Former Keller Central standout earns his spot at Oklahoma

Posted Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Games of the week No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska (11 a.m. Saturday, WFAA/Ch. 8): The Bruins (1-0) might be the better ranked team going into the game, but the Cornhuskers (2-0) will have a clear home-field advantage. UCLA scored 58 points in its first game, a win against Nevada, and Nebraska is averaging 46.5 in its two games. This one could turn into an offensive battle. Tennessee at No. 2 Oregon (2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/Ch. 8): Butch Jones has won his first two games as Tennessee’s head coach. But the Volunteers (2-0) are beginning a brutal stretch that includes five ranked opponents in six games, starting with Oregon (2-0) and ending with No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 26. While Tennessee should be overmatched on the road, the game should be more of a challenge for the Ducks after winning 66-3 (Nicholls State) and 59-10 (Virginia) in the first two weeks of the season. Nevada at No. 10 Florida State (2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was nearly perfect in his team’s opening win against Pitt. He had just two incompletions and threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He added a fifth touchdown on the ground. Can he repeat his debut performance with a stellar game against Nevada (1-1)? Will he become the second freshman to earn the Heisman? Who knows. But either way, Winston will be fun to watch. No. 4 Ohio State at California (6 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4): It will be interesting to see how the Buckeyes (2-0) fare in their first road game of the season, especially with starting quarterback and Heisman candidate Braxton Miller questionable after an injury last week against San Diego State. Ohio State started the season No. 2 in The Associated Press poll but has dropped a spot each week after two dominant wins. The Buckeyes will need to flex some muscle against Cal (1-1). Quotable “If you take care of the cents, the dollars add up.” — Alabama coach Nick Saban on his team needing to do the little things right in Saturday’s top 10 showdown between the No. 1 Crimson Tide and No. 6 Texas A&M in College Station. In typical Saban fashion, he emphasized his team’s need to focus on fundamentals during his weekly news conference. “It’s controlling the mind.” — Tennessee coach Butch Jones on his team’s mental conditioning heading into its game at Oregon. Jones talked about his team needing focus as well as a physical presence. The Volunteers will need that and more against the No. 2 Ducks. “We’re going with Cody Kessler as our quarterback.” — USC coach Lane Kiffin two days after the Trojans were upset by Washington State. The announcement was interesting, because it came on a YouTube video released by the school. Kiffin had waited until game time to release his QB starter the first two weeks. Numbers game 679 Offensive yards for BYU in a Week 2 upset of then-ranked Texas. The Longhorns, who will now have to slow an Ole Miss offense averaging 510.5 yards a game, gave up 550 on the ground, including 259 to quarterback Taysom Hill. BYU had just 362 yards against Virginia in Week 1. 193 Offensive yards for USC in an embarrassing 10-7 loss to Washington State, which dropped the Trojans from the Top 25 rankings. The last time USC had failed to top 200 yards of offense was in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Day in 2001 (USC had 151 total yards, only one rushing, in a 10-6 loss to Utah).

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Zack Sanchez’s first college season wasn’t what he expected.

As a senior at Keller Central, Sanchez had led the Chargers’ offense as a wide receiver and defense as a cornerback. He had helped carry Central to its first playoff appearance and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors on the Star-Telegram Super Team. So, when Oklahoma’s coaching staff decided to give Sanchez a redshirt, the decision stung.

“It was disappointing,” Sanchez said. “Sitting out and redshirting isn’t fun. At the time, you’re thinking, ‘Why did I come here?’ You have your doubts.”

But Sanchez didn’t let a first-year letdown ruin his preparation and motivation.

“I talked with my parents and some of the guys on the team. I just decided that in the off-season, I would work my butt off and put in as much work as I needed,” he said. “I had a good winter, a good spring. And then when summer came, I did extra workouts, footwork and DB stuff just to improve my game.”

All of his extra work is showing so far this season. In his first game, Sanchez recorded three tackles, two solo, and broke up a pass, as the No. 14 Sooners shut out Louisiana-Monroe 34-0. Last week, in another strong defensive performance for Oklahoma against West Virginia, Sanchez had six tackles, four solo.

“It’s really an unexplainable feeling, a blessing, to be able to play in front of 85,000 people,” Sanchez said. “You go from a high school game on Friday night, and you think that’s a lot of people. Then you take the field up here, and it’s a whole new world.”

Oklahoma beat the Mountaineers 16-7. It is unclear if Sanchez will remain a starter when the Sooners host Tulsa at 11 a.m. Saturday. He started the first game of the year in place of Cortez Johnson, who was suspended.

He stayed in the starting lineup because of his solid performance against the Warhawks. After his game against West Virginia, Sanchez has shown he belongs on the field.

“We have to keep playing tuned and crisp,” Sanchez said. “Our defense hasn’t peaked yet. We have a ways to go. But the way we are playing builds our confidence each week.”

While redshirting hurt at the time, Sanchez said he appreciates each minute of game action much more after watching last season.

“It’s so much sweeter,” he said. “You come in as a freshman, and you want to play. You want to show people that you weren’t just a good player in high school, that you can make it at this level. That’s the most important thing. I want to be the guy who makes an impact. Maybe I had to redshirt a year, but after that, I’m back and making plays for my team.”

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