At Howard University, where inexperience explains many of the Bison football woes this season, the defensive line particularly stands out as a symbol of the squad's rawness.

No one on the defensive line starts at a position at which he played last year.

Tackles Ralph Grimes (former offensive guard), Larry Hamilition (defensive end) and Roderick Walton (tight end) and end Thomas Clark (linebacker) have spent a season adjusting to new assignments.

"We lost our line through graduation and a couple of them went by the wayside academically," said Howard Coach Floyd Keith. "We had to do some things to field the defensive team. Maybe each one is not playing his best individual position, but their best abilities have been utilized as far as our team is concerned."

Keith believes his best athletes should play defense because, he says, "You win with defense."

Like everything else in Howard's up-and-down 4-5 season, the defensive line's performance "has fluctuated from week to week," according to Keith. "There are times we've had pretty good play out of Clark and Walton. Grimes has been pretty steady."

In addition, Howard rotates two freshmen, Harold Guilky and Roy Pritchard, at nose guard.

"It's hurt us a lot. We don't have the experience on the line," said senior Walton, who has forced seven fumbles this season. "Some games we go up against things our line hasn't had a lot of experience seeing and we can't stop it."

Walton finds his new spot easier to play than tight end. "At tight end, I had to think about the pattern, the play, the signal. A defensive line, it's just coming off the ball."

Walton switched from tight end when he realized he would not play ahead of Fitz Fowler.

Hamilton's switch, however, came involuntarily.

"I prefer playing defensive end or outside linebacker, but they call the shots," said the 6-foot-3, 217-pound junior, who has six sacks. "To my understanding, they felt I'd be better at tackle and they didn't have anyone else to play the position."

Grimes, with four sacks and eight tackles for minus yardage, also stands out in the Bison line. But Howard has been yielding 182.7 yards per game rushing, 321.8 total yards.

Keith and Hamilton agree that the club has been hurt consistently by big plays.

"We'll stop the other teams for seven or eight plays but then they'll get off a big gainer," Hamilton said.

Howard, loser of five of its last seven games, visits North Carolina Central (2-6-1) Saturday.