion in 2014, and was effective this year even when slowed by a midseason knee injury. One factor in him considering a return is a shot at the Bruins’ all-time rushing record. He is only 980 yards away from Johnathan Franklin’s career record of 4,403, set from 2009-12.

“That’s super cool,” he said. “That’d be so awesome.”

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