At his December signing day press conference, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the Virginia Cavaliers would be interested in adding one additional defensive lineman, if they could get someone on the same level as signees Jowon Briggs and Ben Smiley.
On the first Saturday of March Madness, they got him: four-star defensive tackle Jeffrey M’Ba became the final high school commitment of UVA’s 2019 recruiting class.
@UVAFootball next step GO HOOOOOOOOS. #silverbacks @Coach_Sooto pic.twitter.com/xnj41pjRs6— A.J ⚙️m’ba (@71THANOS) March 23, 2019
As you can see in that video, M’Ba’s other finalists were Tennessee and Florida. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman also had offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Boston College, and Arizona. He is rated a four-star and as the nation’s 15th best defensive tackle on Rivals; per the 247 Composite, M’Ba is #25 in his position group.
M’Ba’s road to this commitment has been a bit circuitous. He has only played a handful of games in the U.S. and was for a time looking to reclassify into the class of 2020 to better assess his options. But as we’ve seen before, Mendenhall and Vic So’oto found their guy and closed the deal.
Some perspective on how UVA recruiting has improved: going by the 247 Composite ratings, M’Ba would have been the highest rated commitment in any of the Hoos’ last three recruiting classes. In 2019, he is the second highest rated in his own position group.
Even without all the fancy edits over the video, M’Ba passes the Switzer Test. (Legendary Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said if he couldn't identify which kid they were supposed to be looking at after five plays of film, then they weren’t worth recruiting.) He is massive, athletic, and strong, both out-quicking and overpowering blockers play after play. The technique is a long ways from where it needs to be—which ought to be expected for a kid so new to football—but M’Ba getting these kinds of results without much in the way of technique is why he was such a prized commodity.
Of the three defensive linemen in this class, expect Briggs to be the instant difference maker. Smiley may get some early playing time but may take a year or two to round into a starting-level player. M’Ba may not see the field much for his first year as the coaches refine his game, but after that could have the highest ceiling of the three. (And having M’Ba on the scout team in practice is a luxury that was almost beyond the realm of consideration in recent years.)
Bienvenue en Virginie, Jeffrey!