Practices are supposed to be a grind and the hard work to prepare for the reward of game day in the fall.
The eyes of Colorado sophomore Frank Fillip beamed when he talked about going through football practices this spring, however.
“Practices are so much more fun (this year),” the 6-foot-7, 272-pound offensive tackle said. “I know they’re not supposed to be fun. Obviously they’re hard, but it feels rewarding. I enjoy the competition. That’s something I like to have. The coaches really, really encourage it and I like that.
“It’s just the culture. It’s very competitive and go, go, go. I think it’s good for us.”
Perhaps for Fillip, the enjoyment stems from a refocused outlook gained this offseason.
Last fall as a true freshman, Fillip played 207 snaps and was routinely praised by coaches for his long-term potential. When head coach Mike MacIntyre was fired and offensive line coach Klayton Adams moved on in the offseason, however, the support system Fillip came in with suddenly changed.
For several weeks in the winter, there were rumors that Fillip had decided to leave the team, possibly to transfer elsewhere. Fillip declined to talk about why he considered leaving, but had no hesitation in answering why he returned.
“I think the biggest thing was just the guys,” he said. “I wanted to be around them. It’s like a family. It’s hard to just walk away from a family.”
Fillip is a big part of the Buffs family, especially on the offensive line, where he is one of several players competing for starting roles and playing time at right and left tackle.
Last season, the Buffs struggled on the offensive line, especially at tackle. Lack of depth and production led Adams and MacIntyre to throw Fillip into the fire right away. Despite being undersized and missing part of fall camp with an injury, Fillip played eight snaps in the opener. He became a regular part of the rotation by the time Pac-12 play rolled around and he even started two games at right tackle.
“I think it helped me get used to the game — the speed — and then it got me more comfortable playing at this level,” he said. “I think the downside of that is that I didn’t get that redshirt year to get bigger, because I’m still a little bit lighter than most tackles you like to see. I’m not going to complain about it. I think it was really beneficial for me to get experience right out of the gun.”
Without that redshirt year, however, and then going through the uncertain winter, Fillip is still on the lighter side. He said eventually coaches would like him to weigh 300-310 pounds, but realistically for the 2019 season, the goal is to get around 290-295.
A redshirt year could still be beneficial to Fillip, but he admits it would be more difficult mentally now that he’s played.
“As a freshman, you kind of expect, ‘OK, I’m probably going to get redshirted,'” he said. “It would be weird as a second year (player). I don’t want to, but I do see the benefits of it. I’m not going to complain about getting bigger and stronger.”
That decision is months away, however, as the Buffs don’t open the season until Aug. 30 against Colorado State. The NCAA’s new redshirt rules could allow him to even play four games and still redshirt.
For now, Fillip is relishing the opportunity to be a part of the competition at tackle, where he’s competing with, among others, William Sherman, Kanan Ray and Jack Shutack. The Buffs are expected to add graduate transfer Arlington Hambright, a part-time starter at left tackle at Oklahoma State last year, to the mix in the summer.
Ten practices into spring ball, Fillip is encouraged by his own performance.
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress from practice No. 1 to today,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot on a new pass set; we’re being more vertical instead of how we did short-sets last year. I’m getting used to that. I’m also playing both sides and getting comfortable with playing left and right.
“I feel really good.”
The Buffs were off Tuesday and will return to practice on Wednesday. … CU’s spring game is scheduled for April 27 at Noon at Folsom Field.