When Maryland paid Rodney Dangerfield all those bucks -- reportedly $40,000 -- to tout its respected football program, it was passing up a more natural gimmick. It could have spotlighted Wayne Wingfield wearing his No. 24 on an Avis uniform.

Wingfield, 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, is one of the better athletes to turn up at College Park in recent years. As a freshman tailback in 1979, he rambled 140 yards in his first start against Wake Forest and added 136 the following week against Duke. On those two afternoons, however, a guy named Charlie Wysocki was injured. Wysocki has been healthy since and serving as his understudy has little future.

So, with the secondary denuded of lettermen by graduation, Wingfield found himself on the other side of the ball. It was not unfamiliar territory. He was there as a Maryland redshirt in 1978 and, at George Wythe High in Richmond, he was an all-state safety, intercepting 10 passes two years in a row.

At the moment, however, Wingfield is still No. 2, because the safety spot is manned by another outstanding athlete, junior Bill McFadden. Although McFadden has not lettered at Maryland, he has gained experience in five games as a freshman, eight as a sophomore.

A tailback as well as a defensive back at West Islip High on Long Island, McFadden in one high school game returned two punts for touchdowns, passed for a third score, ran for 109 yards and intercepted two passes. Clearly, he is not one to yield the No. 1 spot easily.

"I've been there two years and as long as I keep doing what I'm doing, I have no reason to be afraid," McFadden said. "It's up to me to lose the position.

"Wayne is really good and as soon as I do something wrong I know he'll tell me. All the defense helps each other out. We're all competitors and we want to start, but we're not at each other's throats. If he pushes me, I have to improve myself. He's going to make me better and we're bound to help each other."

For his part, Wingfield has put his tailback glory days behind him.

"That's like an unknown story; only Wake and Duke know about it," Wingfield said. "I'm real positive and looking forward to this year. It's obvious I'll be playing more than I have since I've been here. I'm starting over, even though I played it in high school, and it's good to know what I had in high school I still have.

"In high school, I just walked across the line and played defense. But in college the quarterbacks are real good and the ball really moves. This is a job that requires a lot of work and I think the whole secondary is working hard. We want to have a good season."

There is only one safety in the three-man secondary dictated by Coach Jerry Claiborne's wide-tackle-six defense. Neither McFadden nor Wingfield sees this as adding extra pressure.

"Other players are involved, the ends and linebackers, and that enables us to float around and pick up the receivers," McFadden said.

"The three-man deep is no different from other defenses; it's just a different man in a different place," said Wingfield. "But I don't want to talk about our defense. I don't want to give away any secrets."

It is no secret that Claiborne, when he moved Wingfield in the spring, expected him to be No. 1. So far, McFadden is hanging tough. When No. 1 and No. 2 are this close, everybody tries harder.