When the Duke football team started spring practice last April, Ned Gonet and Bill King were not among the names prominently mentioned as possible standouts, or even as starters, in 1977.

Saturday, when the Blue Devils face Maryland at 1:30 p.m. in Byrd Stadium, Gonet, a sophomore fullback from Vienna, Va., and King, a junior linebacker from Rockville, Md., will be in the starting lineup, Gonet in spite of a shoulder separation suffered last Saturday.

Both made Duke coach Mike McGhee change his plans. After their outstandings springs, Gonet, a 6-foot-1, 212-pound Oakton High School graduate, twice has been named ACC rookie of the week.

King, 6-2, 208-pounds and a graduate of Richard Montgomery, projected himself into the starting picture with an interception return for a touchdown in the spring game. He repeated the act two weeks ago againt Navy, running 52 yards for a touchdown with his first of two interceptions that day.

"That was a super feeling," King remembered yesterday. "I looked back, saw there weren't any yellow flags and saw all my teammates coming. It would feel even greater to do it against Maryland."

King and Gonet were both recruited by Maryland and seriously considered staying at home. "It's going to feel a little funny at first on Saturday," Gonet said. "When I was in high school I sat in the stands and rooted for Maryland. Now they'll be the opponent."

Both teams take 3-3 records into the game, the Terps coming off two straight easy wins, the Blue Devils coming off a 17-11 loss to Clemson.

Duke is hurting on defense and King knows that will bring extra responsibility. All-ACC linebacker Carl McGee; defensive ends Jeff Green, and Willard Freeman; linebacker Derrick Mashore and cornerback George Gawdun are all out. All were starters.

"We know it's going to be tough," King said. "We know we have something to prove after last year, but we know that every week."

King admits to taking some ribbing from hometown friends following Maryland's 30-3 win in Durham a year ago. Gonet said he wouldn't mind a little revenge.

"Last year was very disappointing for all of us," he said. "Sure, we'd like to get some revenge. We'd like to show them we can stand up to them. They've been the best in the ACC, no question about it, but we think we're better than we showed last year."

Both players will have large rooting sections from their hometowns in the stands on Saturday. But they know their friends will be outnumbered by their foes.

"When I sat up in the stands as a kid I always wanted to be on the field as a player," Gonet remembered. "I'm glad to have that chance and I certainly have no regrets about it being in a Duke uniform."

McGee said, "Obviously when you're without five defensive starters it doesn't help your cause any. We know what Maryland is capable of offensively, they've shown it the last two weeks. But our players still have confidence and they want to play."

That attitude is perhaps best exemplified by Gonet. Originally his injury was thought to be a two-to-three-week thing. But now, having been told by doctors he can play in a brace if he wants to, he says he will be ready.

"I want to play up there," he said. "This is one game I really want a shot at."