Football coaches often must manufacture motivation for their teams, but that won't be the case this season for Orem coach Tyler Anderson.
During a Tigers practice at the end of last school year, sophomore Ben Smith collapsed from a condition that made his heart beat too fast. Anderson and other coaches administered CPR, and Smith was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
Smith is cleared to play football again just three months later, and he is back at practice battling for a spot in Orem's depleted defensive backfield.
"It's an inspiration to his teammates that he went through almost dying, and now he's back out here," Anderson said. "I think our team's kind of rallying around that. It's been a good, positive thing that could have been a pretty bad thing."
Another positive thing for Orem is the return of an extremely talented receiver in 6-foot-4 senior Nolan Gray.
Gray caught 83 passes for 1,514 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Anderson said he has interest from Utah, BYU, Utah State and Stanford and that more interest likely will come throughout the season.
As for the quarterback, the face might not be familiar but the name will be. Taylor Camp was Orem's starter last year, but he graduated, leaving the job for his younger brother Tucker, who Anderson said is penciled in for now as the starter.
ASSIGNMENT • Region 7
LAST YEAR • 8-4 overall, 6-1 Region 8
KEY RETURNER • Nolan Gray, sr., WR. Gray would be hard pressed to match the statistics he produced last season, especially with a new starting quarterback. But expect big things out of this D-I prospect.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Sampson Saluone, jr., DE. The 6-foot-1, 280-pound Westlake transfer is going to be a beast rushing the passer, helping to alleviate some of the pressure from the Tigers' young secondary.
BIGGEST HOLE • The Tigers lost three starters from the defensive backfield, and coach Anderson is worried about opponents taking advantage of his inexperienced corners and safeties.
NEED TO KNOW • If you like offense, Orem is a team to watch. The Tigers run a spread-option and intend to throw the ball 60 percent of the time.