Freshman A.J. Leggett suffered a season-ending injury and Darryl Roberts may or may not come back from his. When Keith Baxter's status for the Rice game was questionable, that left two ready-to-play corners - Derrick Thomas and Monterius Lovett.
Two is not enough, so Van was tapped on the shoulder. A few days later, he was tossed into the deep end at Rice.
"It was more of a, 'Let me sneak in a play and see if they see me over here before they try to attack me,' " he said. "I guess they called an audible, and here comes a bubble [screen] my way. I think I played about seven plays, and most of the balls were coming my way, too."
Look for Purdue, Tulsa and the rest of the Herd's opponents to go his way, too. But Van is confident in relearning a position he played in high school and prep school, and his teammates are confident he has the speed, hip movement and football smarts to learn the position quickly.
Van had inspired that confidence in others before coming to Huntington.
"Here's a kid that was recruited at Florida as a DB," said Herd defensive coordinator Chris Rippon. "So he was a DB that we brought in [and] whatever the decision-making was, he was a running back and had good success last year. As you saw, the younger running backs could have filled the void and we had a desperate need. Even though Keith was able to play, I'm not giving [Van] up. He's not going back to offense.
"He's going to be here and he's got two years left, and he's going to be a really good player."
There's a lot to learn as soon as possible - various zone schemes, the perils of attempting press coverage on Aaron Dobson in practice, all the routes to defend and the changeover from avoiding tackles to tackling.
Grasping the psychology of the position is as important as anything. Van knew the importance of fumbling as a running back; now he risks showing up on a highlight reel as a victim of a long touchdown pass.
"When you fumble, you really don't put up six points [for your opponent]," Van said. "[When giving up a TD pass] you know somebody's lighting up the scoreboard, and it's not you."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.