NORMAN — As Oklahoma's cornerback opposite Aaron Colvin, redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez always expects quarterbacks to take lots of shots at him.
Sanchez expects it to be worse, though, Thursday night, when the Sooners face Baylor and the nation's No. 1 offense. After all, he was supposed to be a Bear.
“I know it's coming, especially with the history,” Sanchez said. “I've got it in my head that they're probably going to take extra shots at me. But it's something you've got to be prepared for and something I'm excited about.”
Sanchez committed to Baylor the summer before his senior year at Central High (Keller, Texas), and remained a Bears commit until late January 2012, when he switched to the Sooners.
After a redshirt season, Sanchez earned a starting cornerback position on the Oklahoma defense and has — for the most part — played extremely well, especially considering how much he's picked on by opposing quarterbacks who don't want to throw at Colvin.
Sanchez didn't play his best game, though, against Texas Tech on Oct. 26.
The Sooners won 38-30, but Tech receiver Eric Ward burned the redshirt freshman on a pair of mid-third quarter passes — the first for 45 yards, then a 23-yard touchdown three plays later — that helped the Red Raiders regain some momentum.
“I was disappointed in my play,” Sanchez said. “You can't play like that, I understand.
“The freshman thing for me, ‘He's a freshman; he makes mistakes,' that's not something I live by. I hold myself to a higher standard.”
At his Monday news conference, OU coach Bob Stoops praised Sanchez's play this season and said he's impressed with the way he responded to those bad moments against Texas Tech.
“Zack has played really well for a long period of time for us here throughout this year,” Stoops said. “He had a tough few plays that he can learn from and he bounced back from.”
Against Baylor, Sanchez and the Sooners' secondary will face their stiffest test to date. The Bears lead the nation with averages of 63.9 points and 718.4 yards of offense per game, and quarterback Bryce Petty has tossed 18 touchdown passes and just one interception.
Sanchez remains close friends with several of the Baylor wide receivers — including Tevin Reese, Jay Lee and Corey Coleman — he'll be tasked with covering Thursday.
“It's an hour from my house,” Sanchez said of the Baylor campus. “I'm real close with a lot of the guys on their team. They're basically like brothers to me. It was hard splitting from them. It was like a family.”
Still, after a fantastic senior year of high school — in which he intercepted nine passes — Oklahoma extended a scholarship offer that Sanchez couldn't turn down.
“Finally,” Sanchez said when asked for his reaction to the OU offer. “Y'know? Finally everything is coming. I was excited about it.”
He also had to make a couple really tough phone calls to the Baylor coaches who had recruited him — defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and recruiting coordinator Jim Gush.
“That's one thing my pops told me: ‘You've got to be a man about it and let them know,'” Sanchez said. “I let them know. Obviously they were upset about it, but I felt like it was the best decision for me.”