It seems like long ago that Frank Fillip was being thrown into the fire as a true freshman starting on Colorado’s offensive line for a couple of games in 2018.
After going through numerous coaches, adversity and changes to his body, Fillip is now a fifth-year junior and anchor of the CU line.
“I don’t feel that old,” he said with a smile after a recent spring practice.
Perhaps that’s because Fillip is somewhat rejuvenated this spring. He’s healthy after battling a shoulder injury throughout 2021 and, like the rest of his line mates, is enjoying new position coach Kyle DeVan.
“I think (spring) is going pretty well,” Fillip said. “I feel a lot better than I did last season as far as my shoulder goes, so it’s nice to be able to just get better.”
The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Fillip was in line to take over at left tackle when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder midway through last spring. The injury required surgery and he didn’t return until the third game of the season, coming off the bench. He started the last nine games at right tackle, but his shoulder was never fully healthy.
“I mean, it can be tough, but you’ve just got to push through,” he said. “You can’t just press pause on the season. You’ve just got to keep going. So it doesn’t really matter how I feel; the season matters.”
The injury did impact his play, however, as Fillip struggled at times along with the rest of the line.
“I definitely wasn’t 100% when I was playing; that’s probably the best way I could put it,” he said. “Maybe I wasn’t as confident.”
He’s feeling that confidence now as he has gone through spring settling in at right tackle.
“Oh yeah, I’m back to the old me,” he said. “(Being healthy) just allows me to play with more confidence. I trust myself a lot more. I trust my arm a lot more. I think confidence is key, especially this position. Having that confidence back makes all the difference.”
So does the addition of DeVan, who is in his first few months on the job coaching the Buffs’ linemen. He replaced Mitch Rodrigue, who was fired seven games into the 2021 season.
“I don’t want to say I’m used to having a new coach, but it’s not a new issue to tackle,” said Fillip, who has had four position coaches at CU. “I’ve been there before and we really like coach DeVan, so there’s no problems there.”
Several of the linemen have praised the addition of DeVan, with Fillip adding, “I think it’s his techniques that are more conducive to my playing style.”
Fillip, left tackle Jake Wiley and right guard Casey Roddick are back as starters, and several others stepping up to compete on the line. DeVan is helping the group come together.
“It’s like the blindfold has been taken off and we’re all just … everyone’s getting better every day,” Fillip said.
Fillip has been improving since those early days at CU when he was a tall, skinny tackle fresh out of high school.
Shortly after his true freshman season, when he played 207 snaps and started two games, the Buffs went through a coaching change and Fillip contemplated moving on front football. He recharged his batteries before spring football in 2019, however, and has never looked back.
“I think my love just came back (that spring),” he said. “It feels really good. I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t here. I’m very, very glad I came back.”
With four years of experience under his belt, a healthy shoulder and a new outlook with DeVan, Fillip is looking forward to seeing better results in the fall.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “Obviously there’s still work to be done and I’ll keep getting better until that season starts, but I’m going to be excited to see this group with this coaching staff go into a season. I have a lot of confidence.”