Who is this guy?
Coming out of high school in East St. Louis, Illinois, Terry Beckner Jr. was touted as the top defensive prospect in the country and No. 2 recruit overall according to ESPN. As a senior, he tallied 117 total tackles, 75 of which were solo (yes, as a defensive tackle) and had four sacks in 12 games. It led to 20 offers from Division I schools but settled on Missouri, not too terribly far from home.
His career at Mizzou got off to a great start, until it didn't. Beckner suffered back-to-back knee injuries following his freshman year, where he earned First-Team Freshman All-American honors and was named to the All-SEC Freshman team after playing in 10 games with five starts. His season ended early when he tore his ACL and MCL against BYU in November of that year. Faced with the first major injury of his career, he went into rehab with the Tigers and made his return the following season. Only, this time his season would end just seven weeks in, suffering another ACL tear in his opposite knee.
His first fully healthy season came in 2017 as a junior where he bottled up the interior of the Tigers' defensive line and was masterful against the run. He started all 13 games for Mizzou, posting 38 total tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and even grabbed an interception. He returned to school for his senior year and again started all 13 of the Tigers' games. He earned Second-Team All-SEC honors and led all Tiger tackles with 34 tackles and a team-high 11.0 tackles for loss, his second such season with those numbers. He led a defensive unit that ranked 22 nationally in stopping the run before then declaring for the NFL Draft.
The Buccaneers took him with their seventh-round pick, rounding out a class where six of eight players taken came on the defensive side of the ball. Beckner was the only interior lineman taken and will compete for an inside spot in the Bucs' flexible 3-4 defense.
What are they saying about him?
Bucs' General Manager Jason Licht:
"Terry went through some adversity there early in his career with knee injuries. One on each side. Then he's played I think 26 consecutive games now, two years in a row. He's really tough. Love the kid, love the grit that he has where he's grown up in East St. Louis. You know, it'd be tough for me to walk a day in his shoes with some of the things he's had to go through. He's an awesome kid. Smart, instinctive player. He's strong. I like the way he plays. He's going to compete. I know he's got a good chance of making this football team if he plays the way he did at Missouri and how we evaluated him."
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles:
"Any time you get new toys it's exciting at Christmas, so it's how you use them the right way and how they fit in with the other guys that'll tell a story, but you like having the guys that you have."
What can this guy do?
General Manager Jason Licht mentioned how not only smart Beckner is, but how strong and instinctive he is at the same time.
The strength comes from his size, standing at 6-4 and weighing in just under 300 pounds, he's what you'd call stout, which probably helps in his run-blocking ability. His lateral movement also comes in handy for running backs trying to escape to the outside. In the video above, you see him immediately disengage from his blocker at the goal line to bounce all the way outside against Florida and meet the running back behind the line of scrimmage, preventing a touchdown. That play is two-fold. Not only do players his size not usually have the quickness or speed to physically get outside from an interior spot like that, but many players lack the play recognition and football IQ to understand where the running back is going, especially from the front where you have split-seconds to react.
Just check out the play at 1:34 in the above game against Florida. It's Beckner that ends up getting to the running back, blowing past the guard and getting into the backfield immediately. From there he's able to catch up to the back and bring him down from behind. That's pretty incredible for an interior defensive lineman.
That brings me to his ball awareness. More than the play recognition, Beckner seems to always know where the ball is and he's always looking to make a play on it. Not only did he grab an interception in his first season back from injury in 2017 against Vanderbilt, but he's recorded multiple pass breakups in his career. Watching his highlights, you always see his eyes in the direction of the ball – even when he's engaged with a blocker.
He's not completely absolved from the effects of his knee injuries. He's got some tightness in his lower body and seems to let his upper body do a lot of the work. But it doesn't stop him from making some extremely agile plays. Granted, the above highlight reel and game against Florida is a small sample size but even when you watch full games on this guy, he has a spin move that he uses to disengage quite often. I don't think I've ever seen an interior lineman use a spin move like that as much as Beckner is able to use it. It's probably because most interior tackles don't have the footwork capability to do it. In my eyes, that makes me less concerned with his injury history and apparent resulting lower body tightness.
How will he fit in?
The Bucs will need a lot of different things from their interior defensive linemen. In their base package with three-down linemen, you want size and the ability to occupy space out of your players. But you also want speed. Coupled with the fact that he's good against the run, Beckner could fit right in there. Even when the defense is in sub packages with four down linemen, Beckner has proved how disruptive he can be in the middle with his penetration ability along with his lateral quickness. His production in college proves that and Licht is right, if he plays like he did for the Tigers, he would definitely have a place on this Bucs' defense.