Greg Van Roten an Ivy League left tackle at Penn made a strong push in the second week of training camp to become the Green Bay Packers' top backup at center and possibly both guards.

Evan Dietrich-Smith who was the No. 1 interior backup most of last year now is the starting center and playing well. Still the Packers must find his backup and one for guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang.

Enter Van Roten a second-year man who has split his time at center and guard throughout camp.

"He's gotten better" offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Thursday. "The last couple practices I think things are starting to click for him."

For whatever reason Van Roten got off to a sluggish start last month creating opportunities for rookie free agents Garth Gerhart and Patrick Lewis.

Then Van Roten turned it up a notch about a week ago earning additional reps and the praise of his coaches.

"He's doing much better than he was first starting out" said James Campen who coaches the offensive line. "He's had a couple really good days. He's getting a little more confident."

The Packers needed another camp body a year ago and signed Van Roten on July 25 the day players reported for training camp. Not only did Van Roten quickly grasp the system (he scored 34 on the Wonderlic intelligence test) he almost made the team with his pass-protection skill at left guard.

Immediately signed to the practice squad Van Roten was added to the 53-man roster for the final 13 games. His playing time from scrimmage totaled 22 snaps as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations.

After Dietrich-Smith was appointed starter over Jeff Saturday in late December the Packers accelerated Van Roten's exposure at center. His development has reached the point where he feels like a competent center.

"I like to think so" said Van Roten. "There's a reason they keep letting me take snaps.

"Last year I was a rookie. They expected a lot out of me but they didn't put a lot of pressure on me. This year it's kind of like 'You need to be good. You need to step into your role here.'"

The 6-foot-3-inch Van Roten used the off-season to bulk up from 303 to 314 pounds a weight Campen says hasn't been detrimental to his movement.

"I can sit down against a bull rush more and have a little more pop in the run game" Van Roten said. "It took me a little bit to get in the swing of things but I feel good now."