Ben Jefferson is a very big man.

How big?

"He may not be able to block anybody, but he should scare some people," Maryland Coach Joe Krivak joked recently. "He'll be the first one off the bus."

Jefferson also is a very large question mark for Krivak and the Maryland football team. The redshirt junior offensive tackle from New Rochelle, N.Y., is 6 feet 9, though he probably gets another inch from his Grace Jones haircut. When he showed up in College Park a few days ago, he weighed a slim-and-trim 317 pounds. But Jefferson has always been big. Yes, he was big even when he was little.

The question involves whether Jefferson will return to his form of 1985, after sitting out last year because of academic probation. Jefferson was listed as No. 1 at left tackle on the depth chart going into last season. He missed the first game apparently because of an injury, but during the following week it was announced that he had been ruled ineligible.

At the time, university sources told The Washington Post that Jefferson was ruled ineligible because he copied portions of another person's work and submitted it as his own in a paper for a class he took during last summer.

Jefferson, who went through his first practice with the rest of the varsity yesterday, declined comment on the allegation and the penalty, but he was excited to be playing again.

"I feel very glad to be here," Jefferson said. "I'm in good shape and picking stuff up pretty well. It hurt an awful lot to watch the boys play -- win or lose."

Now a special education major, Jefferson said he "did better with the books" while he wasn't playing, and generally learned from the time off.

"I matured more than anything else," Jefferson said. "I learned you can't take anything for granted. You have to work to have something and work to keep it. {Former Terrapin} J.D. Maarleveld once told me that they aren't going to give you anything for free. It's never something for nothing. And that's true."

Jefferson is now a second-teamer. Redshirt sophomore Mark Agent started at left tackle for most of last year and it's his position to keep or lose.

"Ben's an unknown quantity for me," said first-year offensive line coach John Zernhelt, with no pun intended, "because he didn't practice in the spring, which is the only time I would have seen him. Obviously, he has got some physical talent. He does show good foot quickness and good knowledge of our system. So, from a learning standpoint, he's not that far behind."

Agent, 6-5, 264, came through last year when the offensive line was hit by injuries, so he has some history in his favor. "Mark might have had one of the best springs of any offensive lineman," said Zernhelt, who played for and graduated from Maryland.

"I feel like I want it," Jefferson said of the position. "And I definitely feel I can win it back. Mark played real well last year, but I think I can win the spot back."

Jefferson said he's been 6-9 since ninth grade. As a freshman at Maryland, he weighed 303 pounds. "Maryland is known for big, strong linemen," Jefferson said. "I take pride in being big."

After a summer of working construction, serving as a bouncer in a bar and playing basketball, Jefferson showed up weighing 317 pounds. Yesterday he said he gained three since arriving in College Park, but probably lost six or eight working out in the hot sun. Either way, Krivak was impressed that Jefferson did not weigh in at 330.

"The thing I was most pleased with is that no one we were counting on didn't make their 12-minute run," Krivak said. "When a kid like Ben Jefferson comes in at 317 and breezes around six laps in under 12 minutes, that's a plus sign to me. We're going to give him every opportunity to play, and play a lot -- yes, sir, you can bet your boots on that.

"If he's serious, that's a big, big man. Mark played a lot last year. If Ben can jump in and give him a blow, it may make Mark better."