Missouri junior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., once one of the country’s top prospects as a high schooler, announced Friday that he intends to return to MU for his senior year.
“I’m excited to make this decision and move on to finishing this season out the right way,” Beckner said in a release from the Mizzou football team. “We have a chance to do something really special and keep momentum going into next year, and I want to be a part of that and help this team in the right direction.
“I love Mizzou, and I’ve grown so much this year working with (defensive line) Coach (Brick) Haley, but there’s so much more that I can learn from him. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be a Tiger and I want to do everything I can to help us do big things.”
Beckner, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound native of East St. Louis, Ill., was ESPN’s No. 2 overall recruit in the 2015 class. He earned freshman All-American and Freshman All-Southeastern Conference honors during a season that ended when he tore both his ACL and MCL in his right knee. A year later, he recorded 24 tackles, including two tackles for loss, before tearing the ACL in his left knee during Missouri’s seventh game of the 2016 season, against Middle Tennessee State.
Missouri’s coaches have said that Beckner has only recently returned to full health. During Mizzou’s six-game winning streak, he has amassed 8 1/2 tackles for loss, and he has 10 1/2 for the season, including seven sacks. The presence of interior defensive lineman A.J. Logan, who missed Mizzou’s first six games because of a suspension related to an academic fraud investigation, has helped improve Beckner’s production.
“We’re very excited to know that Terry will be with us for another year,” Mizzou coach Barry Odom said in a release. “Everyone knows that he’s a high-impact player, but even more so, he’s an incredible leader for this program and is an outstanding representative of Mizzou.
“He certainly did have an opportunity to move on, but he and his family weighed all of the factors and we’re grateful for the faith they have in us as a coaching staff to help him become the best he can be. It’s also very important to Terry and his family that he earns his degree, and he’s on pace to do that. We’ve got something special going at Mizzou, and he’s a big part of it.”
Beckner was not considered to be a likely choice in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, but it seemed possible he would declare because of his past injuries. He said after Missouri’s Nov. 24 win over Arkansas that he had not “really given it (the NFL) a thought.”
“Right now, I’m just ready to finish this season off strong and finish it off the right way and make sure I give everything to my brothers,” Beckner added.
Beckner will be Mizzou’s only returning starter along the defensive line. The other Tiger who might leave school early for the NFL is junior quarterback Drew Lock, who has broken the program and SEC single-season records for touchdown passes with 43 this season.
Whether offensive coordinator Josh Heupel stays at Missouri or leaves for a head coaching opportunity could impact Lock’s decision. Lock committed to the Tigers when Gary Pinkel was coach, and Heupel is the second offensive coordinator Lock has worked with in college. Lock might not want to learn a new offense during his senior season.