NORMAN — Just before Saturday's game at Notre Dame began, Rudy Sanchez leaned over to tell his daughter's boyfriend, who was sitting near him, that the Fighting Irish were going to go after his son on the first play.
He'd told Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma's redshirt freshman cornerback, the same that morning in a text message, and in one Thursday morning as well.
“I'm ready, pops,” Zack responded.
Rudy was right, and so was Zack.
Notre Dame went Zack's way on the game's first play, with Tommy Rees throwing to DeVaris Daniels deep down the sideline.
Zack leapt into the air and batted it away with his right hand, setting the tone for the game.
Zack, playing opposite of Aaron Colvin, figured he'd get thrown at quite a bit coming into the season. He wasn't even the starter entering the season. Sophomore Cortez Johnson was listed No. 1 on the depth chart but Johnson was suspended for the opener, leaving an opening for Zack. He hasn't looked back, starting all four games.
The way he's handled that pressure, though, has been what's made him one of the biggest surprises on a Sooner defense that has improved tremendously.
Two people — besides Zack — are big parts of why he's been able to perform so well under the spotlight.
The first is Colvin, a three-year starter who has served as Zack's mentor. The other is Lauren Chamberlain, one of the top college softball players in the country and Zack's girlfriend.
“Zack models everything after Slick (Colvin),” Sooners safety Gabe Lynn said. “Slick, he's coaching him up every time and then he's actually making it hard for Zack because he's shutting down the whole side of the field and everybody's picking on Zack and Zack's showing up so it doesn't even matter.”
Through four games — all starts — Zack has 17 tackles and five pass breakups. Three of those breakups came against Notre Dame.
It all started with work with Colvin just before the season.
“He knows what an offense is going to run, he knows what routes and the tendencies the receivers have and just the way he studies the game the week prior,” Zack said. “It was things like that I really picked up on.”