After having his first two seasons at Missouri cut short by knee injuries, Terry Beckner Jr. hopes 2017 brings better luck and more production.
If second-year coach Barry Odom’s excitement is any gauge, Beckner, a junior defensive tackle from East St. Louis (Ill.) High, is poised for a monster campaign.
“I saw a couple things yesterday that were off-the-charts good,” Odom said. “Now, we’ve got to do it day-to-day, back-to-back and become consistent. His quickness seemed like it was back and he’s a lot more explosive now than he’s ever been.”
Greatness has always been expected from Beckner, who joined the Tigers amid the usual effusive hype that accompanies a five-star prospect.
As a freshman, he largely lived up to that promise — finishing with 27 tackles, including eight for a loss with three sacks in 10 games before a torn ACL in his right knee ended his season.
Beckner, who earned Freshman All-American honors, backed that up with 24 tackles, including two for a loss, in seven games as a sophomore before a torn ACL in his left knee cut short another season.
The first injury and rehabilitation was a trying time for Beckner, who’d never sustained and recovered from a significant injury before.
But last offseason proved far less daunting.
“Without a doubt, the second time was way easier than the first one,” Beckner said. “The second time, I already had been through it and knew what was going to happen and what wasn’t going to happen.”
He also tapped into an inner reserve of determination during the last nine months.
“It made me a lot stronger, so everything I do now I just attack it,” Beckner said. “I don’t want that to happen again.”
Beckner said he hopes he has the kind of season that would give him the option to leave early for the NFL Draft, like Shane Ray and Charles Harris in recent years, but that isn’t his goal.
New defensive line coach Brick Haley sees a lot of Tommie Smith in Beckner. Haley coached Smith for two season with the NFL’s Chicago Bears from 2007-08.
“He’s very exceptional with his hands and very quick,” Haley said of Beckner. “He’s got great initial quickness and unbelievable hands. He reminds me of Tommie a lot. He could really be good if he wants to, and I think he wants to.”
Beckner didn’t start at times last season, but that doesn’t diminish the raw talent he possesses.
“He makes my job so much easier,” junior linebacker Kaleb Prewett said. “At K-State, we had some great athletes, but we didn’t have anything like Terry Beckner. When he’s up there and the quarterback only has a few seconds to get the ball out, that makes my job so much easier. He’s everything in a D-tackle — fast, physical, athletic. He can do it all. He really can.”
Beckner was limited during the spring due to his rehab process, but he’s been cleared and fully unleashed during training camp.
He spent most of the spring working taking mental reps, hoping to keep his technique as sharp as possible despite the lengthy layoff.
“I was working on everything from hand placement, to my feet, reading the offensive keys and everything that goes on with it,” Beckner said.
No matter what the Tigers’ staff asks of him — a blend of two-gap principles, reading and reacting to the offensive set, along with plenty of plays designed to fire quickly off the ball and create the havoc-wreaking penetration — he said he’s ready do his part.