When Howard University plays its first home game Saturday against South Carolina State, the winless Bison will be without as many as eight players who started last week, including the entire offensive backfield.

The injury list includes quarterback Leon Brown and tailback Harvey Reed, both of whom have back injuries and may not know if they can play until pregame warmups.

Definitely missing will be starting center Vernon Robinson and wide receiver Tyrone Prather, who, along with senior reserve linebacker Carroll Hughes, have been dismissed from the team by Coach Willie Jeffries for what he would only describe as "disciplinary reasons." Jeffries said the dismissals are a result of an incident at the team's hotel following Saturday's loss to Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Originally, Jeffries said the players faced suspension for one game, but yesterday announced the dismissals.

"I have no comment. You better speak with the coach," said Hughes yesterday. Hughes said it was his understanding that the suspensions were temporary and he had not been told he would be dismissed from the team.

Last week, junior Arnold Tucker was dismissed from the team for repeated problems due to academics.

Others who may be missing from the starting lineup at Howard Stadium are linebacker Marvin Jackson, the heart of the defense who is struggling with a bruised knee; cornerback Andre Matthews (sprained ankle), and safety Spanky Johnson, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's defensive player of the week for his performance against Bethune-Cookman, who suffered a bruised hip in practice Tuesday.

Possibly out of a job Saturday could be fullback Ronnie Epps, who has averaged 3.3 yards on 31 carries. "He is just not playing well, and he knows it," said Jeffries. "We might try Erik Green as a starter . . . Although he is not as fast as Epps, when he plays, Erik Green makes things happen."

If Brown cannot play, sophomore William Campbell or freshman Lee DeBose will start at quarterback.

Both players run the option better than Brown, who also has had trouble finding open receivers when he drops back. "We think Leon needs glasses," said Jeffries.

Howard's associate athletic director, Sondra Norrell-Thomas, said that the university is closer to solving its home field problem. The school has suffered administrative delays involving the promised installation of artificial turf. "We are making progress on the situation and we should definitely know something after a meeting next week," said Norrell-Thomas.