The room is cheerier and more antiseptic than Bobby Ross would prefer, and swaddled in sounds he tolerates but barely understands.

"I'd like a dirtier place," the Maryland coach said, smiling. "More dusty, and with country and western music instead of rock and roll. A place like that needs a grubbiness to it."

Call this an ode to sweat, for what Ross is referring to -- and Len Lynch is entering just now -- is the most underappreciated phenomenon in football: the weight room.

Every Terrapin has grown quite a lot there. Although mounted for other purposes, several mirrors make it possible to watch that happen. Inch by tiresome inch.

The obsession with pumping iron among college coaches can be traced back through Maryland, to Jerry Claiborne's preoccupation with weighty matters when he arrived in College Park 13 years ago.

Maryland football also has bulked up, inch by tiresome inch, from the time Ross, a member of Claiborne's first staff, watched Randy White lift in a makeshift area of a hallway.

If the Terrapins' 1985 season is as glorious as Ross hopes, one can argue that it took shape in a room about four times the size of your basement, lined with expensive toys painted mostly in a sort of Duke blue.

Where else should a well-oiled machine begin gearing up for a run at destiny, after all, than in a room full of well-oiled machines?

"I spent at least three hours a day here during the summer," Lynch said. "This is a base for what happens on the field."

Covering all bases, Lynch pointed out the neck machine, the leg machine, the triceps machine, the chest machine, the back machine and so on, right down to his special favorite: the gun machine.

The what?

Its alias is the biceps machine, but because Terrapin linemen call their arms "guns," the tool that makes them swift and strong got renamed.

Lynch's guns resemble hairy howitzers. You could arrange service for eight on those immense limbs extending from a T-shirt that flacks the Hercules Fitness Center.

Looking about, football fossils surely would be flabbergasted. For instance, Sam Huff never touched a weight in college, and that wasn't unusual then.

You mean that West Virginia University didn't even have so much as a dumbbell in the mid-'50s? "There was a weight room," Huff admitted, sheepishly, "but it was for the students."

All that links Huff and Lynch is a position: guard. The Maryland left guard is a tad more conspicuous, with a panther tattooed to his left leg and a gold panther and gold No. 63 hanging on gold chains about his neck.

"He's the kind of guy," quarterback Stan Gelbaugh jokes, "that you send out for the coin toss to blow the other team's mind."

Although that also would be useful, cocaptain Lynch and his blocking pals are more interested in blowing opposition bodies away.

The Maryland offensive line is astonishing. Tackle to tackle, it averages an ounce or two under 273 pounds. The tight end is an undernourished 234.

All this gang seems to lack is a catchy nickname. The current one, Beef Brothers, already has a Washington copyright.

Has anyone considered Lynch Mob?

Whatever, all these mountainous children, Hog-sized and ornery, entered the Maryland weight room pretty much the way Lynch did about five years ago -- "kind of pudgy and with a scared look in my eye."

At 269, Lynch is about 30 pounds heavier and a few hundred pounds stronger. He is part of two of the fraternities whose pictures adorn the weight room: the 300-pound clean club and the 400-pound bench press club-flatback.

In the lingo of linemen, guns are supposed to produce rhinos. Readers who have not drifted to the stock tables just yet recall that guns are arms at Maryland.

Rhinos are blockers knocking opponents on their backs and then running over or around them in search of others to flatten.

Lynch's most memorable rhino was against Clemson last season, when he made like some zoo creature over the startled 350-pound William Perry.

Talk about raiding a Refrigerator. Now the Chicago Bears are trying to make an Ice Box out of poor Perry.

For Lynch and the other blockers, one of the driving forces in the weight room is fear. Clear in each mind during those boring, exhausting squats and such is the face of a Penn Stater or Michigan Wolverine even more dedicated.

"You want whatever advantage you can get," Lynch said. "If it's strength, great. If it's speed, great. If it's both, tremendous."

Last season, Lynch and 270-pound tackle Tony Edwards double-teamed a Wake Forest player, knocking him 10 or so yards up the field and onto his back.

The dented Deacon sassed: "Took two of you to do it."

A few plays later, all by his lonesome, Lynch planted the guy again for another rhino.

Not always one to leave a wound unsalted, Lynch sneered: "Didn't take two this time."

If the stuffing might have been knocked out of the Wake Forest man, his wits were intact, for he replied: "Yeah, but my cleats got stuck."