Spring football practice will be an intense vigil for the coaches at Maryland, Howard, Navy and Virginia. Each will lose several quality players to graduation before the fall season commences.

All except Virginia lost starting quarterbacks and each team lost key defensive players. For the Cavaliers, senior Todd Kirtley, from Robinson High, returns from a so-so 1980 season. The team will lose starting running back Tommy Vigorito but will get a look at red-shirted senior Greg Taylor.

Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne lost quarterback Mike Tice, place-kicker Dale Castro and eight defensive starters.

Players coming off injuries and former second stringers will probably fill the defensive vacancies, Claiborne said. Quarterback candidates are Brent Dewitz, who led the Terrapins to an important victory last season in relief of Tice; Bob Milkovich; Norman Esiason, who was red-shirted last season, and Frank Raich, a freshman from Pennsylvania.

Both wide received spots are open, and Claiborne who will begin practice Thursday, said the top candidates are junior Mike Lewis and Spencer Scriber. Scriber injured his knee in the Terp's Tangerine Bowl defeat and will not be ready for the spring session.

Claiborne plans to try linebacker Doug Burmeister at receiver, as well as Kenny Roberts, tight end Russell Davis and freshman recruit Lan Saddler from Oxen Hill. Dave Daddio, a linebacker last season, and John Nash will compete for the starting assignment as Charlie Wysocki's backfield blocker.

Finding a place-kicker will be a real search," Claiborne said. "Saddler has shown signs of being good and two walk-ons, Steve Anderson and Steve Adams, will get a chance. Ron Fazio, off last year's freshman team, is the other candidate."

Finding a place-kicker will be the "biggest concern" of Howard Coach Floyd Keith.

Quarterback Ray Gray, defensive lineman John Billberry, and seldom-used tailback Anthony Evans are the candidates to succeed Howard Ward, the school's all-time leading scorer, as the place-kicker and/or punter. Keith said he's still trying to bring in two kickers from California.

If Gray wins the kicking job, he'll have double duty. The senior goes into Wednesday's initial spring workout as the No. 1 quarterback, replacing Ronald Wilson, who set several school records last season.

"You probably won't believe this," Keith said "but I'm not that concerned that we won't come up with an adequate replacement for Ronald. I'm anxious to see how Ray will do going into spring practice knowing he's the No. 1 candidate."

Keith also hopes to "establish a tailback," and find candidates to replace the three linebackers who are scheduled to graduate. Junior Matt Jordan, and freshman recruits Del Harris and Martin Brown are possibilities.

The Bison are returning almost all of their down linemen.

The Naval Academy, which opened practice last Thursday, will lose starting quarterback Fred Reitzel and four offensive linemen.

Tailback Duane Flowers, who started six games in the backfield the last two seasons, won't be ready for the spring session because his knee hasn't healed from an injury late last season. A team spokesman said doctors are not optimistic that Flowers will play this season.

That will leave the ball-carrying duties to senior Eddie Myers, who has led the team in rushing the last two years, and junior Andy Skehan.

The Mids will return seven starters to the defensive unit, which was sixth in the nation in defense last season. The spot Coach George Welsh is most sure of is place-kicking, where Steve Fehr is an all-America candidate.

Tom Tarquinio, who spelled starting quarterback Reitzel last season, goes into the spring as his No. 1 quarterback.