Maryland senior linebackers Bobby DePaul and Kevin Donas, both former starters, have not been able to overcome knee injuries and neither will be able to play this season, Coach Bobby Ross said yesterday.

DePaul, a starter at inside linebacker in 1983, broke his leg toward the end of the season in a game at Auburn and suffered damaged knee ligaments before the 1984 season. Donas was a starter the first half of last year before he sustained a knee injury.

They had hoped to return to the lineup this fall. But after the first three days of practice, it was evident, Ross said, that neither could play effectively.

"It's hard on both of them, I know," Ross said. "They both worked as hard as anybody could have to rehabilitate and make it back. But neither has much ligament left at all. And when it came to cutting, planting, twisting and turning it was obvious they just couldn't."

DePaul, from Archbishop Carroll High School, had one of his brightest moments two years ago when he neutralized Pitt all-America lineman Bill Fralic and played an integral part in Maryland's upset of the Panthers. Ross said DePaul will stay on and work with the team this season as a student assistant coach.

Donas, Ross said, has gone home to Pittsburgh to talk with his parents. Donas has a fifth year of eligibility if he wishes to attempt to play again, but he is on schedule to graduate on time at the end of the school year.

"At this point, (Kevin) would have to go through a major reconstruction," Ross said. "Earlier, doctors went in and rescoped (arthroscopic surgery) it and found very little ligament remaining."

If DePaul had been able to play, inside linebacker would have been one of the team's biggest strengths. With Chuck Faucette, Rich Petitbon, John Sabrowski and Kevin Walker all healthy, the position still will be strong.

But as Ross said, "It lessens the depth. We had gone into the season knowing it could be possible (that DePaul might experience difficulty). But if Bobby could do it, it would have been extra gravy. It's certainly a loss but we still have a good number of people we think can play the position."

Donas, going into the first set of two-a-day practices on Friday, was listed the No. 2 right outside linebacker. The Terrapins still have five experienced players for the two outside linebacker positions, or ends, as those spots are also called in Maryland's defensive scheme.

"We're still in pretty good shape there," Ross said, "but we'll probably start to bring along one more guy at the position."

Ross also had good news to report yesterday, although rain forced the Terrapins to practice inside. The offense practiced at the university armory while the defense and special teams worked inside Cole Field House.

"The main thing was to keep our installation going and maintain our conditioning," Ross said. "So far, we're right on schedule and that's really important at this time of year."

Ross said the team is "far, far ahead" in all forms of special-teams preparation. In past seasons Ross would sometimes cut back on special-teams work -- at the end of practice -- because he didn't want to tire out players in the heat of summer two-a-day drills.

This year, Ross said he has cut practice back by five minutes or so, and devoted that extra time to working special teams.

"We made the kicking game a special point of emphasis," he said. "Darryl Wright (the sophomore punter) is really kicking the ball well. We want to give all aspects of (special teams) special attention."