Anthony Midget had never met Bill O’Brien. He had no connection to the Penn State coach, unlike most members of the Nittany Lions’ staff.
But someone, evidently, put in a good word for the man back in January. And before he knew it, Midget was interviewing at Penn State and on his way to his third job in as many months.
“I guess we had a mutual friend that recommended me,” Midget said on Tuesday in the midst of his first spring practice as the Lions safeties coach. “Coach O’Brien called me and asked if there was an interest, and I said yes.
“I had an interview. It went well, and he offered me the job. … And here we are today. It’s just been a blessing. Everything happened so fast.”
Especially from his perspective.
In December, Midget finished up his first season as defensive coordinator at FCS Georgia State. In January, he started a new gig as a secondary coach in the FBS ranks at Marshall.
By February, he was Penn State’s safeties coach. Midget filled the gap created when defensive coordinator Ted Roof left to take the same position at Georgia Tech, his alma mater.
O’Brien elected to promote secondary coach John Butler to the defensive coordinator job before hiring Midget to coach the safeties. Butler will continue to work directly with the cornerbacks, which was the same arrangement Tom Bradley had in recent years for the Lions.
Most notably, Midget becomes O’Brien’s first coaching hire since the NCAA sanctions hit the program back in July. The 35-year-old Florida native said that the bowl ban and scholarship reductions didn’t enter his mind when considering coming to Penn State after less than a month at Marshall.
“Not at all. It was an opportunity to be a part of Penn State,” said Midget, who was an All-America cornerback at Virginia Tech. “Yes, I understood what I was getting into. But there was never a doubt in my mind that with Coach O’Brien and what they did last year.
“I wanted to be a part of this staff and get this thing turned around, build on what they did last year and take this to the next level.”
Midget said he hasn’t had any issues connecting with Butler. Aside from being two of the youngest coaches on the staff, Butler has been in charge of getting Midget up to speed on the scheme and terminology.
It doesn’t hurt that the two have similar, up-tempo personalities, according to Midget.
“I’m just energetic,” Midget said. “I think the guys feed off of it.”
His transition will be further helped by having two senior safeties returning as his starters.
Free safety Malcolm Willis and strong safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong started all of last season for the Lions as juniors. Willis also had a stretch as a starter two years ago while filling in for an injured Nick Sukay.
“To have two senior leaders back there, especially Malcolm Willis, has been great,” Midget said. “He’s been a tremendous leader. Obeng has been a good leader. It’s just made the transition that much easier because those guys are basically coaches on the field.
“They understand the defense, understand what we want and can help us with the younger guys.”
That’s especially true in the spring. Obeng-Agyapong is being held out of contact drills in as he recovers from offseason surgery. That gives players like former walk-on Ryan Keiser and redshirt freshman Malik Golden some extra time in scrimmages.
Starting corner Adrian Amos has also been working all over the secondary, including at safety, much as he did last summer.