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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Football

Mbu’s personality matches size


Senior defensive linemen Joey Mbu had 13 solo tackles last season and was s a force in the middle who constantly draws double teams and allows the linebackers and safeties behind him to make plays. Though Mbu is known for his sense of humor, he has grown into a veteran leader among the defense.  |  Photos by Jimmy Moreland/The Daily Cougar

Rising senior defensive linemen Joey Mbu had 13 solo tackles last season and was a force in the middle who constantly draws double teams and allows the linebackers and safeties behind him to make plays. Though Mbu is known for his sense of humor, he has grown into a veteran leader among the defense. |  Jimmy Moreland/The Daily Cougar

For Joey Mbu, who arrived on campus overweight and not highly recruited, UH was one of only four Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship options.

Like the countless offensive linemen he has shucked to the side like ragdolls, Mbu remained positive, never losing his jovial attitude and focused on tackling his obstacles. The rising senior defensive lineman dropped 42 pounds, going from 350 to 308 in the span of a semester, worked on his craft relentlessly and eventually reaped the rewards.

Last season, he was voted a team captain by his peers, started all 13 games and recorded 29 tackles for the second straight year, which led all UH defensive tackles.

For second-year head coach Tony Levine, Mbu is much more than a veteran locker room presence with an infectious personality — he is an NFL-level talent.

“Though it seems like he just got here, he’s become a leader for us in such a short amount of time. When you’re elected team captain by your peers after being here only four semesters, that speaks volumes about what his teammates think about him,” Levine said. He’s a man … who has great quickness for an athlete that size, uses outstanding technique and fundamentals and has great off-the-field work ethic. He’s a player who will have the opportunity to play this game a long time if he chooses to.”

Qualities like technique and fundamentals are predicated on one rule of physics – leverage. Another and better-known player that uses leverage to his advantage is Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald. Donald is projected as a first-round draft pick, while NFL draft scout has Mbu going in the later rounds. Mbu could be a draft steal to an NFL team that realizes the importance of the combination of character and raw talent.

One of differences between the players is a unique ability to notice offensive shifts, one that redshirt sophomore Cameron Malveaux said is Mbu’s advantage. Noticing changes in offensive sets allows defenses to exploit weaknesses in the offensive line.

“Joey can read very well,” Malveaux said. “His D-line IQ is really high. He reads screens, has a quick first step and it comes together real fast for him. It allows him to be versatile as a pass rusher and a run stuffer.”

All signs point to Mbu being voted as a captain for a second time.  And true to his uniquely charismatic nature, Mbu laughed it off.

“On the field I’m really rude,” Mbu said. “I wouldn’t say dirty, but I get under your skin more that I normally would. Off the field, with my teammates, I like to joke around and be comedic,” he said. “It makes me accessible to the younger players. I understand when to be serious. I have a switch and I know how to turn it on.”

This article originally stated that Joey Mbu had only one FBS scholarship offer. In fact, he had four offers by the time he graduated.  

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