Postgame Interview: Levine Toilolo

After a string of pedestrian performances early in the season, tight end Levine Toilolo put together a good showing against Colorado, catching two passes for 37 yards and playing a key role on offense throughout the game. Toilolo shares the spotlight with two other tight ends, Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener, as all three are considered to be NFL-caliber players.

After Stanford's 48-7 victory over Colorado on Saturday night, The Bootleg caught up with Toilolo to talk about his play so far and his path back from a devastating knee injury last season.

The Bootleg: You kind of broke out of a funk in this game, with a couple of big plays. What changed for you tonight versus earlier in the season?

Levine Toilolo: Honestly, not much. I think it's just a matter of what the defense presents and what kind of reads they present for Andrew [Luck]. I was just able to be open a couple times today.

It seemed at times earlier in the season that you might not be fully recovered from that injury you suffered last year. Are you back at the same place you were before that injury?

LT: Yes. I feel like I'm getting my legs back under me. But then again, this is my first full college season, so my body's still trying to handle that. Physically, I feel like my knee's holding up well.

Is there any sort of hierarchy among the three tight ends, where one player is expected to get more of the snaps, or are you guys constantly rotating in and out?

LT: Yeah, we rotate a lot. Like I said, it's all dependent on what's in the game plan and what the defense is presenting. Our coaches do a good job of putting in different personnel and using us to expose any opening they may see the defense present.

Coming into this game, Colorado's secondary was really banged up. Do you feel that that had any impact in the fact that you as a team had such a great day through the air today?

LT: Maybe. Like you said, whenever a team is banged up they're not able to gel with each other and have all the experience that they're used to. Then again, Andrew did a great job of finding all the receivers and tight ends and running backs. I thought our game plan was pretty good, and I think we still have a lot to improve on if we want to get to where we want to be in January. As a team and individually, I think we all feel like we need to play a lot better.

Earlier in the week, Coach Shaw called you one of the finest blocking tight ends in the country. What do you think of that assessment?

LT: I mean, it's definitely humbling to hear something like that. I feel like I still have a lot of work to do, especially in the blocking game. It's definitely challenging physically every week, and I think all of our tight ends take pride in blocking well. I think that's something that drives each of us; we all push each other and we all critique each other during the week of practice, so I think that helps a lot.

Do you see yourself more as a blocking tight end or as a receiving tight end?

LT: Honestly, I try to be as balanced as I can. If the coach asks me to block I try to do well blocking; if he asks me to go out and catch a pass I try to be able to do that as well. Either way, I think that's something that all of our tight ends coming here to Stanford—a place where they use tight ends a lot—I think we all try to have a balanced mindset.

Your schedule is kind of backloaded with some of the stronger teams in the conference. You're not playing USC until late, you're not playing Oregon until late. Do you think that's positive or negative overall for the team?

LT: I think there's both positives and negatives. I think each week, regardless of the opponent, we know that we have to get better every week, regardless of who we're playing. Going in every week, we're not really focused on who we're playing—we're focused on how we're playing as a team.

In the postgame press conference, a few of the players said that they felt that you hadn't played a physical enough game, that that was the one big takeaway for them—that it could have been more physical. What do you say to that?

LT: I agree. We're definitely a team that takes pride in the run game and being physical. I think earlier in the game, our rushing game wasn't doing as well as we would like it to be. I think every week our team feels like we can improve. Definitely in the run game—that's the foundation of our offense. So I agree—I definitely feel like we could be more physical.

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