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Hazelton may have key role this week

October 23, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

USC receiver Vidal Hazelton, unavailable for most of the last five games because of injuries, could get a fresh start on Saturday against Arizona.

Hazelton was already in the game plan for the Wildcats, but he might take on an expanded role if sophomore transfer Damian Williams is limited because of a right shoulder sprain suffered Wednesday.

"It's fine," said Williams, who had surgery on both shoulders in the spring of 2007. "There's nothing to it. I'm all right."

Regardless, Hazelton appears on track to play more than he has since the season opener at Virginia, where he caught five passes before suffering a high ankle sprain.

"I'm playing catch-up now, so I've just got to go out there and keep competing," Hazelton said.

Hazelton had 50 receptions in 2007, more than any Trojans wide receiver. But Williams and sophomore Ronald Johnson stepped up in his absence this season and combined with senior Patrick Turner to give the Trojans a solid rotation.

A few weeks ago, Hazelton requested a redshirt season but was told instead by coaches to keep working.

Since then, he has spent extra time after practice running routes.

"I can't keep dwelling about a redshirt," he said. "I've got to come out here and play."

Pro education

Nick Sanchez, father of junior quarterback Mark Sanchez, met this week with an advisor to learn about the NFL draft and the issues and processes that surround it.

"It was for no other reason than to gather information," Nick Sanchez said. "Mark has no intention and has never had any intention of coming out early."

Sanchez and his oldest son, Nick Jr., an attorney, met with Joe Mendes, a former NFL executive contracted by USC. The meeting was set up on the advice of Coach Pete Carroll.

"They just need to be informed so they understand the process," Carroll said.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said he would not discourage Mark Sanchez from exploring his options after the season, especially if he were projected as the possible first quarterback in the draft.

"The most important thing for Mark is to play well right now," Sarkisian said.

No consolation prize

USC, at No. 5 in the first Bowl Championship Series standings, has its sights firmly set on reaching the BCS title game in Florida.

Arizona, however, would cherish a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Wildcats are the only Pacific 10 Conference team that has not played in the Pasadena bowl game.

USC, Arizona, Oregon and Oregon State are 3-1 in Pac-10 play. Arizona has conference games remaining against the Trojans, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona State.

Arizona has not played in a bowl game since the 1998 Holiday Bowl.


Defensive tackle Fili Moala sat out after collapsing during a drill because of an apparent ankle injury. Moala said that X-rays were negative and that he had suffered an ankle sprain. . . . Tailback Joe McKnight (toe) did not practice but said he intended to do so today and play Saturday.


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