They were the hit men of the Redskin glory years, the reckless tackling terrors who made special teams something really special to their adoring fans.

But now most are either retired or, in the case of Pete Wysocki, pursuing starting positions, leaving Dallas Hickman and Ted Fritsch as the main links to those marvelous seasons.

There probably has been no other year in the past decade when so many new faces have populated the Washington special teams. And there probably has been no other season in memory when a newcomer has had such a golden opportunity to make a name for himself to match that of Wysocki, Rusty Tillman, Bill Malinchak, John Jaqua, Bob Brunet, Eddie Brown and the rest of that enthusiastic George Allen bunch.

These are special teams in search of new stars to fill in for the departed veterans. And they are special teams trying to make sure their play on the field doesn't slip even a fraction from what has been the Redskin standard.

"I've let the younger guys know what is at stake here," said Fritsch, captain of the special teams and perhaps the most consistent long-snapper in football. "Just because there has been a turnover in personnel doesn't mean that we will go down the drain.

"We led the league in certain aspects of the kicking game last year and we intend to do it again. It's something the young guys have to know."

Assistant Coach John Hilton has reached into the bag of promising rookies in this camp and pulled out some special types: linebackers Monte Coleman and Rich Milot, tight ends Phil DuBois and Don Warren and, possibly, linebacker Neal Olkewicz.Mix them in with such young veterans as Don Hover, Clarence Harmon and Donny Harris, who Hilton says was the team's most consistent performer last year, and there is the nucleus for continued excellence.

"Guys like Coleman and Milot have such great natural ability," said Hilton. "They seem to love to play on these teams. They key is that they are competing for starting spots. You want those types on the special teams because you know they are pushing each day out here to do well."

Coleman has been running in Wysocki's old spot on most of the special teams, although Hilton says he'd like to move the former Central Arkansas star "more to the outside. With the new rules about blocking only above the waist, it's good to get big, strong guys outside.

HE loves to mix it up and hit people. Heck, he's run over some of our people here. But he doesn't play out of control, either. That's important. He should be really effective."

Coleman, who packs a wallop in his muscular 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame, admits he loves his suicide squad duties. And for good reason.

"If you're new here like I am and trying to make an impression, the best way to do it is on the special teams," he said. "If I show I can tackle and hit, then that might encourage them to keep me around.

"I've always liked to play on the special teams, even in college. I think they're fun. But I know they are really important here. They take them very seriously."

Hilton wants to work the 6-4, 220-pound Milot onto more of the teams. He currently is on the kickoff coverage squad and is backing up on the rest. But his potential, according to Hilton, "is something we have to develop.

"He and Coleman have everything you're looking for in a special teams player," said Hilton. "You do a lot of trial and error work, trying to find just the right ones, but you look for the athletes with agility and the kind of speed to make up for lost ground when they are knocked down.

"You also want them to be intelligent so they can get a feel for the blocking wall and know how to combat it. A guy with 4.4 40 speed really isn't very good unless he knows how to use that speed. You run by the punt returner and not force him to change his direction and you've accomplished nothing.

"A guy like Coleman has the ability of Thomas Henderson on these teams, but he likes to mix it up even more than Henderson."

If Coleman winds up as an outside man on the team, then Hilton thinks he may give Olkewicz, a former Maryland linebacker, a shot at filling in for Wysocki. And if Olkewicz can impress, then it will improve his chances of surviving the final cut.

"I see a lot of strength and speed out there from the young guys," said Fritsch. "But what is important now is to have everyone play as a unit and not as 11 guys going in the right direction.

"We've got to get a feel for each other, so each of us knows what the other guy is doing out there. You get that by working a lot and by understanding how important all this is. I think we are making progress, but we still have to get better."

Every football team worth its Xs and Os emphasizes special teams. But in the Redskins' case this year it is perhaps even more important that these units are top-notch. With Coach Jack Pardee needing a conservative, mistake-free offense and a stingy defense, he also wants the kicking game to produce enough scoring opportunities to help out with point production.

Although last year's teams led the NFL in kickoff coverage (opponents averaged staring on their own 25), were sixth in kickoff returns, eighth in punt returns and 12th in punt coverage, they also had a punt blocked (after 365 unmarred tries by Mike Bragg covering four years) and Chicago returned another punt for a touchdown, the first since 1974.

"We remember last year and we don't want that happening again." said Fritsch. "Weve got some holes to fill, losing guys like Pete and Mark (Murphy). You just don't replace them.

"But that is going to happen a lot around here from now on. This is no longer a team of veterans where there is little turnover. Young guys are going to be worked in every year.

"There's nothing wrong with that. It's the dream of every special teamer to become a starter. That's what keeps us going. Otherwise, you aren't pushing hard enough.'