Darius Roland still isn't where he'd like to be.
It took the Merced College sophomore about a month to find his football legs after redshirting the previous year.
It's taken him even longer to regain his form.
"The thing about Darius is, he's not that big," MC coach Tony Lewis said. "He's strong as an ox, though.
"When he keeps his pads low and uses that strong center of gravity, he can run over people."
Roland's starting to do just that.
After a number of weeks of gaining 90-plus yards, Roland finally cracked the 100-yard threshold with a 112-yard effort in a loss to Chabot.
He followed that up with a 169-yard explosion last week in the Blue Devils' 34-24 victory over Cabrillo.
Roland thinks it's only going to get better.
"I ran track the year I redshirted and I kind of got in the habit of running up high for speed," Roland said. "I've definitely gotten back to running lower to the ground, but I still don't think I'm running as low as I did when I was a freshman."
The emergence of Roland and the MC running game couldn't have come at a better time, with Golden Gate Conference-favorite Laney (2-0 GGC, 5-2) paying the Blue Devils a visit this afternoon.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
MC will need all the offense it can muster against the GGC's stingiest defense.
It's a challenge Roland and company have looked forward to all season.
"Coach has been talking about Laney since the year began," Roland said. "Everyone wants to play in this one.
"Julius (Crooks) has been hurt for a few weeks and he said just give him some drugs, because there's no way he's not playing against Laney."
That's the importance of today's matchup.
A victory over Laney would thrust the Blue Devils (1-1 GGC, 1-6) amongst the conference title frontrunners and erase the bad memories of an 0-6 start to the season.
"We know it's a big match-up, and the way we've played the last two weeks gives us a lot of confidence going into it," MC quarterback Ryan Williston said.
"The running game has been huge for us the last couple of weeks.
"It feels like everything has come together at the right time."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.