Quarterbacks in the Pac-12 Conference will soon have to watch out for JH Tevis.
The junior at Menlo School in Atherton, who recorded 22½ sacks in the fall and led the Knights with 125 tackles, announced over the weekend his verbal commitment to play football at Cal.
“I’ve watched Cal play all my life,” said Tevis, whose moniker “JH” is short for John Henry. “I have a dad who went to Stanford and I’ve watched Pac-12 (football games) every Saturday.”
The 18-year-old, who was also drawing interest from other schools in the area along with the Ivy League, drove with Menlo coach Mark Newton for his first visit to Cal, which hired Justin Wilcox as its head coach in January.
“I got an offer about a month and a half ago, I think,” said Tevis, who praised Newton and Menlo defensive coordinator Todd Smith for their help during the decision-making process. “And after visiting Cal a lot, I just felt like it was the right place for me. I’ve had a couple of great meetings with the staff and I’ve got a really good feeling of the school.”
Newton added: “Justin Wilcox is a great guy and he put together an amazing staff at Cal.”
That includes defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who plan to deploy his 6-foot-5 recruit at defensive end and outside linebacker.
“He plays with a passion and intensity,” Newton said. “He loves the process, he loves practice, he loves competing. He’s afraid of about nothing. He’s a great teammate, great leader. He’s got a lot of intangibles just beyond his athletic ability and size.”
Tevis, who began playing football in seventh grade, took another visit to Berkeley a couple of weeks ago with his parents.
“I made sure that my parents were on the same page with me and my decision,” he said. “Obviously they are very excited.”
A two-sport standout, Tevis hit the game-winning basket in a 42-40 overtime victory over Half Moon Bay in the Central Coast Section Division IV boys basketball final earlier this month.
“I think basketball definitely helps with lateral movement and explosiveness — just moving fast and adapting on the fly,” said Tevis, whose Knights avenged a 41-24 loss in November to HMB in the CCS Division V football championship game. “Being a two-sport athlete definitely helps me with football, and I’m very thankful for Coach (Keith) Larsen. He’s been also very supportive of this process with football, because obviously it was happening during my basketball season.”
In his varsity debut on the gridiron as a sophomore, Tevis collected 14½ sacks and 79 tackles.
He rarely spends time off the field as a two-way player, with his role on offense that of a pulling guard to take advantage of his athleticism. Tevis often paved the way this past season for senior running back Charlie Ferguson, who amassed 1,613 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground.
But what caught Cal’s attention certainly had to be his relentless pursuit on defense, with 50 tackles for loss as a junior and a career-best five sacks on Sept. 2 at Kezar Stadium in a 35-14 win over Mission-San Francisco.
“First and foremost, it’s always to do my job,” Tevis said. “I’m going to stay within my system, but outside of that it’s just pure effort. If there are two guys blocking you, that leaves room for another teammate to make a play. Or a lot of times it may work to where you may get by both of them. It’s just effort and seeing the ball and just going after it.”
Coming off the basketball season, he currently weighs 227 pounds.
“Pretty lean right now,” Tevis said.
Expect that to change after a lot of work this offseason.
“We’re going to really work on fine-tuning his technique,” said Newton, who will enter his 14th year at the helm in the fall. “Talking to Coach Azzinaro at Cal about him really perfecting two or three moves that he can really get down and make his own. That’s what we’re going to work on adding to his tool kit. And work on his flexibility in his hips while working really hard in the weight room so he can be a bigger, stronger, faster version of what you saw last year.”
Tevis looks forward to the prospect of reuniting with Menlo senior Evan King at the next level. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound recruited walk-on at Cal led the Knights with 69 catches for 1,098 yards and 15 touchdowns, as well as six interceptions.
“That’s exciting,” Tevis said.
The news has certainly caused a lot of enthusiasm, as the outpouring of support from friends and family after his announcement kept Tevis glued to his phone this weekend.
Soon, the hope is Cal fans will be glued to their TV, watching Tevis terrorize Pac-12 quarterbacks.
“It’s been a very humbling process,” he said.