Before Sanchez exploded onto the scene last year, he knew exactly how the young members of the secondary felt – because he was one.
Now, he’s trying to teach them and maybe find the next ‘Zack Sanchez,’ someone primed for a breakout season.
“Nobody is invincible; you are going to get beat from time to time,” he said. “You have to keep your beats to a limit and come back and make more plays if you do get beat. … One of my goals this year is not to get beat early on – to be solid throughout the whole game.”
Sanchez said that both Stanvon Taylor and Dakota Austin could be that guy ready to breakthrough. While it currently appears that Julian Wilson will start opposite Sanchez, the second-year starter pointed to Austin’s mentality and Taylor’s athleticism as key characteristics of a great corner.
“They are both ready to play, both real hungry and both competitors, man,” Sanchez said. “People look at Dakota and see his size and think one thing. But if I’m going to a fight, I’m going with Dakota first as a DB. He’s the first one I’m picking to come with me. He’s just a dog. Stanvon is just a freak of an athlete. Plays where he’s beat, he just catches up and makes just crazy plays.
“Either one of those guys, I wouldn’t be surprised if they stepped in and had an impact.”
The biggest help for Oklahoma’s secondary won’t come from the back level. Instead, the dynamic pass rush that the Sooners will generate could change the way Oklahoma defends the pass.
With Eric Striker, Geneo Grissom, Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper up front rushing the passer, each quarterback the Sooners face will have a much quicker time clock – looking to throw the ball sooner than he’s comfortable. That in mind, Sanchez said he’ll be looking to get in the face of opposing wide receivers.
“It makes your job a lot easier – knowing that you’re not going to have to cover somebody for five, six seconds down field because those guys are going to get to them,” Sanchez said. “… It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, it just gives you a more relaxed feel knowing that the quarterback doesn’t have as much time to get rid of the ball.”
“You can get more aggressive with your pressing and get in a guy’s body and throw off timing because at this point, with how much rush we bring, it’s all about timing,” he added. “If you can disrupt that, then the offense basically has nothing.”
The secondary might have an easier time, but members of the front seven will be looking more for a party in the pocket than the quarterback rushing throws.
“We know that Striker is going to get to the quarterback no matter what,” Tapper said. “He’s like the best rusher in the nation. … As long as we are able to push the pocket and just make plays we should be able to get sacks. It’ll be like a party on third down for us.”
“It all starts with the first and second downs.” Tapper added. “We know if we can push them far back and keep it third-and-10 or third-and-5, then we can have fun and the coaches can design special blitzes. If we can just hold teams on the first two downs, we can beat every team in the country.”