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COC's Khalil Bass: Surprise, surprise

Linebacker has been proving people wrong his whole career

Posted: October 4, 2010 9:55 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.

All College of the Canyons sophomore linebacker Khalil Bass wants is to play for an NCAA Division I program. Despite doubters throughout his career, he appears headed down that path.

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Don’t try to tell him he’s too slow or too small.

For College of the Canyons linebacker Khalil Bass, doubting him will only motivate him. It will only make him better.

At least that’s what happened the last time people told him he wasn’t good enough. For three years, he played football at Village Christian High School in Sun Valley until transferring to Crespi High of Encino his senior year.

“Back in high school, it was that I didn’t have enough exposure to get to the (NCAA Division I) level, and then I transferred to Crespi and when I got to Crespi, people said I was too slow, and then I got to COC and changed my habits,” Bass says.

Now, the 20-year-old sophomore middle linebacker has established himself as the leader and play-caller for the defense. Five games into the season, he leads the team with 27 tackles and also has a sack, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Next year, the goal is to play for a Division I college football team. The University of Southern California would be Bass’ first choice, but he’s also talked to the University of Illinois, San Jose State University and the University of Nebraska, to name a few.

“I feel like I have a really good shot,” Bass says. “I’ve been told by people that I don’t, but I’m out to prove them wrong.”

It was a similar story when he was first recruited by COC. Coaches say a lot of colleges probably overlooked the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound linebacker because he was undersized and played most of his high school ball at a small school.

“That’s why he’s as good as he is, because he understands that there’s somebody out there always trying to take something from him, in the sense of his position,” says Cougars head coach Garett Tujague. “He works like he’s got something to protect.”

The Cougars wanted Bass from the beginning, says defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dan Corbet, who first convinced him to head north for a campus visit last year.

“In Khalil’s case, I think his goal, probably ever since he was a little kid, was to play Division I football,” Corbet says. “So I think he felt like, ‘This is the school that gives me the most opportunity to get to that level.’”

It wasn’t all about exposure and reputation though. Bass had to transition into a whole new level of training and conditioning when he arrived on campus.

“I think that the older he gets and the more mature that he gets, the more he becomes a self-motivator,” Tujague says.

Bass admitted it took some time to get up to speed.

“Last season I was kind of playing a backseat role to the sophomores on the team and then (this year), I knew I’d have to take over and take the leadership role on our defense,” Bass says. “And I think I’ve done a pretty good job of doing that.”

As a full-time starter last year as well, Bass finished fifth on the team with 38 tackles, but he didn’t get his hands on the ball to force any turnovers.

In response, he spent the offseason working on agility, speed and pass reads. He was also moved from outside to middle linebacker this year.

“I’m really happy with the results so far, Bass says. “It seems like everything is paying off from the offseason and the game is starting to slow down for me.”

In addition to allowing him to cause turnovers, Corbet said playing in the middle helps Bass become more involved in the action on every down, which fits his style of play.

It’s also fitting, given the fact that Bass’ idol, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, also plays in the middle.

Before every game, Bass says he watches his own highlight tapes along with a short documentary about Lewis called “Living Legend” to get fired up.

It’s that level of dedication that has allowed him to become an integral part of COC’s defense.

“His work ethic the last nine months in the weight room and on the field and everything has completely made him into the leader that he is for our team today,” Corbet says.

Looking back, Corbet admitted even he was surprised to see Bass develop into the player he’s become.

That just seems to be what Bass does — surprise people. Don’t be surprised to see him playing at the Division I level.

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