Brent Dewitz is the winner of Maryland's quarterback sweepstakes and will start Saturday night's opening game at Vanderbilt.

Coach Jerry Claiborne picked Dewitz yesterday because of his consistency in practice. Dewitz, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior from Orrville, Ohio, had begun fall drills as the No. 2 man behind senior Bob Milkovich. Dewitz was elevated to No. 1 last week and maintained that status by completing 11 of 16 passes in two scrimmages.

Milkovich and sophomore Boomer Esiason obviously will be ready if Dewitz experiences difficulty. Milkovich is considered a better rollout passer and Esiason has a stronger arm, but so far Dewitz has been the best in execution.

Dewitz was the hero of last season's 17-14 victory over Duke, entering the game in the second half and hitting three key third-and-long passes to bring the Terrapins from 14 points behind.

Dewitz also was the holder for All-America kicker Dale Castro as Castro was setting a school record with 16 straight successful field goal attempts. It was a 25-yarder by Castro that beat Duke after Dewitz had led two touchdown drives. The young quarterback drew laughs afterward when asked about his "great performance under pressure."

"Nothing to it," Dewitz said. "It was a perfect snap; I put it down and Dale kicked it."

Dewitz completed 13 of 23 passes a year ago for 200 yards and one touchdown, a 43-yard throw to Mike Lewis in a 31-0 rout of Virginia.

How much passing Dewitz will be permitted Saturday is an even bigger topic of discussion in College Park than the starting quarterback's identity.