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Faster tempo evident in first OSU practice

CORVALLIS — The music was blaring, coaches were enthusiastic and the players moved at speeds most aren’t accustomed to early Tuesday morning on Prothro Field.

While the calendar says spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20, for the Oregon State football program, spring practice got underway on a cool but sunny morning.

It was the first official practice for new coach Gary Andersen and his staff, and the difference in style from predecessor Mike Riley, who left for Nebraska in December, was evident.

“It feels like a new beginning,” receiver Jordan Villamin said. “The feel out here is a lot different than last year.”

The biggest change may be the energy level and pace at which practice is run.

“We want to coach with emotion and passion, every coach on the staff is like that, and we want it to be contagious to the kids,” Andersen said.

Andersen said he was pleased with the energy the players brought to the first day.

“Yeah, they kind of woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:30 or whenever they got up,” Andersen said. “They came out here and did a nice job.”

Receiver Victor Bolden said he liked what Andersen and the staff brought to practice.

“He’s a really up-tempo guy himself,” Bolden said of Andersen. “I’m really liking what he does with us. He’s really interactive. I’m just excited to play for him.”

There was a bit of an adjustment for the offensive players as they move from a pro-style offense to a more up-tempo approach.

Bolden said after making a catch, the receivers must put it down and immediately look for the signal for the next play.

“That’s the hardest part, but we’re getting used to it and making plays,” he said.

Villamin learned that lesson the hard way, said receivers coach Brent Brennan, a holdover from Riley’s staff.

Brennan said Villamin caught a slant pass and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.

But Villamin missed the next signal and when he asked what the play was Brennan said he told him he should have seen the signal.

“You have to know your stuff pretty well,” Villamin said.

Andersen said overall it was a good first day, but the key now is for the players and coaches to evaluate the film and get prepared to be better in Thursday’s practice and then again for Saturday’s practice.

“It’s great to be out here,” Andersen said. “A clean, crisp, fast practice. A lot of learning going on and I thought they handled it well and so did the coaches.”

It wasn’t perfect by any means and the players know there is plenty of work ahead.

“For the first day of spring, I thought we looked OK,” running back Storm Woods said. “We’ve definitely got to get better and that’s what we’ll do each week.”

Woods, entering his final spring practice, said there wasn’t necessarily more excitement to get started this year, it’s just nice to be back on the field.

“I think we would have been excited no matter what,” he said. “It’s been a couple months since we actually got to touch a football, get to compete against some guys. I think that’s just excitement right there being able to do what we love.

“With the weightroom and running, there’s only so much you can do. Now we’re actually out here with the Xs and Os of football and we get to do what we love.”