Leshaun Bell could not have started his senior season in a stronger fashion. The 6-foot-3 1/2, 235-pound defensive end had six sacks against Bakersfield in his debut for Calabasas High after transferring from Westlake during the offseason.
That earned Bell double teams and even triple teams in the Coyotes’ most recent game, a 45-26 victory at Rancho Cucamonga. The Cougars tried to avoid him. They looked for and identified Bell before nearly every snap. Bell still finished with a sack, multiple tackles and a pass deflection that resulted in an interception.
“It was a hard night I’m not going to lie. It was hard fought,” Bell said. “Every time I was on the field, they keyed me out, audible, call a player over to my side, pull the running back to my side. It was a tough game, but it tells me that I’m getting better.
“Every second that I put into working my butt off, it’s paying off. I really enjoy being the type of guy that they scheme for and they really want to shut down.”
Bell has been a force on the edge for Calabasas thanks to an offseason of hard work that has seen him mold his body, improve his technique and become a coveted recruit because of his ability to get to the passer.
“Leshaun, man, he does some things that are really, really good for a high school kid,” Calabasas coach Chris Claiborne said. “He was a little heavy when he came and he was a little worried about his weight when we first started. We told him don’t worry about that, just worry about playing at a high level.”
Bell lost 20 pounds and has developed into a dynamic playmaker.
His endurance and flexibility have improved. He fires off the line at the snap of the ball, putting offensive tackles on their heels. His speed and power have helped him overwhelm the opposition.
Claiborne said Bell’s “explosion has been really good.”
Bell has been working hard on his initial burst after taking a trip to Fresno State during the offseason and talking with coach Jeff Tedford.
“He really stressed the get off and he showed me film because they have a really good d-line over there and a lot of their d-linemen ended up going to the NFL,” Bell said. “Basically he stressed the get off and ever since that I’ve just been working on mine and trying to get off the ball.”
Bell credited his explosive start to the play for his sack against Rancho Cucamonga. He reacted to the snap much quicker than the offensive lineman and ran right by.
“He couldn’t touch me,” Bell said. “Then another dude came and I got underneath and grabbed him. I made a play where I grabbed him by one finger literally and pulled him down. I was pretty impressed because I didn’t know I was that strong. I’m like, ‘Whoa! I just pulled down a 6-4, probably 200-pound quarterback with one finger!’ ”
Fresno State is one of the colleges that has stood out to Bell. Calabasas quarterback Jaden Casey, a Bulldogs commit, is trying to sell Bell on continuing to be teammates for four more years. But Bell’s early-season highlights have attracted more attention.
He picked up an Arizona State scholarship offer after his six-sack performance and has more than 10 offers total.
Bell said Ohio State started following him recently and Oregon has been communicating with him often. Claiborne said other schools are watching Bell to see if the Bakersfield game was an aberration.
“You got quite a few schools still looking. You’re going to have more Pac-12s, the Arizonas, the WAC,” Claiborne said. “And the guys that are already on him … shoot, they’re looking like good money right now.”
Bell is planning to wait out the recruiting process rather than rushing into a commitment. He’s looking for a school that wants him as much as he wants to attend and is invested in his development through his college career.
“It’s important to me that the coaches really stress me getting better and I get to learn a lot,” Bell said. “It’s really based off the defensive coaching, defensive line coach — what they have to offer to me and how they could teach me up and get better.”