Note: Orem finished with a 5-6 overall record in 2013 and tied for first in Region 7 with a 5-1 record. It lost to Salem Hills 35-14 in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
OREM — Now in his fifth year as the head coach at Orem High, his alma mater, Tyler Anderson feels he's on the cusp of accomplishing his goal when he first took the job.
Anderson starred for the Tigers in the late 1980s, when the school was the king of Utah Valley. Since then, however, the program has gone through its ups and downs. It's largely remained somewhat competitive, but is still far from the program Anderson remembers.
"The Orem I knew and played for was the program everyone looked up to and I've been working hard here to get it back," Anderson said. "We're not quite there, but I think we're on the way and think we're going to have a real good team this year. That's the goal — to get Orem back to what it once was."
Orem has been a fixture in the 4A state playoffs since Anderson arrived in 2011, but has rarely advanced out of the first round. Last season saw the Tigers garner a No. 1 seed before losing big to Salem Hills despite having home-field advantage.
"That's the next step here and it's no secret," Anderson said. "We have to get out of that first round and get to Rice-Eccles (Stadium.) I think we could do that this year if things work out right."
Indeed, Orem is loaded with prime returning talent for its 2014 campaign, starting with senior signal-caller Tucker Camp, who threw for 2,502 yards and 24 touchdowns last year while rushing for 710 yards and nine touchdowns.
"Having Tucker Camp back should be big for us," Anderson said. "He's worked hard and it's great having a leader like him at quarterback."
Orem also returns starting running back James Wadsworth from last season.
The offensive line returns some good experience, according to Anderson, but receiver looks to be the biggest position of concern on the offensive side.
"We lost two very good receivers in Nolan Gray and Parker Overly," Anderson said. "Those were two big, athletic guys who really helped out, so finding guys to replace them will be a challenge."
"I think we're well-rounded on both sides of the ball," said Andrew Wadsworth. "We have some tough guys to replace, but we're feeling confident. We have good team unity, and we're excited for the season."
Orem will again contend in Region 7, which includes some well-established programs such as Olympus and Skyline, along with some up-and-comers like Corner Canyon.
"I like the region," Anderson said. "It was a bit hard getting used to all the new teams and let go of some long-time rivalries, but it's been good overall. It's a competitive region and we were fortunate to finish on top last year. It will be tough to finish there again this year."
Despite the challenges ahead, Anderson feels good about the offseason and believes his team is ready to make some serious noise in the playoffs.
"We have to get there again, but I do — I feel if we get there this team is ready to take that next step," Anderson said. "This program is ready to get back to where it was and we feel it starts this season."
Orem Tigers at a glance