Missouri hopes to have East St. Louis (Ill.) senior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. on campus in June, but it’s not guaranteed quite yet.
Beckner — the top-ranked player in Illinois, No. 5 nationally at his position and No. 36 overall based on Rivals’ rankings — needs a strong finish to the school year to ensure that he’s eligible for the 2015 season.
“Every school in the country probably has five or six players that have work to do, and he’s one of those guys that has work to do,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday on the SEC East coaches’ spring teleconference. “Hopefully, he’s going to be eligible, and we’ll see what happens in the next month or so.”
Missouri lost four starters along the defensive line — Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Matt Hoch and Lucas Vincent — and could use additional depth.
Beckner can provide that if he makes it to Columbia.
“He’s certainly a guy that can come in and … with his natural size and strength and competitiveness, he’d probably come in and compete to play right away,” Pinkel said. “We’ll see how that unfolds.”
Beckner signed in February as a centerpiece in arguably the best recruiting class of the Pinkel era.
“The SEC has a lot to do with that, no disrespect to any other leagues, but there’s no question about it,” Pinkel said. “Winning 23 games the last two years in this league has helped the respect, prestige, what have you of our program. Certainly, it’s been very positive.”
It’s been reflected in the NFL Draft with 24 players selected since 2008, a figure that doesn’t include former wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
Missouri, which had eight players drafted off Pinkel’s first seven teams, has had seven first-round draft picks during that span.
“The change over the last eight years has been very significant numbers-wise with players getting drafted, first-round picks and so on and so forth,” Pinkel said. “There’s no correlation to how we rank in recruiting as to how many guys get drafted.”
According to Pinkel, it comes down to his program’s evaluation process for incoming recruits and the Mizzou Made player-development system.
“We don’t change things up a lot,” Pinkel said. “We want to make ourselves about 5 percent better every year … in all the different aspects of our program. We’re not going to make huge changes, because what we do works. But we’re always trying to make ourselves better.”
Pinkel emphasized again that the transition under new defensive coordinator Barry Odom was smooth, because he’s been part of the Tigers’ staff before.
Odom “is a guy who has great focus and great intensity,” Pinkel said. “He communicates with the kids really well, and I think they have great respect for him because he’s very respectful to them.”
In that respect, Pinkel said Odom and his predecessor — Dave Steckel, who accepted the head coaching job at Missouri State in December — are similar.
The similarities don’t stop there.
“Ultimately, (Odom) wants to be a head coach, and he will someday,” Pinkel said. “But Barry knows how we do things here. We have specific ways of how we coach and how we teach, we communicate and so on and so forth. For him, the transition was remarkably easy.”