Walt Aikens, Matt Hazel Named to Senior Bowl Watch List


Liberty senior defensive back Walt Aikens and Coastal Carolina senior wide receiver Matt Hazel have been named to the Reese's Senior Bowl Watch List.  Ultimately, 110 players will participate in the 65th Senior Bowl on January 25, 2014 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium (Mobile, Ala.) on the NFL Network.  Aikens and Hazel will look to join Rashad Jennings (2009) and Josh Norman (2012) as representatives from the Big South Conference.

Aikens was named to the Big South preseason All-Conference team in July after earning All-Big South second team honors in 2012.  He started 11 games at boundary corner and led all defensive backs with 51 tackles (39 solo, 12 assisted).  Aikens tied for the Big South lead with three forced fumbles and was fifth in the League with seven passes defended.

Hazel, the 2013 Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Big South selection, tied Jerome Simpson's CCU single-season record with 61 receptions last season.  Making the feat more impressive is the fact that teammates Niccolo Mastromatteo and DeMario Bennett added 47 and 43 catches, respectively, which rank third and fourth on the CCU single-season list.  Hazel tallied 799 receiving yards, which ranks second on the CCU single-season list.  He ranked third in the Big South in receptions per game (4.69) - 80th in the NCAA - and in receiving yards per game (61.46) - 77th in the NCAA.  Hazel's best game last season came on CCU's biggest stage, catching nine passes for 155 yards, which ranks third on the CCU single-game list, and two touchdowns at Old Dominion. I n three seasons, Hazel ranks second on the CCU career lists for receptions (113), receiving yards (1,563) and touchdown receptions (19) and needs 49 receptions to surpass Simpson (161) as the school's all-time leader.

"Last year, the inaugural Senior Bowl Watch List included 312 prospects with 94 total players ultimately being drafted from our game," said Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage.  "With 60,000-plus athletes playing college football, and only 250 or so NFL draft choices each year, we believe there is some legitimate prestige with being placed on our 'official' Watch List."

And, keeping with Senior Bowl tradition, the watch list is loaded with talented athletes from `smaller,' Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools. Sixty-five `small school' players made the initial watch list.

"We love the idea of the smaller school prospects having an opportunity to prove themselves here in Mobile, so it is important that we cast a wide net at this point in our player evaluations," Savage said.