Frank Fillip started all six games at right tackle for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2020, and it’s expected he will be a starter once he returns from a shoulder injury.
Redshirt freshman Jake Wiley, however, is making a push for that role.
“I tell you, Jake has been a blessing,” CU offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue said. “He’s worked his tail off this summer. I could tell and it’s paying dividends right now. He’s doing a very good job. I tell Frank all the time, ‘Hey, you’re gonna battle to get your spot back because Jake’s hanging on to it.’”
Fillip, who injured his shoulder in the spring, is expected to miss the first two or three games, but is progressing and is ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, Wiley’s strong offseason has continued through the first 12 practices of preseason camp.
“This whole past summer … I was working and trying to get better,” Wiley said. “I think from my freshman year to now I’ve made a big jump in my game.”
A 2019 graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Wiley redshirted in 2019 and then played in all six games last year, mostly on special teams. He played eight snaps on offense.
Most offensive linemen take some time to develop, however, and the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Wiley is making progress.
“I think honestly, for me it was getting myself to a good playing weight, where I felt comfortable, felt like I can move,” he said. “The physical thing was just getting that, but it was more mental for me; just knowing the playbook and not messing up.”
With the Buffs shorthanded in spring, Wiley got a lot of first-team reps and he said that has helped, too.
“It helps, working with the best players we can,” he said of going against the first-team defense. “I saw different moves. They would try different things for myself. So I think that helped a lot.”
Wiley is looking forward to Fillip being healthy but also knows there is an opportunity in front of him as the Buffs prepare for the Sept. 3 opener against Northern Colorado.
“When (Fillip) is out here for practice, he’ll tell me what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong,” Wiley said. “It’s helped me a lot, too. We always talk about it, but it’s definitely a big opportunity for me to get in there and play a lot, too.”
Carson Wells is the leader of CU’s outside linebacker group, but the competition for playing time behind him has continued throughout the offseason. Juniors Guy Thomas and Jamar Montgomery, along with redshirt freshman Joshka Gustav are in close competition.
“It’s up for grabs,” Thomas said. “The rest of the guys in the group are working hard. I’m working hard. It’s a lot of competition, it’s good competition. We’re all getting better each and every day.”
Thomas is relishing the opportunity as he enters his fifth season of college football. A native of Miami, Thomas played two seasons at Nebraska before playing the 2019 season at Coahoma (Miss.) Community College. Last year, he played 104 snaps in his first season with the Buffs, recording 11 tackles.
“I’m more focused now,” he said in reflecting on his time at Nebraska. “I’m a different guy, a different player. I was a younger guy coming out of Miami.”
Now, he’s a veteran who is enjoying Boulder and playing for outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski.
“I have a coach who believes in me, who believes in the things I can do,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Sophomore Josh Jynes has been a backup center, but with the Buffs shorthanded at tackle during Saturday’s scrimmage, he played left tackle with the second team. Rodrigue said Jynes “is an athletic kid” and can be versatile enough to play all over the line. … Chance Lytle has fully recovered from the broken leg he had last season and is moving around at guard and both tackle spots. “I’m pleased with what Chance is doing right now,” Rodrigue said. “We’re just trying to find him a home right now. He’s doing good and he deserves a shot.” … CU had the day off from practice Wednesday and will return to the field on Thursday.