Howard University was forced to start so many freshmen and first-year football players last season that Bison Coach Doug Porter is using current spring drills as a time to catch up on fundamentals.

Howard started seven freshmen and two junior college transfers in a 5-5 season in 1977.

"We're working more on basic fundamentals," Porter said yesterday as the Bison prepared to wrap up their third week of spring practice, "because we were pressed into using young people last fall and hadn't gotten where we wanted.

"You like to work with freshmen during their first year, so they can start to assimilate the system in spring drills."

Two key Bison players, quarterback Brian Thomas and wide reciver Steve Wilson, are sitting out the drills while recovering from shoulder injuries.

Porter is pleased with everything except the weather, which has forced him to cut back on the work he wants to give his players.

"You know what they say on television." The best surprise is no surprise.' The people we had expectations for are developing. So far we haven't had any disappointments or injuries."

Porter praised defensive tackle Frank Maynard of Eastern High, a rising sophomore. Maynard, 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, is quicker than last fail and, with veteran Tommy Spears, anchors a strong defensive line.

The major problem area for the Bison are the secondary and the offensive line, from ehich top seniors will graduate, including safely Herman Redding center Dan Ambrose and guard Keith Napier.

This will be Porter's fourth season and thus the first with only players he has recruited other than a few red-shirts. The team could be his best.

"But I couldn't say that at this pint," Porter said. " We're still a very young, young team. We're trying to eliminate mistakes. But we shouldn't have to play more than two or three freshmen. And they'll be in backup roles unless somebodly is outstanding or there are a lot of injuries."