Hazelton came to Cincinnati with hopes of playing right away because he transferred to be closer to his grandfather battling cancer in Georgia. The NCAA denied his request and was forced to sit out, and now only has one season to make an impact as a UC Bearcat.
While Hazelton was able to practice with the team last season, this year is different as he knows there will be game action for him once camp is over.
"Yeah it feels real good to be back, knowing that I'm eligible and that I can go out there and actually compete," Hazelton said. "Last year I didn't take as many reps, but it's definitely different playing with the first team because it's very fast as compared to last year working with the threes and the scout team. It's an adjustment but I'm working through it."
Despite not playing last year, Hazelton said that playing with the scout team was a good learning experience.
"The scout team was real good for me, I learned a lot going against the first team defense," Hazelton said. "Mostly about reading coverages and everything so it played out really good."
While at USC, Hazelton had a breakout year in 2007 with 50 receptions for 540 yards and five touchdowns and showed the playmaking ability that had him rated by Scout.com as the No.1 receiver in the 2006 class and a five-star recruit.
However, he seemed to fall out of favor in 2008 and recorded only six catches for 38 yards and no scores.
Hazelton said that he is excited to play with quarterback Zach Collaros and that the two are on the same page.
"Me and Zach are real cool, that's like my brother. I'm just real excited to see what he's going to do this year, and we (the receivers) are going to do everything in our power to help him," Hazelton said.
Cincinnati fans are hoping that Hazelton can help fill the void left by former UC standout Mardy Gilyard, now with the St. Louis Rams, and keep the Cincinnati offense high-flying as it has been the last couple of years.
After sitting out a year and knowing that he only has this year to impress NFL scouts has made Hazelton hungrier than ever.
"It definitely makes me a lot more hungry, because also I read the stuff on the internet and people say some negative things about me and so I try to use that as a (motivational tool)," Hazelton said. "And knowing it's my last year really forces me to take care of my body because I can't afford any kind of injury so I'm in the training room doing all the things I need to. It's a good thing though, I need this kind of pressure."
However, Hazelton says he is not focused completely on himself. Earlier this week it was announced that Kenbrell Thompkins will not be eligible to play this season and have to sit out, something Hazelton certainly knows about.
"Me and Kenbrell are like best friends, we're going to be roommates in camp, and I'm just kind of walking him through the process (of having to sit out)," Hazelton said. "But he's doing real good, his spirits are still real high. I'm telling him just take the year and learn. The fortunate thing about it is he get an extra year (to play), so next year Kenbrell is going to put up some big numbers."
This season under head coach Butch Jones, Jones has instituted a big brother, little brother program where all of the freshmen have been assigned an upperclassman big brother. While Hazelton has not been assigned a specific little brother he says he has embraced his role in the program.
"Everyone is kind of like my little brother, I try and help all of the young guys," Hazelton said. "But all of the young guys are stepping up and we're kind of guiding them along and letting them know what's going on."