Duarte set for big junior season

After sitting out the first five games of his sophomore season due to a transfer, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite linebacker Sammy Duarte made an immediate impact for the Friars and should have a big junior season.

Sammy Duarte played his freshman year at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, where his older brother and current UCLA tight end Thomas Duarte played. Duarte transferred in the off-season and after sitting out the first five games of the year due to the CIF transfer policy, totaled 47 tackles in the final six games of the year.

Watching Duarte last Friday, he's a very intriguing prospect. He has very good size and looks almost 6-2 and a solid 225 pounds. He's a very physical player who runs well and should be among the state's top inside 'backers this fall.

"I feel really good right now about how I'm playing and our team," Duarte said. "I'm moving well and feel strong. The plan is to use me full time on defense but I'll also get some carries at running back as well. I played a little in the slot too but if I'm playing offense, I'll mostly be in the backfield."

On the recruiting front, Duarte is hearing from a handful of schools but expect that list to grow with a full season under his belt and the nation's toughest schedule on tap.

"UCLA is the main school talking to me and I'm talking with Utah a lot too," Duarte said. "Notre Dame is also showing interest and a lot of schools are wanting to see some junior film since I missed so much time last season. I camped with UCLA and with my brother there, I really like them a lot. My parents love the school so that's probably my early leader.

"I like USC a lot too. They have great linebacker tradition with guys like Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga and I really enjoying watching Hayes Pullard as well. I know I want to stay close to home so the local schools have an advantage. Probably the farthest I would go away would be Oregon or Washington but ideally I would like to stay ini-state if I could."

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