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USC FOOTBALL FYI

Hazelton cleared to transfer

December 03, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

By mining a national recruiting base, USC has stockpiled talent that has the Trojans in contention for a seventh consecutive Bowl Championship Series bowl game.

But USC is discovering that too much depth can be problematic.

On Tuesday, Vidal Hazelton, USC's leading wide receiver in 2007 but a seldom used reserve this season, requested and received his release to transfer to another school.

Hazelton, a junior from New York, is the second out-of-state player to leave the team in the last few weeks. Tailback Broderick Green, an Arkansas native, said Saturday that he would transfer to Arkansas.

"A lot of things played into my decision," Hazelton said in a phone interview. "Football had something to do with it, but my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and being closer to home is the main thing."

Coach Pete Carroll wished Hazelton well and said he was not concerned that two players from outside California were leaving.

"This is a very difficult program -- it's not for everybody," Carroll said. "These guys have made decisions for their own situations. I support what they're doing because they feel like they need to go somewhere else."

Hazelton, who caught 50 passes and scored four touchdowns last season, had only one reception since catching five passes and suffering a high-ankle sprain in the season opener against Virginia.

"Obviously, going from the season I had last year and the big expectations to this year -- things didn't work out," Hazleton said. "In the beginning it was injuries. But to tell you the truth I really don't know what happened."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Hazelton tumbled on the depth chart as sophomore transfer Damian Williams, senior Patrick Turner and sophomore Ronald Johnson emerged as productive receivers for a team that is 10-1 heading into Saturday's game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

"He's just not as good as the other three guys," offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "He wasn't playing as well."

Hazelton did not blame Carroll or other coaches for his situation.

"They did their job -- they didn't make me sign" a national letter of intent, he said. "I knew it was a great program that a lot of great players wanted to play for. I'm not pointing the finger at them.

"They felt the other guys were helping them win games. You can't knock them for that."

Hazelton has not decided where he will transfer.

"I'm pretty wide open to everybody," he said.

Hazelton said he would not look back on his time with the Trojans with regret.

"I enjoyed my time here and I learned a lot from Coach Carroll and the staff," he said. "It definitely was a valuable experience and I'll take all the stuff he preaches with me."

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Quick kicks

Tailback Stafon Johnson did not practice because of a thigh bruise but said he would return today. . . . Fullbacks Stanley Havili (ankle) and Adam Goodman (knee) did not practice, so freshman D.J. Shoemate took the majority of snaps. . . . Quarterback Mark Sanchez and defensive lineman Clay Matthews were selected to the Pacific 10 Conference All-Academic football team. Quarterback Garrett Green was selected to the second team.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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