Loss of Hazelton not huge blow for Cincinnati

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

I was all ready to trademark the nickname "Vidal So-Soon."

But Vidal Hazelton will not be immediately eligible to play for Cincinnati this season after transferring from USC, as Josh Katzowitz first reported and ESPN.com later confirmed through school officials. Hazelton's case to the NCAA -- that he transferred to Cincinnati to be closer to his sick grandfather in Georgia -- always seemed to me to be a little shaky, just giving the sheer geography of the argument.

And who knows? Maybe the NCAA was sick of hearing from Bearcats players after last year's seemingly endless round of appeals from Ben Mauk.

Either way, this is a setback but not a crushing defeat for Cincinnati in 2009. Hazelton would have been a nice addition, for sure. He's a big body at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. He looked to me in the spring as a guy who could go over the middle and make tough catches in traffic, kind of like Dominick Goodman with maybe a little less speed.

But Brian Kelly still has plenty of offensive weapons to work with. He's got No. 1 receiver Mardy Gilyard, who is a breakaway threat every time he touches the ball. D.J. Woods looks ready to emerge as a force after a solid freshman campaign. Armon Binns played well in the spring, and junior college transfer Jamar Howard is expected to make an immediate impact.

Don't look for Marcus Barnett to move back to receiver, as he seems to have established himself at cornerback after the spring switch to defense. If Kelly were truly worried about his receiving corps, he probably would have kept Barnett on offense, because he had to know Hazelton's appeal was a 50-50 proposition at best.

If there's a plus side, Hazelton will be ready to go in 2010, when Cincinnati will need a ready-made replacement for Gilyard. With Woods and Howard still around, the wideout position will remain strong.

Quarterback Tony Pike will still have a plethora of receivers to find in '09. The group is just a little less deep than it might have been.