Missouri football is well-known for producing talent on the defensive line that “DLineZou” has become a household term. Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy and Charles Harris are just a few of the Tigers defensive linemen who have made the jump to the NFL.
While Marcell Frazier is poised to carry the torch this year, another Tiger is receiving NFL comparisons: Terry Beckner Jr.
“He kind of reminds me of another guy that I coached before, a guy named Tommie Harris, when I was with the Bears,” Missouri defensive line coach Brick Haley said after Monday’s practice. “He’s got that kind of hand speed, which is really good.”
During Harris’ eight-year NFL career, he was selected to the 2004 All-Rookie Team, 2005 AP All-Pro Second Team and three Pro Bowls.
The comparison is noteworthy, but it’s far from the first time that Beckner has been held in high regard.
Before coming to Missouri, Beckner was one of the most sought after recruits in the nation. ESPN dubbed him the second-best recruit in the nation, along with being the No. 1 defensive tackle.
But Beckner’s first two seasons with the Tigers have not ended on high notes.
As a freshman, Beckner played in 10 games, five of which he started, and recorded 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks on his way to being named to the 2015 Freshman All-SEC team by SEC coaches. But on Nov. 14, 2015, Beckner tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a game against BYU, bringing his season to an abrupt end.
Beckner went to rehab during the following offseason and was ready to return when his sophomore season rolled around. He played in seven games and recorded 24 tackles, before tearing his ACL again, this time in his left knee, Oct. 22, 2016, against Middle Tennessee.
Beckner has spent this offseason much like he spent last offseason: in rehab.
It was the “same process,” he said. “You just have to keep going and you can’t hold anything back.”
The process is not an easy one. He admitted the first time was mentally taxing and discouraging.
“As far as it being your first injury, it’s discouraging a little bit,” Beckner said. ... “You have to learn everything over again. Your leg has to learn to do everything all over again. It’s basically like doing everything from the start.”
Because he had dealt with the injury before, Beckner knew what to expect and how to attack it.
“I most definitely can say that I had more confidence going into this one, my second injury,” he said. ... “I just attacked it, because I knew everything that was coming my way, having already been through it.”
His attitude toward his injuries has caught the eyes of his teammates.
“I learned from the man,” linebacker Terez Hall said. “He doesn’t show, like, he feels sorry for himself. ... He taught me to put all that other stuff in the past; you just go hard and let God deal with the rest of it. He just works hard, and he’s on the field like nothing changed.”
“I don’t even think about it,” Beckner said. “I know that I’m on go-mode now, so I just go.”
The Tigers have a week of practice under their belts, and Beckner continues to play like nothing has changed. Currently, he is first on the depth chart at defensive tackle.
“Honestly, I couldn’t even tell he had it, with what he’s playing at right now,” linebacker Eric Beisel said. “He’s making a ton of plays out there.”
Beckner will be part of a D-line group that has no shortage of talent. Haley said that players are competing for spots and the depth chart is adjusted every day. He has liked what he has seen from Beckner so far.
“His initial quickness and his hand speed has been exceptional,” Haley said. ... “I haven’t seen any issues with his knee or any of those things as he came back, so I’m excited about that. And, hopefully, he’ll keep progressing and gets better week-in and week-out.”
“My body feels great,” Beckner said. “I’m just attacking it every day, taking it day by day.”
And while NFL comparisons to Beckner might one day become reality, it’s not on his mind.
“My focus was just coming back into this season and making sure I can give everything to my team, to my teammates,” he said. “I know they were working their tail off while I couldn’t do anything. I was just ready to get back out there and do the same thing, so I could give my all to them.”
CAMP UPDATE: Junior college defensive tackle Walter Palmore began practicing with the Tigers late last week. Palmore had to await clearance by the NCAA and MU compliance before joining the team. Fellow JUCO defensive tackles Rashad Brandon and Malik Young are still waiting to be cleared.
Five Tigers were in red Monday: safety Ronnell Perkins, wide receiver Justin Smith, defensive tackle Markell Utsey and linebackers Kaleb Prewett and Hall.
Perkins was limited with a hamstring injury.
Smith was out with a swollen knee. Odom does not expect him to miss much time.
Utsey was out with a strained shoulder. Odom said the staff will take its time bringing Utsey back but expects him to practice more in the coming days.
Prewett (hip flexor) and Hall (lower leg) were both in red, but both participated.
“We’ve got to learn how to practice when you have a red pullover on,” Odom said. “You’re supposed to be protected a little bit, but they were out there trying to run through guys, so we’ll learn from that. And we’re glad that they were back out there today, because they’re both really good athletes and have a chance to help us a great deal defensively.”