OU Countdown: Zack Sanchez

Sooners' top cornerback needs another banner year at back end of defense

During the next two months leading up to the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Sooners Illustrated will breakdown the Oklahoma Sooners’ roster, starting with Dominique Alexander (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Dwayne Orso (No. 99) and the incoming freshmen.

We’ll look at last year’s performance, the best-case scenario for this season – without projecting injuries – and what each player means to the short-term or long-term success of the Sooners.

No. 15 – CB Zack Sanchez (5-foot-11, 175 pounds)

43 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 6 interceptions, 8 PBUs

What happened last year: Nearly a unanimous All-Big 12 first-teamer and a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, Sanchez improved on an already impressive freshman season. He even played through a shoulder injury, which could have made a porous secondary even worse had Sanchez not played. His 43 tackles were probably a few more than Oklahoma would have liked, and Sanchez had a few more missed tackles than most fans were happy with. Still, his play throughout the year made him one of Oklahoma’s best players.

Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 10. It’ll be a daily conversation as to whether or not Sanchez or linebacker Eric Striker is more important to the Sooners this year. Well, not to spoil it, but this countdown won’t answer that question for you. Both have grown as leaders and are obviously some of the top players in the Big 12 Conference and the country. Sanchez, though, will have to put together a similar season to last year. He didn’t get tested much, and when he did, he was beaten even less. With a healthy shoulder, his tackling should definitely be better. If the secondary can grow around him, he might have a chance to finish with even more interceptions because teams won’t be able to exclusively avoid him. Maybe more than anything, Oklahoma needs Sanchez to be the leader on the back end.

Best-case scenario for this season: The best-case scenario is that Sanchez isn’t in an Oklahoma uniform two years from now – and it’s not all that hard to believe that he might leave even without the perfect season. The only thing missing from Sanchez’ game that would make him the total package at corner is his tackling and run-support abilities. Add that to his repertoire, and he’s just about as complete as any cornerback in the country. He already has the best ball skills in the Big 12 Conference. If he finishes the season with another half-dozen interceptions, it won’t be much of a surprise. It’ll be a great year, though. Oklahoma will need a few picks at the perfect time this year.

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