Mays says it’s not his senior night

Klein is a Times staff writer.

USC’s game on Saturday against Notre Dame marks the final time Trojans seniors will play at the Coliseum.

But what about junior safety Taylor Mays?

Mays, a Thorpe Award finalist who is regarded as a possible NFL first-round draft pick, said Wednesday that he did not know if it would be his Coliseum finale.

“Teammates tell me stuff like that joking around, but I don’t think about it like that,” said Mays, who has maintained throughout the season that he would wait until after a bowl game before deciding whether to turn pro. “If it ends up being my last game, it ends up being my last game.

“I’m just approaching it like a regular game. It’s not senior night for me.”

Mays, however, lately has been conducting himself like an elder.


After recent practices, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Mays has worked one-on-one with freshman safety Drew McAllister, tutoring a younger player as others on the brink of turning pro have done during the Pete Carroll era.

“I’m just trying to make the most of the time that he’s here,” said McAllister, who has two interceptions. “I want to learn from him and see the stuff that he’s doing.”

Mays is happy to oblige, citing the mentoring he received from senior Kevin Ellison throughout his career.

“He helped show me the way,” Mays said.

Ellison’s bid to come back from Nov. 3 knee surgery in time to play in Saturday’s game might have ended Wednesday.

Doctors cleared Ellison after he completed most of Tuesday’s practice, but he suffered an apparent setback during warmups and left the field.

“It’s not feeling good enough to play on yet,” he said later. “I know how I play and if I can move or can’t move.”

Memory lane

Receiver Vidal Hazelton turned a short pass into a spectacular 48-yard scoring play last season against Notre Dame, one of 50 receptions and four touchdowns by a player who has been seemingly forgotten.

Hazelton caught five passes in the season opener against Virginia but was subsequently slowed by ankle injuries.

He requested that he be allowed to redshirt, but coaches played him after the third game, negating the possibility.

He has caught only one pass since the opener.

“I remember what happened against Notre Dame, but it’s a new year, so I just have to come prepared,” Hazelton said. “I know it’s in me. It’s all about opportunities. When my number gets called I just have to go out there and make it happen.”

Quick kicks

Trainers attended to tailback Joe McKnight after he was hit in the shoulder while recovering a fumbled punt. Linebacker Jordan Campbell collided with McKnight on the ground. Carroll said McKnight suffered a “stinger.” The sophomore is expected to play Saturday. . . . Tight end Blake Ayles (knee) did not practice and probably won’t play against Notre Dame. . . . The Trojans will practice today at 11:45 a.m. . . . A toy drive sponsored by Carroll’s “A Better L.A.” will be held at Saturday’s game. Donations and new unwrapped toys or USC gear will be collected at the ESPN booth/tailgate location in front of the statues at the peristyle end of the Coliseum.