Marty Jackson paced the Evans High practice field last week, and though shorter than many of his players, the Knights' coach wasn't hard to pick out.
His bright orange baseball cap made him easy to spot.
Likewise, Jackson's football team, fresh off one of its best seasons in school history, won't be sneaking up on anyone this year.
"I know we're excited about having a bull's-eye on our back," Jackson said. "It's exciting people think we might be decent."
A lot has been made about the new-look football scene. Greenbrier has a new head coach, and Lakeside is confident following a disappointing finish to 2007. The teams will each play in a new region this season.
The Knights will sport a new quarterback, a revamped line on both sides of the ball, and some new faces at the skill positions. The feeling from area coaches is that Evans is still the team to beat, a show of respect for what the Knights accomplished last season.
"I have a hard time seeing past Week 1," Greenbrier coach Brian Smith said of his Aug. 29 meeting with the Knights. "They're going to be very competitive. Only reason I say that is the year they had last year."
But with its top defensive linemen, defensive back, receiver and quarterback having graduated, Jackson knows the Knights' look will bear few similarities to 2007.
"It's a whole different team this year, trying to carve its own identity," Jackson said.
Gone is quarterback Kevin Millward, now enrolled at Georgia Southern as a preferred walk-on. In his place is junior Troy Griffith, who quarterbacked the Knights' junior varsity team last season.
"Kevin was like a fullback," Jackson said. "People tended to bounce off him. Troy is taller. He can see the field."
Jackson said Griffith, who shared time with Glen Cassidy on JV last season, was showing improvement through preseason practice and needed just a little improvement on his footwork.
Griffith might share time with Cassidy again this season, but he's looking forward to the chance to fill Millward's former spot.
"It's a challenge, but I'm excited," Griffith said. "Life is full of challenges. You just have to face them as they come. I'm excited about it."
Jackson is hoping the Knights' supporting cast, which includes receiver Brandon McCladdie and dynamic running back Jonathan Finch, will lessen the pressure on his first-year quarterback.
McCladdie will play both sides of the ball. Finch, a junior, shared carries last season. But when he got his hands on the ball, people took notice.
"Finch is going to surprise some people," Jackson said. "He's exciting."
The Knights will need to use all the playmakers they can find on their new-look roster.
Jackson spent the spring attending signing parties for the long list of 2007 seniors who will play at the next level. Receiver Jonathan Nicely; center Michael Heredia; defensive linemen Ben Tillman, Mykel Green and Trey Golston; linebacker Ben Rouse; defensive back Trey Henderson; Millward ... You might as well stop there. The current crop of Knights isn't dwelling on that list.
"We lost players," said defensive end Reuben Faloughi, who was named preseason all-state by Georgia High School Football Magazine. "We didn't lose talent."
And that's why the Knights begin the season with a target on their backs.
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