What’s troubling Vidal Hazelton?

Vidal Hazelton was USC’s second-leading receiver last season. Now he’s second string and uncertain about his immediate football future.

The junior, who hasn’t caught a pass the past two games and has been bothered by sore ankles, asked Coach Pete Carroll whether he could redshirt this season. It isn’t as simple as that, as I’ll explain below, but the act of asking illustrates Hazelton’s fragile state of mind.

“There’s a lot of things going on,” Hazelton said after practice Wednesday. “I think I need to grow up as a person in certain areas.”

Asked what he meant by that, Hazelton said: “Just some personal stuff. As a football player too. … If I was to get the year, I think it would be good for me personally.”

Hazelton spent about five minutes after practice talking one-on-one with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Hazelton clearly is frustrated about his diminished role behind Patrick Turner, Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson.

Hazleton’s health is an issue too. After spraining his right ankle during the season opener at Virginia, Hazelton turned his left ankle at the end of the Oregon State game last week. He isn’t quite right physically, and he’s having a hard time battling through that.

“I feel like I could go out and play,” Hazelton said. “I feel like I could be better.”

Hazelton can’t redshirt just because he feels like it. Because he already has played this season, his only option is to be granted a medical waiver. That’s a possibility if his ankles worsen, but he has been well enough to practice this week. He would lose that option if he played Saturday against Oregon, which would be his fourth appearance of the season.

Carroll hadn’t given Hazelton an answer as of Wednesday evening and said it’s too early in the season to definitively designate redshirts.

Here’s my take on Hazelton, based on a conversation with a coach:

Hazelton is sulking about his situation and needs to toughen up and play better. If he doesn’t, he risks falling further down the depth chart.

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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