A star is developed
HOUGHTON – Michigan Tech head football coach Tom Kearly has a simple philosophy when analyzing offensive and defensive linemen.
He prefers it when he doesn’t notice offensive linemen, because that means they are not getting beaten by the guy across from them.
On the defensive side, though, it’s all about grabbing his attention.
“If I got a guy on defense that I’m not noticing, he’s not making plays,” Kearly said. “Defensively a guy has to make plays.”
In that case, few jerseys were more evident last spring than the No. 39 belonging to sophomore defensive end Cody Goldsworthy.
Some may remember the L’Anse native from his high school career with the Purple Hornets or since he joined the Huskies just last season, when he played in nine games and started eight.
Goldsworthy made 25 tackles, including three for a loss, and made one quarterback sack during his first collegiate year.
But it was in the spring that the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end really caught Kearly’s attention.
“All of of a sudden he was making plays,” Kearly said. “I go, ‘Wow, who was that?’ It’s Goldsworthy. ‘Who rushed the passer?’ Goldsworthy. ‘Who got off the back edge and made the tackle?’ Goldsworthy. All of a sudden, just making a play, a play and another play.”
If his fall season is anything like his spring, opponents and fans may take notice, too.
In the Huskies’ opener Saturday against Walsh University, he made three tackles, one solo, in Tech’s 33-7 win. All three came in the first half and each was on a first-down running play as MTU built a 20-0 lead at the break.
His first shared tackle came with teammate Ben Tauchen on the game’s first play from scrimmage, a 1-yard gain by Riley Arvantis that led to a quick three-and-out.
The other two came in the second quarter, one during another three-and-out, and the final one, his solo tackle, late in the first half right after Walsh made first down that led to a punt three plays later.
Leaving his roots
While at L’Anse, Goldsworthy did it all. In his senior year, he was named an All-Upper Peninsula Small Schools linebacker when he was credited for 180 tackles while also rushing for 1,500 yards on offense.
He was more than a one-sport athlete, though. In hockey, he was awarded all-conference honorable mention honors, and in track and field, Goldsworthy earned All-U.P. accolades in the 400- and 800-meter relays.
To sum it up – he’s an athlete. And an effective defensive end must feature the unique combination of size, speed, strength and quickness in order to be successful.
If an end has those traits, he can swing the momentum of a game. You just have to look at the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware in their Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers as an example.
Goldsworthy never played defensive end before becoming a Husky. Michigan Tech was the only school that showed any interest in him, and after taking him on, Tech’s coaches decided to move him from his high school position of linebacker.
“We recruit a linebacker with the philosophy of ‘Will that kid be able to put his hand in the dirt?'” Kearly said. “A lot of times high school linebackers and fullbacks won’t run well.
“I think a lot of times at colleges you take kids and you move them down. Take corners and move them to safety take linebackers to defensive ends. Take ends inside as they get bigger and stronger.
“That’s how we looked at him. We looked at Cody as a big, strong kid as a linebacker, but wondered if he could put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end, and he’s answered that call.”
Kearly is always curious as to how players will take to a position change.
“Everyone wants to be Dick Butkus or Mike Singletary at linebacker,” he said, harkening back to the days of players who starred in the NFL before Goldsworthy was even born.
“But the ability to put your hand in the dirt and go to war with the guy across from you – that’s a different cat.”
That type of challenge intrigued Goldsworthy and he took to defensive end immediately. With the complexities of various pass coverages and blitz schemes at the linebacker position at the NCAA Division II level, Goldsworthy saw end as a more logical position for his talents.
“In the U.P., there’s not much throwing the ball (in high school), so I got to go with what I felt more natural at with being a defensive end and getting after the passer and the running backs,” Goldsworthy said.
He was redshirted in 2013 as he continued to acquaint himself with his new position. But his progress was halted in the fall of 2014 when his left knee gave out.
Setback only temporary
ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament; but tear it, and it could suddenly mean a cruel layoff or even end of a career.
Goldsworthy was going through a routine drill when he messed up on a cut and his leg gave. Instantly he knew his ACL was torn. He underwent surgery in November 2014 and had a patellar tendon graft replacement put in his injured knee.
Now instead of being with his teammates on the sideline or taking part in practices, his days consisted of painful rehabilitation where gaining a few extra degrees of flexibility was considered a good day.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Goldsworthy said about the rehab. “A lot of people can’t (come back), but some people come back better. I expected myself to come back. That’s just how it is.”
Though Goldsworthy didn’t take part in spring football in 2015, but he was able to run in April. Eight months following his November surgery, in mid-summer, he was fully healed.
“I just did everything the doctors and physical therapists said,” Goldsworthy said. “Just taking care of it and getting it stronger, and now it feels back to normal.”
If there were any hesitation about playing on a surgically repaired knee, he certainly didn’t show it in his first game back. Goldsworthy had one of his finest games of the 2015 season in the Huskies’ season opener at home against Wayne State almost exactly a year ago, securing six tackles and a sack.
“In the fall (the injury) was out of my mind,” Goldsworthy said. “I felt very comfortable with it.”
And now he’s starting to feel comfortable in his role as a major presence on the defensive line.
Sky may be the limit
There are two things you can attribute to Goldsworthy’s rise: He’s no longer over-thinking on the field, and he’s gained his teammates’ trust.
“About my second year I started to feel like I understood the defense more and could play fast without thinking,” Goldsworthy said. “Last year was somewhat difficult since I was so young and so new to the position; I wasn’t with the defensive line for very long The biggest thing was getting the trust and that’s when I started to see the field more when the coaches and players started to trust me.”
Last year Goldsworthy came in after rehabbing an injury, while this season he entered with a full training camp – spring and fall – and an injury-free body.
Pair him with senior defensive end Evan Mayer, who earned All-GLIAC Second Team last year, and Kearly sees his two ends as having the potential to be as dominant as the combo of Drew Vanderlin and Todd Storm, who were both All-GLIAC First Team defensive linemen in 2010 and 2011.
“We think Goldsworthy and Evan Mayer are right in that mold of (the) Vanderlin and the Storm era when they were two- and three-year starters and all-league,” Kearly said. “With Cody and Evan, they give us a book-end situation on our defensive front, which is awfully nice to have.”