With one-third of their preseason practice complete, the Maryland Terrapins seem fairly pleased with where they stand. But the questions that concerned the coaching staff at the start of practice are still there and probably will be until their first game, Sept. 5, at Syracuse.

In discussing the offense last week, Coach Joe Krivak said, "We're better on the offensive line, the skill positions I'm happy about, we're better at quarterback. The big question is at running back.

"You can be good in three areas, but if you're not good in the fourth it can be a problem. If you have a car with an eight-cylinder engine and only six of the cylinders are working, the car is not going to run well."

At running back, a lack of depth and lack of experience concerns Krivak most. At tailback, redshirt sophomore Bren Lowery has the most experience. Behind him is sophomore Arnold Walker, who missed last season because of Proposition 48 and the last couple of practices because of stomach virus. Next in line, for the moment at least, is freshman Mike Beasley, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder from Pottstown, Pa. Of the freshmen, he might have made the most impact so far.

"I think we're in good shape," running backs coach Tony Whittlesey said. "Lowery's had a good preseason, Walker is getting work. Beasley is a freshman with a lot of talent and the ability to pick things up really quickly. He's worked himself into position."

At fullback, redshirt sophomore Dennis Spinelli and redshirt junior Keith Bullock are "in a dead heat," Whittlesey said.

"There were flashes," Krivak said of the running backs after yesterday's scrimmage. "But we've got to get the consistency."

The defensive backfield also arouses concern. Two starters are gone and, although some of this season's projected starters have considerable game experience, they have not played together much and are adjusting to a new defense.

Former coach Bobby Ross' wide-tackle-six defense was dumped as soon as Krivak became coach. The new defense, called a multiple 50, uses three linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs. Usually, there were only three defensive backs in the wide tackle six, and teams passed well against Maryland.

The secondary has redshirt freshman Mike Hollis and junior Irvin Smith at the corners, junior J.B. Brown (a returning starter) at strong safety and Chad Sydnor at free safety.

Howard:

The first week of practice produced an unanticipated turnabout. The offense, expected to key the team's chances of winning its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, looked sluggish. But the defensive line, an expected weak point, was impressive, according to Coach Willie Jeffries.

The offense was slowed by several minor injuries. Tailback Harvey Reed missed three days with a sore back, and starter Ronnie Epps (twisted ankle) was one of five fullbacks who missed practice time.

Jeffries said the experiment of moving all-MEAC offensive guard Eric Moore to defensive tackle appears to be working out.

Navy:

The biggest task is to develop 11 new starters on defense. Senior Mike Musser and juniors Clark Nichols and Mike Jimenez have established themselves on the line, as have juniors Bill Moyer and Mark Pimpo at linebacker and seniors Curtis Irby, Mike Marchildon and junior Paul Day in the secondary.

"The kids have been very receptive to what we've been asking them to do, they've been working very hard," defensive coordinator Milan Vooletich said. "But in all honesty, there really isn't going to be any way to make a full assessment until that first snap against William and Mary {Sept. 12 at Annapolis}. Right now, some days we look good and some days we can't stop Howdy Doody. Still, I'm optimistic."

Virginia:

In Charlottesville, the word is caution. Virginia's offensive line continues to be a source of worry.

"I don't think anybody has stepped to the front yet," said offensive guards and centers coach Tom O'Brien. "The competition has been intense and that's been driving the quality of the work up."