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With Rusty Smith gone, Jeff Van Camp finally takes over QB reins at FAU

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With Rusty Smith gone, Jeff Van Camp finally takes over QB reins at FAU

With Rusty Smith gone, Jeff Van Camp finally takes over QB reins at FAU
By Tom D'angelo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Posted: 12:23 p.m. Friday, April 9, 2010

BOCA RATON Jeff Van Camp has patiently taken snaps during spring practice for four years as Florida Atlantic's other quarterback.

Now, with the Rusty Smith era ending, Van Camp, a fifth-year senior, finally walks onto the field this spring as the program's most experienced quarterback.

"It's definitely a different feeling for me," Van Camp said this week as the Owls prepared for Saturday's scrimmage. "You've got to be a different guy. You've got to be more of a leader. Everybody is watching you. There's a little bit more pressure but that comes with the job."

And for those that count coach Howard Schnellenberger and offensive coordinator Darryl Jackson they like what they are seeing.

Van Camp has as much time in one program as any first-year starter, probably in the country. He turns 23 two days after the season opener and made his first career start only after Smith suffered a season-ending shoulder injury late in the seventh game of last season.

Now, instead of having to answer questions about never starting a game, Van Camp enters his final season with five starts, which gave his coaches a glimpse of what to expect.

"We knew he could run the ball and we know he has a strong arm," Jackson said. "But just how he commanded the offense and moved the ball down the field was impressive. More importantly he didn't turn the ball over."

After taking over for Smith in the Louisiana-Lafayette game, he made his first start the next week against North Texas. He finished 109-of-184 and was 3-2 as a starter. More impressive than his 59.2 completion percentage, or 1,372 yards, was that he threw just two interceptions, and one deflected off a teammate who was in the wrong spot.

That experience allows Van Camp to enter this spring more assured of his role on the team.

"The players kind of respect you a little bit more when you're battle-tested," he said.

Lester Jean, the team's leading returning receiver, sees a more confident signal-caller.

"Jeff was put into the fire with no experience last year," Jean said. "Now he has the experience and he knows what to expect. He is more comfortable."

Van Camp, at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, is Smith's equal physically, but he has more versatility. And even Smith has acknowledged that Van Camp has a stronger arm.

Now, Van Camp is hoping to grow into the role of a leader, something Smith was a natural at for three years. He has a solid grasp of the offense, but with five new offensive linemen it could take some time before this group is in sync.

"He knows what he is doing," Jackson said. "He knows where to go with the football and he can direct his teammates to where they need to go, which is probably the most important thing considering how young we are."

* Sun Belt Champions & New Orleans Bowl Champions-2007
* Motor City Bowl/Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl Champions-2008
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