Yearly checks of all-America teams and lists of 1,000-yard rushers and top receivers rarely turn up the name of a Maryland player.

But Maryland football, since the arrival of Bobby Ross before the 1982 season, has become automatically associated with offense.

That multiple-pro offense this year has the potential to be the best in college football, and is the primary reason the Terrapins have been ranked as high as No. 1 in the preseason.

"It's going to be hard to stop this offense," senior fullback Rick Badanjek said candidly. "We've played together for three years . . . We've got so much . . . speed, experience. All we have to do is play according to the system, and we should always score in the 30s."

Boston College was the nation's highest-scoring offense last season with 36.7 points per game. Maryland was eighth with 32 points per game. Over the last seven games last season, all of which the Terrapins won, they averaged 39.6 points.

Better than BC, better than Brigham Young, better than Florida State or Nebrakska. Better than anybody, and without one nationally acclaimed skill position player.

For a school to have no single great player, but one truly great offense, is what Ross wanted when he came, and what he now has. But maybe that was obvious after Ross' team scored 42 points in one half to erase a 31-0 lead and complete the biggest comeback in major college football history, and that against a solid Miami team last year.

Ross, in a recent discussion of his offensive philosophy and its origins, said his approach didn't evolve until 1980. And despite overwhelming offensive success for four years, Ross insisted, "I still don't think there's any one thing we do that's unique."

Football coaches speak in such cliches that words like "balance" tend to go unheeded. Balance could be Ross' favorite football word, but it's not a wasted thought. In the last 10 games (9-1 record) last season, the Terrapins rushed for 2,390 yards and passed for 2,390.

(By contrast, in the two other games, which Maryland lost, the team rushed for 147 yards and passed for 413.)

Tom Reed, head coach at North Carolina State, said, "There's no one individual who has great stats on that team, which immediately suggests great balance."

Ross said, "There's no one guy that we're totally dependent on, including the quarterback. Our system involves everybody."

The wishbone does not really involve everybody, nor does a BYU-style pass attack.

"The basic principles," Ross said, "are unpredictability; the balance of pass to run; few number of running plays with even fewer blocking schemes; a commitment to throwing the ball, not only as it relates to down and distance but field position, wherever you are in time, whether we're behind or ahead.

"We want to have every pass you can possibly throw . . . We do a lot of things, but I don't think we've originated anything."

Actually, by bringing concepts from different areas -- pro teams, college teams, independent studies -- Ross has in a way created something original. Ten more rushing yards per game would have made Maryland the only school in the nation to be in the top 20 in both passing and rushing.

This season, the Terrapins should be efficient in both areas. Plug talented, experienced players into Ross' system -- now in its fourth year -- and what you could wind up with is an offense that plays every game like the second half in Miami.

Ross says he still believes players make the system. But a lot of coaches have the players and don't gain 446 yards per game -- sixth-best in the nation -- as Maryland did last year.

The slightly amazing thing is that it took Ross so long -- until he was 43 years old -- even to develop his own offensive philosophy.

Even though Ross was a quarterback in college, most of his coaching experience was with the defense. "I developed a defensive philosophy here at Maryland when I was an assistant under Jerry Claiborne in 1972," Ross said.

"But I never had one offensively. I was pretty much a trend follower. There had been the year of the wisbone, the year of the veer-back, the year of the split backfield, the sprint draw. And I tended to follow all the trends (as head coach at The Citadel in the mid-70s).

"But the winter and spring before the 1980 season (as an assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs), I did this study. I had been pretty conservative. But I started thinking that balance was the key to having a good offense. I don't even know where I got the idea from.

"I got the films of the four most balanced teams in the NFL that year -- the L.A. Rams, Dallas, Atlanta and New England. Not the best passing or the best running teams, but the ones with the best ratio of run to pass.

"I cut up the films into 13 different categories and just studied: 'How do these guys get outside on running plays? When do they throw on short-yardage situations?'

"I came away even more convinced of the balance, and through that, unpredictability. And I just went from there. I finally had a philosophy of offense. For the first time, I didn't care what other people said, and that was a big step."

Parts of Maryland's offense are simple. Ross says the team has been using the same 11 running plays all four years. But parts of the offense are complicated, like the screen-passing game.

"Our screens are so complicated that we can look real bad if everybody isn't precise. I mean precise," Badanjek said.

Quarterback Stan Gelbaugh believes that having an improved downfield passing game has helped the screen game. "A few years ago, when our downfield game wasn't quite as good, we used the screens eight or 10 times a game. Any time you use it that much, people catch on.

"Now we use screens three or four times a game, as a mixer. And it can be really effective."

Gelbaugh said he found the most complicated thing "is just getting it all running smoothly, making sure we're all on the same page."

Many times after games, opposing coaches have said they weren't sure what Maryland would do next. Not just whether Maryland would throw or run, but who would run or who would catch. There is balance within balance.

Badanjek rushed for 832 yards on 173 carries. Alvin Blount rushed 128 times for 771 yards and Tommy Neal carried 112 times for 630 yards. Five receivers had between 17 and 25 receptions. Blount and Badanjek each had 20.

Thus, no star. But the Terrapins have recognized that the net result can be staggering. In seven games, Maryland gained more than 400 yards in total offense, including four of more than 500.

Len Lynch, Maryland's senior offensive guard, was asked what kind of defense it would take to stop the Terrapins' offense.

"It would have to be a big, hard-hitting team. Big and fast," Lynch said. "I think we're going to be better offensively this year than last. We should score 35 to 40 points a game. I hope we don't need to all the time, but we should be able to.

"Truthfully, if we play the way we did in the second half of those games against North Carolina (24 points), Miami (all 42 points), Clemson (24 points) and Tennesee (all 28 points), we should be one of the best offensive teams in the country."