Eric Sievers, Maryland's starting tight end and a preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, will have his left leg in a cast for four to six weeks because of a fractured tibia suffered in the Clemson game and probably will be lost for the rest of the football season.

Sievers is the fifth Maryland starter lost to injury this season and third preseason all-conference pick to be lost for an extended period of time; Defensive back Lloyd Burruss suffered a broken leg in preseason practice and defensive guard Martin Van Horn damaged knee ligaments in the season opener against Villanova. The only preseason all-conference pick for the Terrapins still healthy is offensive guard Kervin Wyatt.

"It's real disappointing because I thought I had two pretty good games so far," Sievers said from Sibley Hospital after his injury was diagnosed. "I was really looking forward to a good year."

Sievers could return for a fifth year next season if he so chooses. He said that if he cannot get back in the lineup before the ninth or 10th game he probably will opt to sit out the rest of the season.

"If I can't get back until the very end I think I'd rather come back next year. Football means too much to me not to go out as a starter. I wouldn't want to have to try and get my job back in one week. I want to go out as a winner."

Sievers will be replaced in the starting lineup by another senior, Tom Burgess, who has had frequent action when Maryland goes to a two lightend offense. The second tight end will be John Tice, a redshirt freshman who is the younger brother of starting quarterback Mike Tice.

"It's frustrating to lose a person like Eric because he works so hard and does so many things well," Morgan Hout, the receivers coach, said last night. "No one worked harded this summer getting ready for the season than Eric.

"He was playing great ball. Saturday, he had the best blocking game of his life. It really hurts us to lose someone like him, evey though I've often said that Tommy (Burgess) could start for any other team in this league."

The head coach, Jerry Claiborne, as always the stoic, has taken the same position on his team's rash of injuries all season: "We'll just pat another guy on the back, send him in and hope he can do the job."

But, Claiborne also admitted earlier this week, "This is starting to get serious. We're starting to run low on people."

Claiborne already has lost his starting secondary-Burruss, Steve Trimble (separated shoulder) and John Baldante (knee) in addition to Van Horn and Sievers. Starting wide receiver Gary Ellis will be making his first start of the season against Mississippi State in Byrd Stadium Saturday after a bout with mononucleosis and backup Chris Havener is out indefinitely with a pulled leg muscle.

"It seems like each week we're working with different people," Hout said. "It makes it tough on everyone, but right now this might be a blessing in disguise. Some of our young players are going to have to learn a lot quickly. We've almost got a national championship team on the injury list, it's so long."

Things have gotten so desparate that freshman Mike Lewis has become the first two-platoon player in Claiborne's eight years at Maryland, working as a receiver and defensive back in practice this week. Nevertheless, the Terps are 2-0.

Sievers said he will be out of the hospital Saturday.

"I don't care what they say," he said. "I have to see the game. I'll be out of here if I have to jump through the window."