The University of Maryland signed 21 football recruits, including three all-Met running backs, and the University of Virginia signed at least eight recruits and received verbal commitments from 10 others yesterday on the first day of college signings.

Howard signed 25 recruits, including five linebackers and a 6-foot-7, 319-pound offensive tackle.

"I'm very satisfied," said Maryland Coach Bobby Ross, whose staff concentrated on signing defensive backs and linebackers. "I think we got as good speed as ever. This group is comparable to the group of (Alvin) Blount and (Tommy) Neal, speedwise. But it's different in that it's physically stronger."

Although Maryland did not concentrate on recruiting running backs, it somehow came away with four of the Washington area's top performers at the position. Mike Anderson of DeMatha, Shawn McNeil and Bren Lowery of T.C. Williams and Charlie Gassaway of Gaithersburg signed to play for the Terrapins. Robinson's Chris Warren, another of the area's top running backs, will attend Virginia.

At Virginia, Coach George Welsh was reserved, as always. "Our numbers were down," Welsh said. "We couldn't take but 20, and we'll probably wind up with 18 of those."

Ross said, "We tried to improve our defensive backs simply by numbers. Going in, we only had five backs on scholarship and we lose three of those next year.

"We did concentrate on that position and on linebackers. And, as always, you have to have a good quarterback coming in. After that, it was just the best athletes we could get."

Ross will have at least two good quarterbacks, both from New Jersey, in his incoming class to supplement a group of five returning quarterbacks.

Rob Nutile of Don Bosco Prep in Elmwood, N.J., and Neil O'Donnell of Madison (N.J.) High School were the quarterback signees yesterday.

"I'm a straight, drop-back thrower. That was one of the main reasons I picked Maryland," said Nutile, who passed for 1,922 yards as a senior and threw 20 touchdown passes in the two seasons that he led Don Bosco to the New Jersey parochial A state championship.

"They go downfield a lot. I had visits to UCLA, Boston College, Pitt, Miami and Notre Dame set up, but I canceled them all after I visited Maryland. I felt there was no other need to look. Notre Dame is too far and Maryland has a better education than Miami."

The Terrapins also landed Craig Morton, a 6-foot, 170-pound defensive back and the brother of Maryland sophomore Carl Morton, out of J.M Bennett High School in Salisbury, Md.

Because Virginia's starting secondary will have graduated, Welsh was especially pleased to sign Lynwood Lumpkins, a 6-1, 190-pound Parade magazine all-America safety from Hampton, Va.

Virginia also signed Billy Keys, a 6-5, 235-pound defensive tackle from St. Albans preparatory school in Washington. "We project him to play defensive line," Welsh said. "He has unlimited potential and his frame can handle a lot more weight. He may be the kind of young man that (defensive back) Lester Lyles turned out to be for us."

Warren was the only tailback that Virginia recruited and Welsh expects the all-Met will be able to step in and help. "He has all the tools, and we think he can help us right away with kick and punt returns," Welsh said.

Virginia also received a verbal commitment from the only quarterback it was interested in signing, Ron Henderson of Murrayville, Pa.

Howard concentrated on bolstering its linebacker and defensive back units. "I'm satisfied," said Bison Coach Willie Jeffries. "We missed out on a couple of the big offensive and defensive linemen out of Macon and Atlanta that we thought we were going to get."

The Bison did succeed in signing Willie Felder, a 6-7, 319-pound offensive tackle from Sumter (S.C.) High School.

James Fields and Lawrence Ellis of Northwestern High School in Baltimore, two players Jeffries is especially high on, were among the five linebackers who signed.

Navy does not announce its signings because of the complicated process involved in gaining admission to the academy.