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Penn State notebook: Hackenberg healthy for Illinois game

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Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 6:09 p.m.

Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg practiced fully Monday and is “fine,” Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said Tuesday during his weekly news conference.

O'Brien pronounced Hackenberg as “ready to go” when the Nittany Lions (4-3, 1-2) host Illinois (3-4, 0-3) at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Hackenberg was slammed to the turf after the whistle on an offsides penalty during the first half of Ohio State's 63-14 beatdown of Penn State this past Saturday. Hackenberg stayed in the game until midway through the third quarter.

Hackenberg has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 1,784 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first seven career starts. One of last year's top high school recruits in the nation, he has three times been named Big Ten freshman of the week.

Amos back to corner

For the second time this season, one of Penn State's top three safeties when the season began has been moved to another position. This time, it is to a familiar spot.

Adrian Amos “right now is best suited to play corner,” O'Brien said. Amos, a junior, started all 12 games at cornerback last season but was moved to free safety to begin this season. He was back at cornerback this past Saturday against Ohio State.

“I think what gives us our best secondary back there is when he have Adrian and Jordan (Lucas) at corner,” O'Brien said.

“Then, whether it's (Malcolm) Willis and (Ryan) Keiser or Willis and (Jesse) Della Valle, whoever the best safeties are ... but our secondary lineup, as we sit here now, is probably Adrian at corner.”

That means Trevor Williams, a sophomore who played receiver last season, has been bumped down the cornerback depth chart. Amos started in his place against the Buckeyes, with Della Valle stepping in at safety. Willis and Keiser have shared the other safety spot since Stephen Obeng-Agyapong was converted into a linebacker during the season opener.

“Adrian's a great athlete; you can definitely see that, no matter what position he's playing,” Della Valle said.

Possible OL shuffle

O'Brien indicated there could be a new starter at one of the offensive tackle spots. Garry Gilliam and Adam Gress have split time at right tackle all season, with Donovan Smith at left tackle. O'Brien said it's possible that Gress or Gilliam could start in place of Smith.

The official depth chart released Tuesday lists Gilliam as the co-starter at both positions — with Smith at left tackle and Gress on the right. Smith struggled against Ohio State pass-rusher Noah Spence.

Nittany Notes

O'Brien insisted Penn State's tight ends were targeted “eight or nine times” against Ohio State despite not having a catch. … O'Brien characterized all of his players who had not previously been ruled out for the season as “ready to go Saturday.” … One minor injury O'Brien finally acknowledged was that defensive tackle DaQuan Jones has been playing through a right shoulder strain and a back issue.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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