Beckner passes on NFL, will return to Mizzou in 2018

December 2, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA, MO. • With a handful of NFL scouts on hand, plus Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Missouri defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. showed off his athletic ability Nov. 18 at Vanderbilt, when the 300-pounder chugged 49 yards on an interception return.

“He was about a step away the other night from taking one the distance,” Tigers coach Barry Odom said two days later, “which would have been awesome.”

Odom will get to see another year of those plays from Beckner in a Mizzou jersey. The East St. Louis native announced Friday he’ll pass on the 2018 NFL draft and return for another year at MU. Beckner does not plan to submit his name to the NFL’s College Advisory Committee for a pre-draft grade, MU confirmed.

“I’m excited to make this decision and move on to finishing this season out the right way,” Beckner said in a statement released by the team. “We have a chance to do something really special and keep momentum going into next year, and I want to be part of that and help lead 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.”

“We’re very excited to know that Terry will be with us for another year,” Odom said. “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.

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“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, a former five-star recruit, had his freshman and sophomore seasons cut short by knee injuries but has put together a strong junior year, posting seven sacks, tops among SEC defensive tackles, as part of his 10.5 tackles for loss and 35 tackles.

College teams are allowed to request draft evaluations for five eligible underclassmen from the NFL’s for College Advisory Committee, which in turn rates players in one of three categories: first-round potential, second-round potential or neither, which is considered a recommendation to return to school. Since 2009, eight Missouri underclassmen have made themselves available for the NFL, including five defensive linemen since 2011: Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy, Shane Ray and Charles Harris. All but Ealy were first-round draft picks.

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Beckner, the nation’s top-rated defensive tackle in the 2015 recruiting class, was a Freshman All-American in 2015 but suffered a season-ending torn right ACL in Mizzou’s 10th game. He recovered in time for the start of the 2016 season, but in the seventh game he tore the ACL in his left knee. Beckner has started all 12 games for the Tigers this fall and should push for All-SEC honors. He’s been widely credited for his leadership during the Tigers’ streaky year, which saw Odom’s team begin 1-5 then win six consecutive games in the second half of the season. The Tigers learn Sunday what bowl game they’ll play in.

As Beckner’s production improved midway through the season, Haley compared his star pupil to former Oklahoma All-American and first-round draft pick Tommie Harris, who played for Haley with the Chicago Bears.

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“Terry’s buying in,” Haley said last month. “He’s looking at himself and understanding the things he can get done. He’s watching himself play and seeing himself grow every day. As you see, that success that breeds more success.”

Two weeks ago, Odom said he’s had continuous conversations with Beckner and junior quarterback Drew Lock about their looming draft decisions. Now the attention shifts to Lock, who finished the regular-season leading the nation with 43 touchdowns, both the Mizzou and SEC single-season record. The junior quarterback will “do his due diligence” and won’t announce a decision until after receiving his draft grade sometime in the next few weeks, a source close to the situation said Friday.

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Harris was Mizzou’s only underclassman to enter the draft after the 2016 season, Odom’s first as head coach.

“I’m a little bit new at this still, but the most important thing is if you have a relationship it’s not like you have to call a meeting to sit down and talk about their future, whatever that’s going to be,” Odom said on Nov. 20. “There have been ongoing conversations from the beginning of the year through even yesterday. They’re so dialed into doing what we need to do for this team and preparing the right way and then going to execute … there are a number of guys who will receive draft feedback and analysis on where they fit. When that comes back we’ll sit down and continue the conversation we started back during the spring. That’s healthy. In my role I look at it just like every decision I have to make, like they’re my son. I want them to have all the information they can have. I also want them to see the big picture. You take caution because of all the information out there. .. you have to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction. Fortunately with all these guys we’ve got a trusting relationship with the process in how it takes place. They’ve been really open with me on it, which has been awesome.”

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With Beckner returning the Tigers should be loaded at defensive tackle next year. Haley’s group also returns current rotation players Rashad Brandon, Walter Palmore, Markell Utsey, Akial Byers and Kobie Whiteside plus will add University of Texas transfer Jordan Elliott, who is sitting out this season. The Tigers also recently landed a verbal commitment from junior college transfer and St. Louis native Antar Thompson, who plans to sign with MU later this month.