When Terry Beckner Jr. struts around the Missouri football team’s locker room, he looks a bit different than he has in the past.
He now believes he has noticeable abs, so he’s often shirtless.
“He tries flexing in the locker room,” Mizzou linebacker Terez Hall said of Beckner, the Tigers’ defensive tackle who bypassed the chance to go pro after his junior year.
The 6-foot-4 Beckner, a one-time top-ranked recruit, said here at Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday that he has dropped about 15 pounds, despite adding 6 pounds of muscle. He weighs about 290 thanks in part to his elimination of McDonald’s from his diet.
No more McChickens, McDoubles, fries or sodas. In their place: more dining hall meals and a desire to reinvigorate a Missouri defense that returns few proven playmakers after struggling last season.
“Mizzou has already been known for that defense, especially that defensive front in general,” said Beckner, who committed to play for the Tigers when they held a national reputation for regularly producing some of the country’s top defensive linemen. “That’s one thing I’ve been trying to get back.
“... Everybody on the front, we’ve been trying to get that back. It’s well deserved. You talk about Missouri. First thing you’re going to hear is D-Line Zou. We’ve got to keep that.”
Beckner, a member of the All-SEC Freshman team in 2015, played a full season for the first time last year. Knee injuries cut each of his first two college seasons short, so there was some speculation that he would go pro after his junior campaign, during which he recorded 11 tackles for loss, including seven sacks.
But Beckner, from East St. Louis, Ill., didn’t have much interest in the NFL. Not yet. He first wants to receive his general studies degree from MU, so he didn’t even submit his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which distributes round projections for prospective early entrants.
“It’s almost a breath of fresh air,” Mizzou coach Barry Odom said. “He realizes if he does what he’s training to do, he’ll have the opportunity to go do that. He’s not in any rush with it.”
After all, the defensive tackle feels there is plenty left to accomplish at Missouri. If he’s able to stay healthy for his senior year, it will be the first time he’s played a college season without fearing injury. He said he did not feel fully himself on the football field this past season until MU’s sixth game, at Georgia. From that game through the end of the season, he made 9 1/2 tackles for a loss.
“He just felt a whole lot better, man,” Hall said. “And you can tell from the linebacker position, you’re not just getting offensive linemen all in your face. They’re not one-on-one blocking him and winning. It just is like a different feel.”
Beckner has become a different teammate, too. He’s the sort of guy who would be willing to pick someone up from Illinois at 3 a.m., Hall said. Though Beckner has never held a reputation for being a difficult personality, Odom believes the defensive lineman is more mature now, at ease after fighting through injuries and the expectations that follow a blue-chip recruit.
“A few years ago, a lot of things put on him expectation wise, that wasn’t really something he was equipped or wanted to do,” Odom said. “I’m proud of his progress. He’s fought through some things — injuries. He’s grown up, cares about our program.
“This is the first time he’s ever been through a winter conditioning, a full spring practice and a full summer, so it’s really he’s healthy. That’s exciting for me because he’s had a tough time injury-wise, but you see glimpses of when he stays healthy this year what he’s going to be able to do. It’s exciting.”
Lock has impressed other SEC QBs
Mizzou’s Drew Lock was one of six quarterbacks to represent their respective schools at SEC Media Days, along with Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur, Mississippi’s Jordan Ta’amu, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.
All of them were also counselors at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., earlier this summer. Both Fitzgerald and Bentley mentioned being impressed by Lock’s arm strength at the camp, and Stidham considers the quarterback from Lee’s Summit to be a close friend. They’ve known each since they were in high school, when they were both finalists at the prestigious Elite 11 camp. Stidham said he formed a clique with Lock, Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush and current New York Jet Sam Darnold.
“Those were kind of the guys we kept in touch with the most,” said Stidham, who, like Lock, was also a counselor at the Elite 11 finals this summer. “I knew Drew really, really well going into this summer, and we were roommates at the (Elite 11) finals together this year. (We) spent every minute together, basically, at the Manning camp. It was good to get to know him a little bit better. ... He’s obviously one of the top quarterbacks in the country, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays this year.”