Nobody really knew how bad it was for Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez on the final week of the season – just a few weeks removed from an ankle injury that held him out from a pair of Big 12 victories. As Sanchez got beat in one-on-one coverage against Oklahoma State, he fell down with even the slightest contact.
Some thought that his cleats were the problem on a wet field inside Boone Pickens Stadium.
“It definitely wasn’t the cleats,” Sanchez said. “Now to get this rest is going to be huge for me.”
It’s not just Sanchez.
Running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon have been nursing minor injuries for the last month and now get a full month to recover before the Orange Bowl against Clemson. There shouldn’t be ill effects from quarterback Baker Mayfield’s concussion either.
“We were beat up at the end of the year and a lot of teams are,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Everyone is beat up at this stage of the game.”
Luckily for the Sooners, they’ve been relatively injury-free. Offensive linemen Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati are as fully healed as they can be from early-season injuries, and freshman running back Rodney Anderson remains the only player to suffer a season-ending injury.
As is natural, every player seemed to be dealing with some kind of lingering injury or fatigue. Sanchez expects to be a completely different player by New Year’s Eve. The Sooners as a whole are just hoping that recovering from injury does not slow their rhythm.
“We have some great players that were playing less than 100 percent,” Stoops said. “We just need to get our team strong and healthy again. Finding a rhythm is something you worry about more offensively than defensively. They’re smart. We go a lot of good on good. We’ll try to find that rhythm we had.”