Bobby Ross remembers now "how scary it was" less than three months ago when he looked around to find a tackle, but realized nobody on Maryland's defensive roster had played a down at the position.

What made matters even worse was that two of those the coach was considering were originally walk-ons. In fact, Ted Chapman and Scott Tye came aboard as 200-pound weaklings. Now, after hundreds of hours in the weight room and eight games this season, little, if anything, is weak about Chapman and Tye. Or their performances.

Chapman, the sophomore starter at left tackle, leads the Terrapins with seven of the team's 19 sacks. And Tye, the backup left tackle, is second with three sacks and several "hurries."

Ross said with a smile yesterday, "I think it shows what youngsters who walk on can do if they make a full commitment. We weren't sure what was going to happen at the tackle position, but they have really come on."

Chapman's progress has been phenomenal. He weighed only 208 coming out of Parkside High School in Salisbury, Md., and his only scholarship offers were to tiny schools such as Elon College.

"I didn't even follow them up," Chapman said. "My high school coach said I could probably play a lot of schools like that, but I figured that's no challenge.

"I wanted to go to Maryland, where I could test myself against the big guys. I remember the first time I walked into the locker room here, the guys were huge. I thought to myself, 'Oh, oh, what am I getting myself into?'

"I thought I could do it, but the whole thing is convincing everybody else to believe you can do it."

Few believed. Greg Thompson, the senior defensive right guard, said, "I really didn't think he could ever get to be this good."

First, Chapman made himself comfortable in the weight room, 15 hours or so a week at times, just as Tye did when he reported as a 210-pound outside linebacker.

Chapman said he now weighs about 245. And, more important, he has retained the agility he had as a 185-pound wrestler in high school.

When Tom McHale, last year's starting left tackle, left school because he no longer had the desire to play, Chapman found himself in contention for a starting spot.

Tye said he always thought Chapman had the qualities a walk-on needs to make it as a regular: a pinch of cockiness.

"He had this blond hair, was a pretty boy. And the first week, when all the rookies have to sing, Ted wouldn't sing," Tye recalled. "Everybody thought he was cocky, so they started calling him 'Boomer.'

"But I knew what he was going through as a walk-on. You have to be a little bold just to think you can come in, unrecruited, and make it over the scholarship guys. So I tried to talk to him or help him whenever I could."

Tye's wisdom was acquired the hard way. He bumped into Tom Groom, a former Maryland assistant coach, in a grocery store in Laurel and Groom invited Tye to College Park, but without a scholarship.

Tye ran the 40-yard dash in 5.3 seconds, "a disappointment," he said, raising an eyebrow to underscore the understatement.

He played tight end and center as a freshman, offensive and defensive guard as a sophomore, and became a special teams terror -- a wedge buster -- last year before injuring his knee early in the season and sitting out the rest of the season.

All the while, Tye kept working. His speed in the 40 is down to 4.8, which is much faster than the average college lineman's, and his weight is up to 255.

The combination has been pretty intimidating to quarterbacks like North Carolina's Kevin Anthony, whom Tye chased across field and out of bounds for no gain on one play Saturday.

But as well as Tye has played at times this season, he's still listed behind Chapman on the depth chart.

Chapman can't explain why he has played so well, so soon. "I always figured if I could just play as a junior, then have a good senior year, that would be fine," he said.

"The scholarship players all figure they'll get their chances to play, but it was frustrating not knowing whether, as a walk-on, whether or not I would.

"But I can't believe what's happened so far. It's all snuck up on me so fast. I can't believe it. It's just . . . well . . . I don't know how to explain it . . .

"I do know I'm having a ball."