'Deuce' takes advantage

NEWTON, Mass. -- Desire counts for a lot in football.

Sure, things such as stature and talent play a part in separating the wheat from the chaff early on. But once players reach a certain level, desire -- sheer force of will -- becomes at times as big a factor as anything.

That's the story Rolandan "Deuce" Finch
is writing these days for Boston College.

"Deuce is one of those guys that didn't like his station and did something about it," third-year BC head coach Frank Spaziani said. "We like that."

In 2008, Finch rushed for 1,397 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Ky., a tour de force for which he was named Kentucky's Mr. Football and the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-10, 209-pound back enrolled at BC and had a solid freshman season in 2009, appearing in six games as a backup and carrying the ball 28 times for 134 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown. But he missed the latter half of his freshman year with mononucleosis and then injured his ACL in spring camp in 2010, forcing him to miss the entire season.

Which is how he came to be where he was at the beginning of the 2011 season, fourth on the depth chart behind Montel Harris, Andre Williams and even redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble.

Deuce, so called because his father is also named Rolandan Finch, didn't like that. So he endeavored to change it, working hard day after day in practice so he'd be ready if and when he was called on.

So when injuries knocked Harris and Williams from the lineup, Finch was ready.

"I'm just having fun right now," Finch said before practice Wednesday. "Being out for a year, like I said before, you know it was rough. I'm just thankful to be out there and be able to do what I'm doing."

That includes his first career start in the Eagles' previous game, in Week 6 at Clemson Tigers. Finch rushed 19 times for 81 yards and a score against the Tigers, demonstrating the ability that his teammates always knew he had.

"I love him," junior right tackle Emmett Cleary said. "Everybody really noticed his freshman year, he came out and played really well before getting hurt and then kind of disappeared for a while with those two injuries. But we all know what he's capable of. He's very physical and he runs angry, which is something I like to say about running backs, and it really rings true.

"He runs with an attitude and really finishes runs, which we appreciate as offensive linemen."

That running style is another thing Finch got from his father.

"I try to run with power. I try to make myself hard to bring down," Finch said. "My dad, he was also a running back, so he told me, you know, try to run with some power then everything else will come because you'll set up the defenders for different things."

The elder Rolandan Finch ran the ball for Montana State and Indiana State. The younger Rolandan Finch figures to continue to fill a large role in the Boston College backfield, with Harris out for the season due to recurring knee woes and Williams coming back from a second sprained ankle.

As for how the workload will break down, Spaziani suggested it'll be split between Finch and Williams.

"We've always wanted to play two tailbacks," he said. "They'll get their share of snaps."

Like Cleary, Spaziani never doubted Finch's ability.

"He always was a good back, but he's had a lot of issues, a lot of problems," Spaziani said. "For him to come back like [he did against Clemson], he looks like he's never had any problems. His determination to not be the fourth-string tailback has helped him."

It's that determination that helped Finch grind through practice day in and day out during the week, even when he knew he likely wouldn't play much on Saturday. He was adamant about practicing the way he would play if he got the chance.

That chance will continue on Saturday at Virginia Tech (3 p.m., ESPN3).

"They're the first- or second-best rushing defense in the conference and one of the best in the nation," he said of the Hokies. "They definitely know what they're doing; they tackle well, they get to the ball well. It's a good defense, just gotta try to make the most of what they give you."

Finch has certainly done that to this point.

"I'm happy for Deuce," Spaziani said, then paused. "And if it continues I'll be happy for us."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.