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Villamin appreciates return to field with Beavers

CORVALLIS — Monday morning, Jordan Villamin donned his white Oregon State practice jersey and stepped on a Prothro field for the start of fall football camp.

It was a seemingly mundane task, a customary start to a new preseason. As Villamin stepped from sideline to hash mark, though, the former three-star recruit smiled as he reveled in the moment.

"It was pretty amazing," Villamin said after the session, nearly a year removed from academic issues derailinghis true freshman campaign. "It was surreal."

Early in fall camp last season, Villamin seemed poised to compete for immediate playing time. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound wide receiver offered Sean Mannion a big, speedy target. Perhaps he could be another complement for the dynamic Brandin Cooks, some coaches thought.

Midway through preseason practices, Villamin learned that the NCAA wasn't accepting online classes he took as a high school senior. The partial qualifier would need to sit out the entire 2013 season.

While teammates jostled for depth chart positioning, Villamin tried to absorb the playbook without practicing the plays. At times, he grew antsy. Watching peers haul in catches left him hungry, but desire hardly speeds up a calendar.

In recent weeks, Villamin visited Prothro often with Mannion. He focused on establishing a rhythm, hopeful that chemistry with the quarterback could buoy his chances of playing as a redshirt freshman.

"It really depends on what he did when he was on the sideline" last year, wide receivers coach Brent Brennan said. "He's a good kid. He wants to be a good player."

This fall camp, Villamin harbors basic aims. He wants to catch the ball more consistently, perfect routes and improve speed.

Enough strong showings, he figures, and a rotation gig should be obtainable. The Beavers, after all, only have one returning wideout -- split end Richard Mullaney -- with more than 76 career receiving yards.

At this point, Villamin is Mullaney's primary backup. But he wants to hone other positions, intent on giving coaches options should they decide to tinker with an inexperienced group.

"It's basically my first day," Villamin said, "so I'm just trying to get everything figured out."