The noise at Howard University football practices these days threatens to get the football players and coaches cited for disturbing the peace. The decibel level of Floyd Keith and his seven assistant coaches is surpassed only by that of the squad during the 15 minues of 40-yard sprints that wrap things up.

"How'd you lose to AT&T (in 1978)?" yelled Keith.

"Fourth quarter!" hollered the squad.

"South Carolina State?"

"Fourth quarter!"

Keith: "Give me two more (windsprints)."

The reaction of the Bison to the coach's hard emphasis on physical conditioning and the reasoning behind it has been favorable.

"This is the hardest I've ever been worked," said senior defensive tackle Larry Hamilton. "But personally I'm elated over the discipline. The team realizes it can go a step further than what it thought it could do. Just this year, I've seen average players become above average."

"We'll be playing the four quarters this year like we do the first quarters," added nose guard Marcus Thomas.

Both players said that Keith's teaching fundamentals, tough practices and offseason exercise programs had made the team quicker and more knowledgeable.

Hamilton added that his perception of the administration's increased support for football has instilled him with a greater desire this season. Howard purchased expensive exercise equipment last winter. The training table for the team has also improved.

"A lot of people's eyes are going to be front and center on this program," Hamilton said. "We're trying to make this added interest all worthwhile. Why not make this program comparable to Maryland or Alabama? It can be done."

Yesterday marked the team's fifth practice in pads. For 20 minutes, they worked 11-on-11 full contact drills, with the emphasis on passing. Samuel Lewis and freshman Tracy Singleton, a McKinley High graduate, each made a dazzling catch in heavy traffic.

Keith's assessment of the team's progress is that the running attack in his newly introduced veer option offense is slightly behind. The offensive continuity from spring drills declined because two probable starting linemen became academically ineligible.

"(Tailback Greg) Banes and (fullback Cornelius) Quarles both are recovering from pulled hamstrings," Keith said. "That's two of our first four running backs.It will take the rest of the week for them to get caught up.

"Overall, I'm pleased with the defense. They're getting a better command of it, although they are still a ways away. We have better movement. But, we still have the secondary spots to get settled."

Hamilton and Thomas both found themselves a home in the offensive backfield during the 11-on-11s. Junior defenseive back Daryl Person also contributed some hustling efforts and picked off a pass.

"I feel good about it," said Keith of the team's overall progress. "I like the kinds. I can work 'em and work 'em and they won't quit. That's a good thing to start with."