Safeties coach Midget talks transition, DBs

Safeties coach Anthony Midget didn't dwell on the difficulties of becoming accustomed to another defense or meshing with his players' personalities after less than three months on the job.

No, the assistant coach who was hired Feb. 14 instead used words Tuesday like "easy" and "blessing" when talking about the transition to Penn State. He complimented the leadership of veteran safeties Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, thanked defensive coordinator John Butler for helping him along and emphasized just how happy he was to be at "one of the storied programs in the country."

"It's been great and a blessing," Midget said Tuesday afternoon, the first time he addressed the media since his hire. "Everything happened so fast."

The former Virginia Tech standout, a three-year starting cornerback under Frank Beamer, initially left Georgia State for Marshall this offseason. But, about a week-and-a-half after taking that Conference USA gig, Bill O'Brien called him to gauge his interest in the Nittany Lions' opening.

Midget said the opportunity was just too good to pass up. He could stay with the Thundering Herd or head north to a school that averaged about 70,000 more fans a game. It wasn't a hard decision -- with or without sanctions.

"I was really surprised," Midget said. "And I guess Coach O'Brien had a mutual friend that recommended me. It was an opportunity. He called me and asked if there was interest, and I said yes."

The young coach with the thin goatee has become a fixture inside Holuba Hall and the football building since his hire. He directs a core group of about eight safeties and sometimes switches off with Butler, teaching the cornerbacks some fundamentals or fine-tuning their technique.

They'll coach their groups separately, but they'll watch film and hold meetings together to increase their communication. Midget called himself a fiery, energetic coach -- not unlike Butler -- and said he knows he demands a lot from his players. But, after practices, he tries to soften up some.

"When we walk off that field, our doors are open, and we can have fun together and do what we need to do," he said. "It's that relationship that you're building with the guys, and they understand us being fiery and demanding."

His old boss, former Georgia State coach Bill Curry, said shorty after his hire that's been Midget's personality since he first hired him five years ago. The young coach tries to separate his on-field and off-field demeanor.

"Off the field, he is outgoing, and he's humorous when it's the right time to be humorous," Curry told ESPN in a Q&A. "But he can be serious. He's tough as nails. So when he gets on the field, the humor's gone. He coaches football with great intensity; he expects everything out of everyone on every drill."

Despite that hard-nosed approach, the safeties coach pinpointed a number of defensive backs who have impressed him so far. He praised Ryan Keiser's offseason work, admired Adrian Amos' versatility as a cornerback, safety and nickelback -- and believed wideout-turned-safety Malik Golden had a bright future.

"He's picked up on it as far from a physical standpoint," Midget said. "He just has some natural abilities that I think's going to help us in the future. He's still learning throughout the spring, but I'm encouraged physically from what he's shown in the time of the short practices we've had."

Like Golden, this spring has been a time of transition for Midget. And both seem to be moving along pretty well.

The pace of the assistant coach's transition likely has quickened because his responsibilities are more focused. During his previous stint at Georgia State, Midget carried the burden of following recruiting and also taking charge as the secondary coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coach -- something Curry said he would have preferred to avoid.

Now, the focus is primarily on the safeties and on recruiting in the South Florida and Cleveland areas. And Midget seemed pretty thankful Tuesday for that.

"To be able to focus on just one position, it's been great," Midget said. "I think the game has changed so much; I think it's a benefit to have two secondary coaches."