Only in Central Islip, N.Y., has there been an announcement about which of Maryland's four quarterbacks will start the Sept. 9 home opener against Tulane.

"I have a load of people from New York coming down to see me. I already told 'em I'd be starting," said Mike Tice, the long-throwing, 6-foot-7 sophomore flake and the pride of Central Islip.

In another corner of this quadrangle there is fifth-year player and drama major Tim O'Hare, who has protrayed Orlando in "As You Like It," the gentleman caller in "The Glass Menagerie," but never a role as heart-bending as the one he lives today.

O'Hare has spent the last four years on Maryland's bench (one as a red-shirt), patiently studying the game from such teachers as Bob Avellini, Mark Manges and Larry Dick, the quarterbacks who played. Respect for him as a person and team player is wide-spread, and few want to see him passed over in his final act.

With all the hours O'Hare has devoted to Maryland football, he has not played enough to earn a letter. He figures he has appeared in about eight games and run 40 or 50 plays.

"I didn't come back for a fifth year to do what I've been doing during the last four," said O'Hare. "I was sitting behind two really good players [Manges and Dick] but I couldn't do what they were doing. I just hadn't had the opportunity to show what I can do.

"I have something to prove to the people in the area. I know I will be given the first chance, because I've been here the longest. I'd like to prove myself in that first game and settle some doubts.

"I would not be too thrilled about sitting down again. I came to play and I am as ready as I'll ever be. I realize this is my time, something I've waited for, really, all my life. I feel it is my turn."

In what appears to have shaped up as a separate battle, sophomore Bob Milkovich seems to have the inside track to the No. 3 spot ahead of junior David McAfee. Milkovich is the best runner of the four, but Jerry Eisaman, the quarterback coach, said "none of them runs like Manges. That won't be a big factor [in choosing the starter] at all.

"We're looking for someone to come to the top mentally, to move the club, to read defenses."

Eisaman already has admitted that Tice embodies the most physical promise. There is a lot of giddy mumbling about Tice, that he will be Maryland's best quarterback ever, that he is much like Avellini.

"I don't believe there's a comparison between Mike and Avellini," said Eisaman. "Mike is taller and has a stronger arm.

"Mike has the potential to be a great college passer. We don't think he's a great runner, but he's a good, strong runner. When you get that much height and weight moving, you're going to fall for yardage."

Logically, the best situation for Maryland would be to go with Tice from the start. His potential already is well known, and he is available for the next three years. After a season of breaking in, Tice could give Maryland two more solid years. With O'Hare, the staff would have to break in a new quarterback two straight years, which would stagger the continuity of the offense.

In all probability, one of two things will happen:

Tice will be the quarterback, from the opener on. But if, in practice. Tice is injured or develops problems running the offense, O'Hare will start the season with Tice gradually bein worked in.

The second option shapes up as a quarterback battle all year, and after three seasons of Manages-Dick questions, the staff prefers a clear-cut starter.

Any way you look at it, Tice is in good shape, and this observation hasn't escaped him.

"I feel good about my situation. I'll say that much," said Tice. "The main thing I worry about is injuries."

Tice's lesser concern is mastering the mental aspects of the game: reading the defenses, calling the appropriate plays, enlisting the confidence of a team that is mostly older and more experienced than he is. He can control his own destiny in these areas, and has made progress.

In an effort to absorb more details of the system, Tice drove down to Maryland this summer, picked up a stack of films of the passing game, ate a sandwich and drove back. He borrowed a projector from his high school coach and watched films incessantly, sometimes at home, sometimes at his gilfriend's home.

"You have to admit, it's pretty boring watching the same thing over and over, so I used to watch with my girlfriend." said Tice. "That really helped. In fact, when we watched the films of me, she said I stunk."

Actually, Tice did have a disappointing spring. He was injured, and when he wasn't, "I got all flustered and nervous. I choked."

When they wer enot watching film this summer, Tice and the girl played catch on the beach and had pep talks.

"She keeps laughing at me and makes me feel better," said Tice.

Tice has never had to worry about his leadership qualities. Last year, he palled around with seniors Chuck White and Larry Dick, and was a favorite at parties.

"I really love people. My mouth is just open all the time," said Tice. "I like all people and I get along with everybody. My town is 55 percent black and Puerto Rican and we were all great buddies. I'm tellin' ya."

The staff noticed last year that Tice was unafraid to assert himself when he got into a punching match with the team's only All-Conference player, senior defensive guard Ted Klaube.Asked if it was one of those typical football practice play-fights, Tice said, "No. It was a real fight."

"He was cheap-shotting me all the time in practice. Most quarterbacks won't stand up for their rights. I just hauled off and hit him. Now we get along real well."

Tice worries about the advantage O'Hare has over him in knowledge of the Maryland system.

"Tim knows so much more than I do. At the meetings, he knows the answers right away. His reaction time on the field is about half a second faster than mine." said Tice." But, you know, he's been here five years.

"Tim helps me a lot. He'll come over and tell me exactly what I did wrong. It's competitive out there but we're all pushing each other.

"If Timmy gets it, I'll be rooting for him. Of course. I'd prefer to start the first game. I don't know if all those people would still come if I don't. Maybe just one carload."