When trying to project what type of player a highly rated blue-chip high school football recruit will eventually become once he reaches the collegiate level, often times the comparison game can reach dangerous levels. Unfortunately, many young athletes are saddled with the pressure of having to be “the next (insert current star)” before ever even enrolling in college.
Sometimes, however, obvious parallels between a proven star and a young up-and-comer whose displayed tremendous potential are just too difficult to ignore.
Such is the case with Jets DT Sheldon Richardson and All-American DT Terry Beckner Jr.
Back in 2009, Richardson—then a dominant All-American standout for Gateway High School in St. Louis—was being showered with accolades and hailed as one of the best overall high school recruits in the nation. The highly touted tackle was ranked as a 5-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout and projected to be a difference-making defender in college.
Six years later, it’s now Beckner who is soaking up the spotlight as one of the premier prospects of the 2015 college football recruiting class. The heralded 5-star prospect hails from East St. Louis, Illinois, which is just a few miles east over the Mississippi River from where Richardson grew up.
On National Signing Day, Beckner followed in Richardson’s footsteps and opted to sign with the University of Missouri, giving the Tigers another potential stud defensive lineman to cultivate for the future.
The fact that both defensive tackles grew up in the greater St. Louis area and opted to go to Colombia to play their college ball is just the starting point for their correlation.
Recorded measurements of both players’ physical statures are about as equal as you can get. Richardson currently measures in at 6’3’’, 294-pounds, while Beckner stacked up at 6’3’’, 298-pounds at Nike’s “The Opening” event this past summer.
Equivalency in terms of size and stature is clear but it’s the natural combination of quickness, power and instincts that both possess which truly jumps off the screen when you turn on their respective game films.
That combination made Richardson a star for Mizzou during his junior campaign in 2012, when he recorded 75 total tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. It was that breakout performance that led the Jets to pick him with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
It’s too early to say that Beckner will follow the same path as Richardson and become a future first-round NFL draft pick. But it’s certainly not too early to admire the type of rare physical traits and potential he has to offer. During the last two seasons, the tenacious tackle dominated his often over-matched peers, racking up over 100 tackles as both a junior and a senior, while displaying the type of complete skill-set that made recruiting analysts salivate.
Beckner’s decision to pick Missouri over the many other prestigious power programs that courted him will likely prove to be very beneficial in the long run. The Tigers have a well-documented recent history of developing standout defensive linemen such as Richardson, Shane Ray, Aldon Smith, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Ziggy Hood and Markus Golden. Plus, playing in the SEC will give the young blue-chip prospect the opportunity to prove himself against some of the best offensive linemen that the collegiate ranks have to offer.
Luckily, Beckner won’t have to take the long road to Colombia like Richardson, who had to spend two years in junior college to work on his grades before enrolling at Missouri. That means ESPN’s No. 2 overall recruit in the 2015 class will have the chance to make an instant impact as a freshman for the Tigers this fall. His presence will be a welcome addition to a defensive line that loses its top four performers from this past season, most notably Shane Ray, who will likely be a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
The freakish physical ability that the gifted young DT has to offer already has folks around the SEC buzzing. Now, it’s up to Beckner to prove he can handle the pressure and the hype that comes along with being a top-rated blue-chip recruit.
If he can do that, the Tigers may have just found their next Sheldon Richardson.