Jul 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O

Bill O'Brien Press Conference Recap-Illinois Week

Coach O’Brien was back in front of the media today, allegedly to preview this weekend’s home game with the visiting Fighting Illini, but as expected, much of the attention went towards Saturday’s 63-14 loss to #4 Ohio State.

  • On the injury front, Christian Hackenberg’s shoulder is no issue, as he was back at practice on Monday.  Ryan Keiser and Ben Kline are both expected to play Saturday as well.  Keiser continues to recover from hand surgery, and Kline has been dealing with a lingering shoulder issue.
  • On the depth chart, Bill Belton has moved up to the starters spot at tailback, while the two tackle spots will come down to Donovan Smith, Garry Gilliam, and Adam Gress.  Gilliam is listed as an infamous “OR” on the depth chart with Smith at left tackle, who noticeably struggled with Noah Spence on Saturday.  Gilliam and Gress have been sharing time all season at the right tackle spot.  Belton was productive against Ohio State, and with Zwinak’s fumbling remaining an issue, he’s earned the top spot.  O’Brien says he believes Zwinak’s ball security issue is more mental than anything, and the staff is working with him to get through it.
  • John Butler has been a popular target following the 63 point, 686 yard defensive performance Saturday, but O’Brien isn’t buying any of it.  When asked about the heat his defensive coordinator has taken, OB called him a hell of a football coach, and someone he’s proud to coach with, and said if anyone deserves blame, it’s himself.
  • As for how the defense improves, O’Brien talked about simplifying things, and just allowing the kids to play.  He also identified some communication issues that they will be working to address in the seasons final 5 games.
  • Message boards and comment threads were lit up on Saturday and Sunday after the game about, among other things, the late hit on Hackenberg after an offside call, Urban Meyer’s challenge of a 4th down spot up 49 points, and in general, OSU running up the score.  O’Brien said he didn’t have any issues with OSU during the game, and won’t be crying over spilled milk.
  • Yes, there was an Illinois question, dealing with the Illini’s senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase.  OB sees him as one of the guys that has improved the most in the league, and a big challenge on Saturday.  He has really excelled in Billy Cubit’s offensive system.

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