Jace Alcazar couldn’t wait for the afternoon of June 7, 2015 to come, because it was the Buhach Colony (Atwater) linebacker’s chance to run inside his “dream school.”
Most high school football players commonly label USC, UCLA, Oregon, Florida State, or any other prominent Power 5 program as their hopeful college home. But not the 6-foot, 215-pound Alcazar, who said the Mountain West school located one hour south from him is his ideal landing spot after his prep career ends.
Alcazar set foot on the Fresno State sprint turf and practice field for the Bulldogs’ skills camp on that warm sunny day. He competed with nearly 500 other participants with the aspiration of impressing head coach Tim DeRuyter and his Bulldog coaching staff.
Alcazar - who hasn't been offered yet but has drawn interest from UC Davis, Army, Montana and Sacramento State - has made it clear that he wants to play for last season’s MW runner-up.
“My dream school is Fresno State. It’s the college I grew up watching and the college I’ve always dreamed of playing for,” Alcazar said.
He included that he came away impressed with how the Bulldog coaches treated him.
“The Fresno State staff is an outstanding staff,” Alcazar said. “I had the chance to talk to defensive coordinator Nick Toth and outside linebackers coach Jordan Peterson. Both were outstanding coaches who gave me a lot of great tips.”
Alcazar played in eight games for last season’s 5-5 Thunder team. He finished with an average of 4.4 tackles per game and 3 sacks from his outside linebacker spot.
He added a mean streak to the Thunder offense as he lined up at tight end and shoved his blocking assignments into the Merced County football grass on Friday nights. His run blocking helped pave the way for 2,953 team rushing yards for Buhach Colony, which was an average of 295.3 per game.
His seizes his most attention, though, at linebacker.
“My strengths include run stopping, the ability to read offenses and pass rushing off the edge,” Alcazar said. “I’m looking to improve my technique and speed.”
Alcazar is known in the Sac Joaquin Section for chasing down running backs, harassing quarterbacks out of the pocket and sacrificing his body to stop the inside run with his 4.7 40-yard dash time.
He’s at a campus that’s produced three PAC-12 commits since 2012: Aaron Cochran (offensive lineman, Cal), Matt Cochran (OL, Cal) and Aziz Shittu (defensive lineman, Stanford).
Alcazar, however, said he feels that several people in his home county are overlooking him.
“I do think I’m a sleeper in Merced County,” Alcazar said. “I feel like I can compete with any linebacker in this county. I’m looking to prove that this upcoming season.”
Along with trying to elevate his name among the echelon of Merced County football, Alcazar is looking to help restore the Thunder’s winning tradition. Buhach Colony – once a Sac Joaquin Section Division II semifinalist from 2010 to ’12 – has won no more than five games in the last two years.
“What motivates me at Buhach Colony? We have the expectations to make it back to the playoffs, which we weren’t able to do the last two seasons,” Alcazar said. “Another motivation is my teammates. I’ve played with them from the youth level all the way to now.”
Off the field, Alcazar held a 3.73 grade point average in the classroom last school year. He watches tapes of his favorite NFL linebacker Clay Matthews and said “I love the intensity he plays with and how he leads the Green Bay Packer defense.”
While he’s dreamt of putting on the Fresno State helmet and running out of the tunnel at Bulldog Stadium, he said one Football Championship Subdivision school is on him the hardest.
“UC Davis really liked what they saw on my film,” Alcazar said. “They also said they’re excited about having me at their camp on June 26 at their stadium.”
Alcazar said he’s willing to explore his options on the recruiting trail, but adds he’ll keep his favorite college on his short list.
“I would keep my recruiting period open just to see what other schools would give me an opportunity, but Fresno State will always be high on my list,” Alcazar said.