Vols a Finalist for Top-Ranked Receiver

Already ranked the nation's No. 1 wide receiver prospect, Vidal Hazelton is attempting to take his game to another level by taking it to another school.

His bold quest will take him from Moore Catholic High School in Staten Island, N.Y. to Hargrave Military in Chatham, Va., for his senior year. The idea behind the transfer is to acclimate himself to living away from home and playing against tougher competition. Essentially, Hazelton is getting out of his comfort zone to prove he can still get into the end zone.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound, five-star prospect reached the promised land at a remarkable rate as a junior, scoring 17 TDs on only 39 receptions for 780 yards. He also intercepted four passes, returning two for scores. That translates to turning every other touch into a touchdown. That doesn't even include the points he scored as Moore's place kicker. Oh yeah, he also brought a kickoff the distance for a quick six.

Hazelton reports for gridiron duty at Hargrave on Aug. 11 and will play his first game a the prep school Aug. 26. He hopes the structured life style and regimented approach will better prepare him for the challenge of playing big-time college football.

"I'm going there for my senior year," Hazelton told Bob Lichtenfels of Scout.com, which rates the wideout tops in the Class of 2006 and No. 2 overall in the east region. "I have to get focused and used to being away from home; I feel this will do that for me."

An excellent route runner with 4.5 speed, Hazelton plays a physical game and is an excellent blocker. He dazzled scouts with his ball skills at the Elite Collge Combine in New Jersey last spring, earning recognition as the most valuable receiver there. As capable as he is catching the ball and turning receptions into points, his greatest strength may be his down field blocking. He also uses his big frame to shield DBs and create space for passers to exploit. His top end speed is superior, but not excellent. However he compensates by getting off the ball quickly and getting in and of his cuts smoothly.

Comparisons between Hazelton and Patrick Turner, the No. 1 rated receiver in the Class of 2005, are to be expected. And the two match up well in terms of size, speed and play-making ability.

Tennessee lost the recruiting battle for Turner, a native of Nashville and the Volunteer State's top prospect, when USC made a strong, late push. UT will fight for Hazelton's services with a cast of finalists — Miami, Florida State, Florida and Michigan — that is virtually the same as Turner's favorites. The senior is also looking at Virginia and Virginia Tech although he doesn't plan to visit either college officially.

"I'm visiting Florida State, September 3rd for the Miami game," Hazelton told Lichtenfels. "I plan on trips to Tennessee, Miami, and Florida also."

Having missed on Turner last season may help the Vols connect with Hazelton since he is looking for early playing time in a high-octane offense.

"I like them (Vols), and I looked at the roster and they have a lot of wide receivers graduating," he said. "They have a good coaching staff; I really like Coach [Pat] Washington who is recruiting me. Tennessee has always put wide receivers in the League."

I'm going to try and take the visits in September and October then I'm going to announce my decision soon after."

Making the grade with Vidal Hazelton is good news for Tennessee, and it comes on the same day the Vols lost 2005 receiver signee Ulysses Alexander to Auburn. UT had wanted Alexander to take gray shirt status and not enroll until January. He elected instead to accept a scholarship the Tigers had available and will enroll this fall.

If the Vols sign Hazelton, the wait for UT's next great wideout may be over.

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