It was a season of change for Edina's Matt Cavanagh in 2016. One year removed from freshman ball, the sophomore didn't have the buffer of the junior varsity; he jumped right into varsity football against some of the toughest competition…
It was a season of change for Edina's Matt Cavanagh in 2016. One year removed from freshman ball, the sophomore didn't have the buffer of the junior varsity; he jumped right into varsity football against some of the toughest competition in the Metro. If the jump in competition wasn't enough, Cavanagh also had to deal with a position change early in the season.
“I started the first game at linebacker and started the second game at safety,” Cavanagh said. “For the rest of the season, I was playing safety. Overall, the adjustment went well.”
“Linebacker has always been my first position from youth football,” Cavanagh continued. “Going into varsity football, I wasn't big enough to play linebacker, so the coaching staff saw me more as a safety.”
After starting the first game at linebacker, Cavanagh made the switch to safety before week two.
“It took a lot of coaching and a lot of help from other players to learn the essentials of playing safety,” the 6'1″ 190-pound athlete. “I got a lot of good reps in practice, and by the end of the season I started to love playing safety.”
The difference between linebacker and safety was a big adjustment – especially when it comes to initial instincts.
“Usually at linebacker, your first read step is forward,” Cavanagh said. “At safety, you usually take your first step backward. It took me a while to get used to that and to transition my mindset from linebacker to safety. There is a lot more coverage going on, so you have to cover faster guys instead of guys like a tight end.”
With his experience at linebacker, what Cavanagh feels his strength seems predictable.
“I think my strength is coming up on the run and making tackles,” Cavanagh told northstarfootballnews. “I feel I am a really aggressive player and am looking to make a tackle. At safety, I feel like you get more reaction time than linebacker so you can really go find the ball and make the tackle.”
The position adjustment was just the first change for Cavanagh.
“My coaches warned me that it was a big jump (from 9th grade to varsity) because everyone is bigger and it is the highest level of football in Minnesota,” said Cavanagh. “I had to get better in the offseason. At the beginning of the season I was worried about things, but after the first few weeks things started going smoothly and I started seeing things more clearly. Varsity football started to feel like freshmen football.”
Cavanagh made a play late in week one that accelerated his comfort level.
“Our first game – a road game at Andover – in the second half I had an interception. It was a game-turning play. It was a big moment in the game. All my teammates and coaches were excited for me, and it gave me a lot of confidence.”
This winter Cavanagh was on the sophomore basketball team. He is a front court player and said he isn't much of a scorer but does the dirty work. During the spring and into the summer he has been in the weight room, is working on his lateral movement and has been watching film to improve his understanding of the safety position.
As a sophomore, colleges can only have limited contact with him, but Cavanagh has been to camps at Minnesota, Northwestern and went to the New England Elite Camp.
In addition to safety, Cavanagh also filled in at running back the second half of the season. He was primarily a pass blocker early, but as he got more comfortable in the offense, his carries increased. He expects the same kind of role next year – full-time safety and part-time running back.
Unless things go very wrong for the Hornets' football team, 2017 will not be a season of change for Cavanagh. No doubt Cavanagh will have a more stability going into his junior season. With more understanding of his role, the junior should make himself a bigger part of Edina's season and have a bigger impact on colleges' recruiting plans.