Bobby Ross, a Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach, appears to have become the leading candidate to succeed Jerry Claiborne as football coach at the University of Maryland. Ross was an assistant under Claiborne in 1972 and head coach at The Citadel for the next five years.

Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull said yesterday afternoon that he had narrowed the field to two candidates and would be ready to offer the job to one of them today or Wednesday. Dull refused to name the two candidates.

Ross, 44, the offensive backfield coach at Kansas City, seems to have replaced Dick Nolan, a Houston Oiler assistant, and Joe Madden, a Detroit Lion assistant, as Dull's top choice, according to sources.

Ross was reported to be in Mobile, Ala., to scout Saturday's Senior Bowl, but repeated calls to his hotel room went unanswered.

"It'll be Bobby Ross of Kansas City. He's the guy Maryland has decided on from all the indications I have," said Nolan, who was reached last night in Mobile. "I don't consider myself in the running any longer. Nobody (from Maryland) has contacted me lately."

Madden, who was also reported to be in Mobile, was not available for comment. But his son Duffy, reached at the Madden's home in suburban Detroit, said he thought his father was out of the running.

"We've heard that Bobby Ross will be the new coach at Maryland," Duffy Madden said. "My father has been keeping us well-informed of what has been happening, and we've heard nothing to the effect that he (Madden) will be the next coach. As far as I know, dad is still in Mobile working for the Lions at the Senior Bowl, and Bobby Ross will be offered the job."

Ross just finished his fourth year with Kansas City, where he began as the coach of the kicking teams, then was upgraded two years ago.

Ross has served as an assistant at Virginia Military Institute (his alma mater), William and Mary and Rice. After working for Claiborne in 1972, Ross became the head coach at The Citadel, where he compiled a 24-31 record in five seasons.

Since Claiborne left Maryland Dec. 16 to accept the head coaching job at Kentucky, Dull has maintained a policy of not commenting on the names of possible candidates. He said yesterday, "I am still making a decision between two people, but one person stands above the other. I am very close to a decision. The mystery won't go on much longer."

Dull's selection still must be approved by University Chancellor Robert L. Gluckstern. "The chancellor and I will meet within a day or so," Dull said. "And there is an interview procedure involved between Chancellor Gluckstern and the candidate."

Buffalo Bills Assistant Coach Ralph Hawkins, a former Maryland player and a Redskin assistant under George Allen, said yesterday he had not been contacted by Maryland since his interview on Thursday.

A member of the Terrapin Club said last night that Dull has consulted very few, if any people, since narrowing the field of candidates to five.

"I haven't been able to find out anything," he said.