LAWRENCEVILLE -- The most obvious question facing Norcross' skill player extraordinaire Myles Autry was the first one he fielded during the inaugural Gwinnett Touchdown Club Media Day on Saturday at North Metro Baptist Church.
How is his surgically-repaired knee recovering?
Well, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound rising senior, who tore ligaments in his knee during the Blue Devils' run to last year's Class AAAAAA state championship, but still went on to catch a key touchdown pass in the title-game victory over Lovejoy, was emphatic with his answer.
"I'll definitely be ready to play August 24 (in Norcross' season opener against Booker T. Washington of Miami)," said Autry, who has multiple Division I offers after posting 1,192 yards of total offense and 16 total touchdowns as junior last year. "I went to the doctor the other day, and he said my (anterior cruciate ligament) was pretty good."
Bull's-eye on the Blue Devils
Last year's state title, and the return of numerous key players from that team, have made for some very high expectations for Norcross heading into the 2013 season, including as high as a No. 3 national ranking by MaxPreps.
Those factors have also made the Blue Devils a natural target, begging the question of how they will handle the success and scrutiny that comes with it -- a similar question that Grayson faced coming off its 2011 state title a year ago.
Head coach Keith Maloof has laid out such challenges to his team leaders.
And he is confident those players -- including such high-profile college prospects as Autry, defensive end Lorenzo Carter and linebacker Kevin Mouhon -- will not be caught up in the hype and hoopla and will be ready to lead.
"This group did a good job handling success (during the offseason)," Maloof said. "We know we've got big target on our backs, and I think it has raised (the high-profile players') level of work ethic, not only individually -- they have no choice but to work, but the midline players have (also) stepped up to become great players. If these guys can get those guys to play at a level that they didn't think they could, that's where it raises the level of our football team."
Mustangs try to move forward
The announcement earlier this week from Deario Grimmage that he was stepping down as Meadowcreek's head coach less than three weeks before the beginning of preseason practice took Mustang players and the rest of the coaching staff by surprise.
"We were sad. We were awfully shocked," said Meadowcreek running back Ryan Moore. "We didn't know it was going to happen."
However, both Moore and assistant coach Bond Crosby said that after the initial shock wears off, the Mustangs' focus must be looking forward, rather than back.
"One thing that's not going to change is that end zone to end zone, from goal line to goal line, it's still 100 yards," said Crosby, who is set to serve as safeties coach of the varsity team and head coach of Meadowcreek's freshman team this season. "You're still going to need 10 yards to get a first down. The rules of the game are not going to change. The aim of our program and our team is not going to change -- to win games, to get out there and compete and represent the school and the community.
"That's one thing we've got to make sure our kids understand and realize and grasp. No matter who's leading us, as long as everybody does their job, we should be in a good position at the end."
Getting a leg up
While there are plenty of teams looking to replace graduated seniors at many different key positions, finding newcomers in the kicking game is particularly important for some of them.
Finding a new kicker is something coaches like Archer's Andy Dyer and Collins Hill's Kevin Reach are definitely unaccustomed to.
Both will have to replace kickers that were three-year starters and have gone on to kick in college -- Archer's Zach Wachholz, who is now at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Collins Hill's Mitchell Blanchard, who is going to Berry College.
"For the first time in three years, we've got to worry about our kicking game," Reach said. "We've got two or three guys working at that right now, but we still haven't come up with somebody."
It's just as big a shock to Dyer, who will turn to rising senior Michael Frye to succeed Wachholz.
"We've known no other kicker except for Wachholz," Dyer said. "So, we've got a lot to do in our kicking game. Michael Frye, we feel like, has got talent and a lot of leg strength."