Penn State coach Bill O'Brien says Christian Hackenberg is healthy, defends John Butler at weekly press conference - The Daily Collegian: Football

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Penn State coach Bill O'Brien says Christian Hackenberg is healthy, defends John Butler at weekly press conference

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    Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien ponders a response to a question asked by a reporter at his postgame press conference Saturday evening at Ohio Stadium. Penn State fell to Ohio State 63-14.

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:58 pm

Similar to after a loss Indiana, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said following Saturday's blowout against Ohio State that he'd watch the film and better assess his team at his weekly press conference.

O'Brien watched the film, and followed up on his promise, talking about the defense's performance, injury news and defending defensive coordinator John Butler, among other topics.

Here's what O'Brien had to say Tuesday afternoon: 

Hackenberg ready for Saturday

-O'Brien said freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg is practicing fully and ready to play on Saturday. The second-year coach said his signal caller, who exited Saturday's game early with a shoulder injury, doesn't have to wear any protective gear for the injury.

Belton is No. 1 back

-O'Brien said junior Bill Belton is the team's No. 1 running back moving forward. Belton took the bulk of Saturday's carries, tallying 98 yards on 22 carries.

The New Jersey native also took over the lead back role in the second half of the Michigan game after fellow back Zach Zwinak had a costly fumble.

O'Brien said Belton is more patient this year with the ball in his hands and has done well in pass protection — one of the hardest things to do in O'Brien's eyes.

Defense looking to improve:

Penn State's defense surrendered 686 yards against the Buckeyes on Saturday — the most ever allowed by a Nittany Lions' team.

O'Brien said there are some communication issues on the defensive side of the ball.

"Obviously Saturday night wasn't the defenses best night," O'Brien said. "You wouldn't put that in the category of improvement."

O'Brien defends Butler:

With the poor defensive performance, defensive coordinator John Butler, whether it was on Twitter or message boards, has endured some heat.

O'Brien addressed those grumblings as the head coach stood up for the first-year coordinator.

"He's a hell of a football coach," O'Brien said. "If anybody should take heat, it Bill O'Brien not John Butler...It's a bunch of crap that he's taking heat."

Zwinak’s fumbling issue

O’Brien said running back Zach Zwinak has a bit of a fumbling problem, but is working through it during practice.

Zwinak fumbled without being hit against Ohio State, and didn’t see the field after that.

"I do think it's a little bit mental," O'Brien said. "I don't think he should be hard on himself...I think he'll improve. But the number one job of a ball carrier is protecting the ball." 

Amos better suited at corner

O’Brien said he thinks defensive back Adrian Amos, after starting the year at safety, is better suited at this point for cornerback.

Amos started at corner against Ohio State over Trevor Williams, who had started there earlier in the season.

"I think Adrian right now is best suited to play corner," O'Brien said. "I think our best secondary lineup at the moment is Adrian and Jordan [Lucas] at the corners."

Other injury news:

Along with Hackenberg, O'Brien said safety Ryan Keiser and linebacker Ben Kline will be ready for Illinois this weekend.

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