When Mike Beasley looks right at you with those inquisitive, sharp brown eyes, you can see why his mother thought he had a weapon for dealing with coaches trying to recruit him for their college football teams.

"She told me to be smart and to look people straight in the eye," Beasley said. "A lot of people can't look you in the eye and tell you a lie."

Marilyn Beasley's only son is now a freshman running back at the University of Maryland. Almost always, Maryland freshmen are redshirted. But running back is one of the team's few thin areas, which is partly why Beasley has been working with the second unit. It's much too early to predict stardom for any of the few newcomers on the second unit, but none is as likely as Beasley to carry the ball this season.

"I came trying to make the travel squad," Beasley said after yesterday morning's practice. "I guess I've showed them enough to have me work on the second team. I've been trying to learn as much as possible."

Redshirt sophomore Bren Lowery returns at tailback and, at this point, would be the starter. Junior Mike Anderson, who has been diagnosed as having leukemia, has not been able to practice. Heading the group behind Lowery are sophomore Arnold Walker, who sat out last season because of Proposition 48, and Beasley.

Coach Joe Krivak attempts to downplay the potential use of any freshmen. "My gut feeling," said Krivak, "is that, unless you really have to, I'd rather play an older guy who has been around than throw a freshman into a stadium with 40- or 50,000 people and have him forget his name."

But the talent seems to be there for Beasley, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder clocked at 10.6 in a 100-meter dash in high school.

"He has good hands and excellent speed," said running backs coach Tony Whittlesey. "He has a real feel for football, there's no wasted motion, no false steps. His biggest hindrance right now is his lack of experience with our offense. . . . He can't just go and play because he has to think about what he's doing. But to expect him to do otherwise would not be fair because we have a sophisticated offense and there's a lot for running backs to learn."

Beasley is quiet, articulate. But coaches being, well, coaches, don't always speak at the same volume.

"I'm not used to being hollered at," Beasley said of the adjustment to college. "I'm used to coaches saying, 'Mike, do this.' But it's so intense in college that coaches can't help but yell. I assumed that when they yelled they were mad at me, and that tends to make me upset. It's taken a while to learn that they're just trying to make me a better player."

Beasley played at O.J. Roberts High School in Pottstown, Pa., and was second-team all-state. He visited Clemson, Pittsburgh and Rutgers before his visit to Maryland, after which he canceled trips to Virginia and Temple. Phone calls from recruiters were frequent enough that Beasley spent nights at friends' homes.

"Maryland came in late {in the recruiting process} but once they got in they went hard," Beasley said. "One day I told Coach {Greg} Williams that all the phone calls were bothersome. He said, 'I'll call you once a week, but I want to talk for a while when I do.' I said 'Fine.' It wasn't like the other schools who were calling three or four times a day.

"You try to give them hints, but they just don't get it. One day, I thought something had happened or I had done something wrong because they came and got me out of a class. Instead, it's a recruiter saying, 'How ya doing?' I said, 'Not so good -- I just missed a test.' "

Beasley said he had a 3.3 grade-point average in high school until a bout of senioritis set in and he graduated with a 2.7. He wants to be a lawyer.

"The people at Maryland were straightforward and open," Beasley said. "They were real. At some places, they tried to be your friend right away.

"The only reason I'm not at Clemson is because there is too much concentration on football there. I got back from the visit and I said to myself, 'I think they mentioned academics once.' I'm not saying some kids at Clemson don't get an education, but it seems like it's secondary. Being pre-law, it can't be secondary. At Maryland, academics is first and football is second."

Beasley praised his high school teachers and coach for the education he received. The downside was that in a school of about 3,000 students, Beasley guessed that there might have been 12 blacks.

"There were a lot of racial problems, a lot of racial conflicts," he said. "There were a lot of kids who couldn't see past their nose. People who wouldn't judge you on who you were and were spiteful just because you were black. Don't get me wrong. I had plenty of really good friends, who I still talk with. But there weren't enough black kids to relate to. Maryland takes great strides in bringing in kids of all ethnic backgrounds."

Marilyn Beasley, a former social worker, runs a group home for runaway girls. "It's hard to look at those girls, whose home life has been shattered, when you're comfortable and have a lot of good things," he said. "You don't take as many things for granted."

Like his mother.

"My mother and I have a mother-son relationship and a friendship," Beasley said. "I know who the boss is, but I can tell her about things on my mind. I can talk about girls, which most people say you can't talk about with your mom. And I can talk about football. She's one of my worst critics. I've come home after a 200-plus yard game, thinking I'm pretty good, and she'll point out two or three things I could've done. She keeps my head level. And talking football lingo, I'll put her up against any mom in the country."