COLUMBIA - Saturday morning, it was unsure whether Terry Beckner Jr. would play in Missouri's game against Connecticut. Monday, he was listed as Missouri's starting defensive tackle.
The freshman was involved in a car accident Friday that sidelined two of his teammates. Beckner was on the field the next day, though, and recorded two solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, in Missouri's 9-6 win.
Missouri's depth chart for the Tigers' upcoming game at Kentucky lists Beckner at starting defensive tackle. Josh Augusta, who started at tackle against the Huskies, moved over to starting nose guard ahead of Rickey Hatley, who started there Saturday. A.J. Logan moved from backup nose guard to backup defensive tackle.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was adamant Monday the depth chart shake-up was not a demotion for Hatley, who has eight tackles and 11/2 tackles for loss in three games.
"Rickey's been doing really well, and he's battling with Josh, and he's doing really, really well, and Terry Beckner's doing really, really well," Pinkel said. "So we have to look at it optimistically, OK? And that's the reason why we did that. And we'll slide those guys around if two of them are playing a little bit better than the other one, but we're getting great work from those guys."
Beckner has six tackles, two for loss, in three games. He met with the media Monday for the first time as a Missouri Tiger, and recounted the events of Friday's accident.
"I was coming through the green light right there on College and University," he said. "The light was green, and once I came through, (the other driver) just jumped out in front of me. I tried to hit my brakes, my car slid, and she hit me, and we hit the pole."
Redshirt freshmen DeSean Blair, Keyon Dilosa and Trevon Walters were passengers in Beckner's car. Receivers Blair and Dilosa missed Saturday's game with a concussion and bruised elbow, respectively. Dilosa returned to his second-string position on Monday's depth chart, but Blair has been ruled out for the game at Kentucky.
Beckner, listed at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, suffered just a minor bruise in the accident.
"I guess because my leg's so big," he said. "So I guess it kind of helped me out in my favor."
Pinkel said Saturday that Beckner had been shaken up by the accident.
"I was," Beckner said, "Because I was the driver, so everybody else was kind of hurt and there wasn't really anything wrong with me, so it kind of felt bad on my end, but then once I found out that they were all right, it picked me back up, so I was all right."
Beckner, a graduate of East St. Louis (Ill.), said he had been in an accident back home once before.
"It was scary, because when you're in moments like that, it's like they slow down and speed up, and you can't really do nothing about it," he said. "It's just out of your control then. But luckily God had me, so it's a blessing to be here right now."
Blair and Walters were hospitalized after the accident. Beckner and Dilosa joined the team after its standard Friday walkthrough.
"I was like, "Oh no, it feels like I let the team down,' because I was in a crash with them," Beckner said. "But once I got there, everybody was behind me, like, "Nah, man, you're good. You're good. Everybody else is good, so don't worry about anything.' I was just glad I had everybody behind me."
Beckner didn't have much time to dwell on the incident with an 11 a.m. kickoff the next day.
Fellow freshman Drew Lock said Beckner was focused on football, despite the previous day's events.
"We talked about who was going to play (after) that incident, and they said Terry's going to play, and I'm like, "All right. Let's see what the big dog can do,'" Lock said. "If he can play after that, then he can play pretty much anywhere."
Beckner said it was good to just think about football.
"Once I got back on the field I was like, "I'm good now. I've touched the turf,'" he said. "I'm just glad nothing else happened when I was in the accident."
Two days later, the true freshman was a starting defensive tackle. Lock wasn't surprised to hear.
"Not at all," he said. "That kid's a beast. I don't know why I just called him kid. He's a man."
Defensive end Walter Brady added: "We knew once we signed him that he was already a great player. He has unlimited potential, like the rest of us here at Mizzou. It's great what he's been able to come in and do. He's very athletic, and he's been very impressive to everybody."
Beckner was given a five-star ranking by ESPN and listed as the second-best recruit in the nation from the 2015 class. He chose Missouri over Florida State, Auburn and Ohio State.
"I know a lot of people expect me to do big things, but I don't really try to worry about too much," he said. "I try to worry about one thing and focus on one thing at a time. Because if you try to worry about too much other stuff, it'll knock off your focus."
Since arriving in Columbia, Beckner has made a good impression on his coaches.
"He'll get a lot better than he is right now, but he has unlimited potential as a defensive tackle," Pinkel said. "He's a powerful guy. He's very, very naturally strong. It's just really neat to see. He's very humble, and you take humility and great ability and you get better faster that way."
Beckner said he was "kind of, but not really" expecting to start in his first year at Missouri.
"Not every school would start a freshman, especially on D-line," he said. "That's kind of a key part to a team, because it's defensive. I just worked hard to get here."
Beckner was listed as a co-starter with Augusta at tackle for the game at Arkansas State, but Augusta got the start and Beckner was listed as second-string the following week. Though he has a starting spot all to himself for the moment, he doesn't view his role any differently.
"They say I'm the starter, but I really don't look at it like that," he said. "When I'm on the field, I look at it as like I'm a bottom player trying to get to the top. So I'll stay humble with it, don't try to get a big head."
Missouri listed Russell Hansbrough as its starting tailback for the Kentucky game. Hansbrough suffered a sprained ankle on his first run of the season against Southeast Missouri State. He played sparingly at Arkansas State but did not finish the game and did not play Saturday against Connecticut. Pinkel said the team will determine from this week's practice whether Hansbrough can play Saturday but called him "probable."