It sure looked like he was just a placeholder. All redshirt freshman cornerback Zack Sanchez was doing was keeping the spot warm for when cornerback Cortez Johnson returned from his one-game suspension.
Certainly appeared that way after the first series against ULM as well. Sanchez whiffed on a tackle and looked jittery.
But then something happened. He settled down. He did his job, and the secondary's performance was a big reason for OU's 34-0 victory.
"I think I did pretty well," Sanchez said. "There are still a few things that I need to fix. I have a couple of plays that I was disappointed with. That's why we practice every week, so I can go out next week and do some things better."
He will get his chance. OU coach Bob Stoops confirmed Johnson will return this weekend when OU plays West Virginia. But he's not going to start. Sanchez has played his way into earning another opportunity.
Sanchez had three tackles and one pass breakup. When the other starting corner is senior leader Aaron Colvin, it's expected the other one will see a lot more action. But the Warhawks couldn't pick on Sanchez even if that was the plan.
"Zack Sanchez was all over his guy," Stoops said. "He tackled well. He covered well. We didn't have any breakdowns in communication."
With so many fresh faces in the secondary, nobody would have batted an eye if they were out of position a couple of times. However, OU was in the right spot all game. As was Sanchez, which wasn't a shock to safety Quentin Hayes.
"I expected Zack to perform pretty good," Hayes said. "He's a good coverage guy. We all believe in one another. When one person plays good, it's not a surprise."
Sanchez had no idea what the future plans would be Saturday night. When he was asked if the plan was for him to be the starter going forward, he said that was his plan. Turns out, it's OU's plan, too.