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December 2, 2008

Hazelton says he's transferring

USC wide receiver Vidal Hazelton's tumultuous junior season has ended with him transferring, he said Tuesday.

"It's been a frustrating year," he said.

Entering the season as USC's top returning receiver, injuries and a lack of playing time helped spurn Hazleton's decision to transfer from USC.

In addition to the football issues, Hazleton's paternal grandfather was diagnosed with cancer earlier this season.

"Ever since that, I've been thinking about a lot of stuff," Hazelton said. "We're really close. I lived with my grandparents while I was in high school."

Hazelton told wide receivers coach John Morton of his decision Monday.

"I told him before I told anyone else," Hazelton said. "I felt like I owed him."

Hazelton has been in center of plenty of controversy during his junior year.

A letter written by Dexter Hazelton, Vidal's father, to Pete Carroll surfaced on the Internet earlier this season. In the letter, Dexter Hazelton questions the USC medical staff's attentiveness to injuries Hazelton suffered in USC's season opener against Virginia and injuries he played with as a sophomore.

Against Virginia, a game he started, Hazelton caught five passes for 33 yards. Since that game, he's appeared in seven of USC's 11 games, catching just one pass for five yards against Stanford.

After opening the season as a starter, Hazelton has slipped on USC's depth chart, falling behind Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson.

"I know coaches want to just do what's best for the team," Hazelton said. "But, I'm a competitive guy, being a wide receiver."

Hazelton told USCfootball.com back in early October that he was seeking a medical redshirt this season because of a myriad of nagging injuries. Team doctors cleared him for action.

"That had nothing to do with this," he said. "It wasn't the coaches decision."

In addition to early-season injuries, Hazelton has suffered a concussion and a severely stubbed toe - an injury he sustained chasing his dog.

When he's been on the field this season, Hazelton has been used primarily in running situations as a blocker.

As a sophomore, Hazelton emerged as one of USC's most reliable receivers. Hazelton caught 50 passes (second-most on the team) for 540 yards and four touchdowns.

"It's been tough coming from last year, when I played pretty well," he said. "I had lots of expectations for this season. It didn't work out like I wanted it to."

Hazelton is the second member of the USC football team to transfer this season, following Broderick Green, who recently said he plans to enroll at Arkansas this coming spring.

Hazelton said he's wide open in terms of where he'll end up, hoping to be closer to his home in New York, and he hopes to enroll somewhere in January.

Hazelton came to USC as the No. 2 ranked wide receiver in 2006 prep class, behind Florida's Percy Harvin.


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