Questioned on whether or not this group of Buckeye wide receivers is the deepest group he has had, the coach blurted out "absolutely" before the question was finished being asked.
"This is as deep a receiver corps as we've had since I've been here, I'm sure," he said. "It's seven deep. Seven can play right now, in my opinion. Some will play better than others, but as the season progresses and you get more guys experience you'll be able to count on seven guys by the time the third quarter of the season comes along."
That group is led by the Brians, senior Brian Robiskie and junior Brian Hartline. Both started all 13 games last season and figure to reprise their roles as the top two targets for quarterback Todd Boeckman.
This year, though, they will be joined by a host of young players who are all giving Hazell plenty of options when the Buckeyes opt to spread the field.
Throughout fall camp, the battle has been to be the No. 3 wideout, and the competition has reportedly been fierce. Head coach Jim Tressel has sung the praises of sophomore wideout Dane Sanzenbacher throughout camp – often unprovoked – although junior Ray Small has been apparently pushing him every step of the way.
According to Hazell, though, it might be Small with the slight edge. Should the Buckeyes go five wide, the depth chart would read: Robiskie, Hartline, Small, Sanzenbacher and then either sophomore Taurian Washington or freshmen DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas.
That group has been made even stronger with the return of Robiskie from injury. After suffering a slight right shoulder separation August 12, he has spent the majority of his time on the sidelines. However, he practiced full-go August 22, he said, and both he and Hazell said he will be 100 percent healthy when the season begins August 30 against Youngstown State.
"We've been cautious with him," Hazell said of Robiskie. "He's played a lot of football around here, so he's a guy you can be a little more cautious with but he'll be ready to go by next Saturday."
Robiskie credited the trainers for his speedy recovery and said the injury is not one that is expected to linger into the season.
"It was real mild," he said. "You never want to be hurt. Obviously you're frustrated, but you can't let that affect you. You have to come in every day preparing like you're going to practice because guys are continuing to look up to you."
One player not in the list of wideouts Hazell cited is freshman Jake Stoneburner, a four-star prospect whose blend of size (6-5, 230 pounds) and speed (he was timed at 4.46 seconds during high school in the 40-yard dash) was expected to make him a candidate for playing time this season. The central Ohio native has battled a stress fracture in his shin throughout camp, however, and that missed time has apparently set him back.
Of the three freshmen, he looks the most likely to be facing a redshirt season.
"We're going to have to play that one by ear right now," Hazell said. "We're not exactly sure how it's going to all play out. He's going to be a good player for us one day."
Overall, the three freshmen have impressed their teammates and coaches alike.
"The biggest thing about the entire freshmen class is that they're very coachable," Hartline said. "I was pretty excited with the people that came in, most specifically at my end, the freshmen wide receivers. They're pretty good. They take criticism really well and they want to get better."
Hazell said he is not afraid to insert either Posey or Thomas into early-season action in the same way players such as Robiskie and Ted Ginn Jr. saw action as true freshmen.
"They're right in the mix," he said. "I'm not afraid to use them. You've got to get their feet wet. You've got to learn with their mistakes a little bit when they are young and then hopefully they'll mature and grow up."
If they do, this group of wideouts could go down in the annals of OSU history as one of the greatest.
"We have the potential to be, three, four, five years from now when you look down the line, you'll say, ‘Wow, that was a really deep receiver corps," Hartline said. "These guys are pretty good."