July 15, 2008

Hazelton doesn't shy from trash talk

Some receivers use their feet to get an advantage. They simply outrun opposing players with their blazing speed.

Vidal Hazelton doesn't mind doing that.

Other receivers use their superior hips to run great routes and shake free in the open field.

Ask Notre Dame if Hazelton knows how to do that.

Still, others make their mark with great hands, making circus catches in big moments.

Hazelton, like he did in last year's opener against Idaho, knows how to do that.

With all those weapons to choose from, defensive backs facing the Trojan junior wideout should have their hands full. Turns, they'll have their ears full too.

"I'll probably tell him my route," Hazelton said. "If he doesn't believe me or can't stop me, I'm going to keep on talking trash. I'll let him know he can't stop me; that's fun."

It's not just opposing secondary members that get to hear Hazelton jawing. Teammates like safety Taylor Mays and cornerback Shareece Wright said Hazelton's mouth moves faster and more often than any other Trojan on the field.

While trash-talking wide receivers aren't anything new, Hazelton uses his jaw to give him an edge.

"I'm just really competitive. I go out there, and I feel like I can't be stopped," Hazelton said. "I like to talk to my opponent and get in his head and stuff like that. But, it's all fun. With my teammates, it's what we're here for. Everyone out here is competitive.

"That's what makes it fun."

Coming off a breakout season in 2007 when he was second on the team in receptions (50), Hazelton thinks the offense should have a better year in 2008.

"I think we're growing. We're more of a team now. I know this - we all believe in each other," he said. "We've had a year playing with one another under our belts. It's going to be fun.

"Last year, we were really young. We were never poised together. This year, I think, it'll be a lot different."

A year older, Hazelton is holding himself to a higher standard.

"I'm not a younger guy any more. I've got experience," he said. "There are no more excuses. I can't drop balls. I have to run tight routes. Messing up is inexcusable."

Hazelton's especially excited about the addition of freshman Brice Butler to the receiving corps.

"Brice has looked really good. He's really poised," Hazelton said. "His routes are exceptional for a freshman. He's doing really good."

At times, the offense and the receivers have looked sharp this summer so far, but the group hasn't been able to consistently get the ball down the field against the USC defense in seven-on-seven work.

Hazelton isn't worried though. He said the short, underneath passes are simply the USC quarterbacks taking what's there.

"The quarterback has his reads. Each play is against certain coverages," he said. "If they're in certain defense, he has to go to his check downs. When you see us check the ball down, it's because the other routes aren't open."

He's not frustrated one bit. Hazelton said he knows things will change come August - if not sooner.

"You just have to take it and run play after play," Hazelton said. "I'm sure eventually the coaches will see that downfield is open, and they will start telling the quarterbacks to take their shots."

Getting out on the field with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and receivers coach John Morton should help the offense too.

"That's big, especially by having Coach Morton out here," Hazelton said. "He's always the one giving us tips, telling us what we need to do. When the coaches are out here, it's a whole different story."

And don't be surprised if Hazelton's in the coaches' ears, drawing up his dream game plan.

"I like having (Damian Williams) on the field. Damian, (Patrick Turner), (David Ausberry) and (Travon Patterson) too - they all bring their different skills and help me get open," Hazelton said. "Forget all those backs.

"Put us all on the field."

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