Dallas Colleges: Zack Sanchez

2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
12:00
PM CT
From Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine to West Virginia placekicker Josh Lambert, the Big 12 was loaded with underclassmen who made an impact on the 2014 season. With that in mind we unveil our second annual All-Big 12 underclassman team (freshmen and sophomores).

The underclassman team is based on 2014 performances, not future potential -- though many on this list have bright futures as well. Number of games played was also a factor, which is a reason why budding true freshman quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Mason Rudolph, who both came on strong only during the final month of the season, just missed the cut.

Without further ado, the ESPN.com 2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team:

Offense
QB: Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
WR: Corey Coleman, Baylor
WR: KD Cannon, Baylor
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
OT: Adam Pankey, West Virginia
OG: Baylen Brown, Texas Tech
C: Kyle Fuller, Baylor
OG: Daniel Burton, Iowa State
OT: Kent Perkins, Texas
FB: Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
AP: Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia

Defense
DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DT: Andrew Billings, Baylor
DT: Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
DE: Jordan Willis, Kansas State
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor
LB: Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Seth Jacobs, Oklahoma State
CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
S: Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State
S: Orion Stewart, Baylor

Special teams
K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia
P: Colin Downing, Iowa State
KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma
PR: Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU

Poll: All-Big 12 biggest snub?

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
2:00
PM CT
It’s honors day on the Big 12 blog with our All-Big 12 first team being released earlier today.

There were plenty of no-brainers, some breakout stars and a couple surprises as Jake Trotter, Max Olson and I debated the Big 12’s best while putting together the team. Several tough decisions had to be made and quality players snubbed as we sought to honor the conference’s best players.

SportsNation

Who was the biggest snub on ESPN.com's All-Big 12 first team?

  •  
    22%
  •  
    37%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,102)

Now it’s your turn to get involved. Who was the biggest snub?

TCU receiver Josh Doctson emerged as a legitimate No. 1 target for Trevone Boykin, using his length and athleticism to create mismatches all over the field. He was a big-play machine, scoring nine touchdowns while averaging 16.3 yards per reception to help transform TCU's passing attack.

The linebacker spot was a tough debate with Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks finding himself left out in the cold. Hicks returned from a season-ending Achilles injury in 2013 to finish with 98 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a critical member of one of the Big 12's top defenses.

It’s hard to ignore the sheer production of Texas Tech linebacker/defensive end Pete Robertson, but we did. The lone bright spot on the Red Raiders’ defense, Robertson lead the Big 12 with 12 sacks and added 14.5 tackles for loss. Quite simply, Tech’s bowl-less campaign made it hard for Robertson to force himself into the first team.

Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez tied with TCU first-teamer Chris Hackett for the Big 12 lead with six interceptions. The feast or famine aspect to his game was readily apparent but he never stopped competing, constantly creating turnovers for the Sooners. Yet it’s hard to find a first-team spot for a defensive back on a defense that allowed 272.7 passing yards per game, finishing No. 115 among FBS teams.

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was quietly excellent for Clint Bowen’s defense, leading the Big 12 with 18 passes defensed. Much like Sanchez, receivers knew they were in for a battle anytime they lined up opposite Shepherd, yet he went largely overshadowed thanks to the ridiculous production of teammate Ben Heeney.

Who do you think was the biggest snub? Or is there another snub?

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
AM CT
We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.

Defense

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.
Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez had a good week. He returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown in the 31-26 win against Texas, and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.

But that good week could be coming to an end.

When informed Monday morning that Sanchez wore a headband that read "B.T.P. Frank Shannon" and eyeblack that read "Free BM," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops did not seem pleased.

"I’ll address that," Stoops said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "That shouldn’t be on there."

Sanchez was showing support for Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon and quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield was ruled ineligible for this season by the NCAA after transferring from Texas Tech.

Shannon was suspended from school for the season by Oklahoma following a Title IX investigation into a sexual assault allegation by a female student.

It wasn't the first time Sanchez publicly supported Shannon. He sent this tweet earlier this month.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
8:00
AM CT
It's that time again! Let's honor the Big 12's top performers over the weekend:

CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: The sophomore has been a feast-or-famine player in crimson and cream but seems to consistently make big plays in the Sooners' biggest games. His 43-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Sooners breathing room while the offense was struggling in the first half and he finished fourth on the squad with eight tackles. He also added three pass breakups in OU's 31-26 win over Texas.

QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Swoopes played with a presence and poise we had rarely seen from the sophomore during his stint as the Longhorns' starting quarterback. Playing in his first Red River Rivalry, he passed for 334 yards and rushed for 50 yards, accounting for three touchdowns along the way. It was a losing effort but Swoopes performance provides a glimmer of hope for UT.

K Josh Lambert, West Virginia: Not only did Lambert make 3 of 4 field goals, including a 55-yarder to give the Mountaineers a 37-34 win over Texas Tech, Dana Holgorsen actually talked to him. That, my friends, is the definition of winning.

DB Kennon Ward, Texas Tech: The sophomore finished with 16 tackles (11 solo) and 0.5 tackles for loss and one pass break up. It was a disappointing but productive day for Ward.

K Chris Callahan, Baylor: The Bears kicker entered the game 1-of-6 on field goal attempts this season. It didn't matter on Saturday as he went 4-of-4 in the Bears 61-58 win, including the 28-yard game winner as time expired. Redemption must have felt pretty sweet.

RB B.J. Catalon, TCU: Catalon finished with 213 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Horned Frogs' loss. He made big plays as a runner, receiver and kickoff returner while giving the Bears defenders fits throughout the game.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: The sophomore receiver quietly had a monster game in the Bears win, finishing with 253 all-purpose yards including eight receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He added 22 rushing yards and 87 kick return yards.

QB Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: It was looking like Toledo might ruin the Cyclones' homecoming before a pair of Richardson touchdown tosses in the fourth quarter helped put the game out of reach. The junior finished 37-of-53 for 351 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the 37-30 win. He added 13 carries for 31 yards.

DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: It's officially a breakout season for the sophomore. Ogbah finished with 10 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in Oklahoma State's 27-20 win over Kansas.

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: His eye-popping numbers have become so commonplace he almost didn't make the list but I don't want to live in a world where 510 passing yards and six touchdowns isn't enough to earn a helmet sticker. Do you?

Big plays save Sooners in Red River Rivalry

October, 11, 2014
Oct 11
6:35
PM CT

DALLAS -- Oklahoma defensive end Chuka Ndulue jogged down the sideline waving the oversized Oklahoma flag. The band boomed "Boomer Sooner." And Sooners wide receiver Durron Neal walked the Golden Hat trophy up the tunnel before placing it on his head.

Yet the sentiment on the crimson half of the Cotton Bowl was as much relief as celebration.

Saturday in the Red River Showdown, Texas outgained the Sooners and, in many aspects, outplayed them. But thanks to its big plays, Oklahoma came away with the 31-26 win.

And, just as importantly, with its Big 12 title and playoff hopes still intact.

"Do I like everything that happened today? Heck no. We have a lot to work on. That’s obvious," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "Don’t take anything away from Texas. … But it’s always good when you win and you didn’t play very well and you know you’ve got things to correct."

In Charlie Strong's Red River debut, his Longhorns didn’t win.

But they dominated the box score.

Texas outgained Oklahoma, 482 yards to 232.

Texas generated 13 more first downs than the Sooners, who had only one the entire first half.

And Texas converted 7 of 18 on its third down attempts, while Oklahoma went just 1 of 11.

The Longhorns also had the better sophomore quarterback Saturday in Tyrone Swoopes, who decisively outplayed Oklahoma counterpart Trevor Knight in the first Red River start for either player. Swoopes completed 27 of 44 passes for a career-high 334 yards and rushed for another 50 while almost producing the greatest comeback in the history of the rivalry.

[+] EnlargeSanchez
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Zack Sanchez returns an interception 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Sooners a 17-3 lead against Texas.
Oklahoma ground out a 31-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Swoopes engineered back-to-back touchdown drives to give Texas a chance late. The Sooners, however, ran the clock down with two first downs, leaving Swoopes without enough time for a miracle rally.

"I think you can look at this game and say, 'They fought, They believed,'" said linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led a valiant Texas defensive effort with 10 tackles. "There’s no quitting in this team. We’re not going to quit. There’s no disbelief in who we are."

Texas (2-4, 1-2 Big 12) might not make a bowl this season. Yet Texas’ fight and Swoopes' poise showed the Longhorns might be able to become a contender again in the Big 12 before long.

"You would love to see the whole team build on this, not just Tyrone," said Strong, whose Longhorns were a two-touchdown underdog coming in. "I love the way our team came out today, and loved the way we competed and how hard we played.

"We battled back."

But while Texas hopes to be a contender again in the future, Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1) is a contender now.

Although the Sooners didn’t make more plays than Texas, they made the ones that counted the most.

Alex Ross returned a kickoff 91 yards for his second special-teams touchdown of the season, giving the Sooners an early lead, a lead they never relinquished.

Later, Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez stepped in front of a Swoopes pass and took it 43 yards for another TD.

And, in the third quarter, Sterling Shepard beat Texas’ best defensive back, Quandre Diggs, on a wheel route for a 24-yard TD to put the Sooners up 24-13.

"We’re resilient," said Stoops, who became the first Oklahoma coach to notch 10 wins against Texas. "The group has a great attitude and great team chemistry. We just have to keep fighting. We made some mistakes and bad plays throughout the game, but you have to keep after it and make other plays to make up for it."

And the Oklahoma offense, which underwhelmed all day, did just that on its final drive to clinch the win.

Facing third-and-4 on the burnt orange side of the bowl, Knight floated a swing pass to wide-open Samaje Perine for a first down. Two plays later, Perine battered his way 8 yards through the Texas defense for another first down. When the Longhorns finally got the ball back, only 18 seconds remained.

“I think there is some frustration involved when you’re not running up and down the field like you want to,” said Knight, who passed for a season-low 129 yards. “But we made some big plays down the stretch.”

To remain in playoff contention and to win the Big 12 title, however, the Sooners will have to be better than they were Saturday. And better than they were two weeks ago in a loss at TCU that eliminated any further margin for error.

The big plays have been there for Oklahoma. But the little ones have not.

The past two weeks, the running game has completely stagnated against the uptick in competition. Perine finished with just 62 yards on 18 carries. Knight continues to struggle to keep the chains moving with the pass. The receivers have been unreliable aside from Shepard.

And a Mike Stoops defense that was supposed to be dominant has surrendered almost a thousand yards the last two games.

"We just couldn’t come up with a play," said Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator. "It’s the little things and execution that we are not doing as well as we need to be, as we should be."

Swoopes and the Longhorns did the little things Saturday, giving them hope for the future.

But the Sooners did the big things. Keeping their big expectations alive after a win that produced relief as well as celebration.

Instant Analysis: Oklahoma 31, Texas 26

October, 11, 2014
Oct 11
3:35
PM CT
video
DALLAS -- Oklahoma held on after a late Texas rally to win the Red River Showdown 31-26 at the Cotton Bowl. Here's what happened:

How the game was won: Oklahoma jumped out to a 31-13 lead on Samaje Perine's 13-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run. But Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes made the finish interesting by engineering back-to-back touchdown drives. Swoopes and the Longhorns had the ball again at the end, but ran out of time.

Game ball goes to: Wide receiver Sterling Shepard put a struggling Oklahoma offense on his shoulders in the second half. He gained more yards on the first play of the third quarter (31) than the Sooners did the entire first half (29). He also beat Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs on a wheel route for a 24-yard touchdown catch later in the third quarter that gave the Sooners a 24-13 lead and a little breathing room.

What it means: A victory against the Sooners could have really jump-started the Charlie Strong era. Still, the Longhorns hung tough and have plenty to build off in their Red River performance. That's especially the case for Swoopes, who completed 26-of-43 passes for 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the best game of his career.

Playoff implications: Despite an overall ugly performance Saturday and the loss to TCU last weekend, the Sooners are still alive and well in the playoff hunt. Oklahoma will have plenty of opportunities to impress the playoff committee the second half of the season.

Play of the game: Shepard's third-quarter touchdown reception.

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What's next: Oklahoma will go back to Norman and face surging Kansas State in a game carrying Big 12 title implications. Texas will return to Austin and try to even its record in Big 12 play against Iowa State.
Losing your leading returning tackler before the season begins is never a good scenario.

But it was a scenario that became real when the Oklahoma State Supreme Court upheld the University of Oklahoma’s year-long suspension of Sooners linebacker Frank Shannon, who led the squad with 92 tackles in 2013.

Instead, Oklahoma’s linebackers haven’t skipped a beat.

[+] EnlargeJordan Evans
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJordan Evans has filled in nicely for Frank Shannon, Oklahoma's leading tackler in 2013, who was suspended for the season.
Sophomore Jordan Evans has stepped in the fill the void seamlessly, showing the versatility and athleticism that allowed him to return kicks and play multiple positions at Norman (Oklahoma) North High School. Five games into the 2013 season, Shannon had 34 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 hurries and one interception. Five games into this season, Evans has 35 tackles -- including a team-high 26 solo stops -- two forced fumbles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one interception.

“He’s real comfortable in the defense,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “He flies around, his motor doesn’t stop and he’s constantly making plays for us.”

At 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, Evans combines the size of a linebacker with the athleticism of a defensive back. His interception against TCU was an example of his unique ball skills, and his 26 solo tackles is a sign he can excel in one-on-one situations. His emergence as a playmaker isn't completely unexpected. Evans saw limited playing time as a true freshman but showed glimpses of his athleticism on special teams and defense.

“Jordan is athletic, people don’t know how athletic he is,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “He flies around from sideline to sideline making plays.”

Shannon’s suspension could have been a hurdle for any defensive success the Sooners hoped to have. Instead Evans is second on the team in tackles and seems to be getting more and more comfortable with each passing game.

“[Against] Tennessee I got a little more feel, and each week I’m building on it,” Evans said. “I’m happy where I’m at but definitely striving to get better. I’m a lot better linebacker than I was last year.”

OU’s home game against Tennessee was Evans’ first true test as a starter after being thrown out the game for targeting against Louisiana Tech and making a minimal impact against Tulsa. Evans responded with nine tackles against the Volunteers then followed that performance with back-to-back double-digit-tackle performances against West Virginia (11) and TCU (10).

“He comes downhill a lot better than he did last year, he reads the quarterback better than he did last year, ” safety Quentin Hayes said. “He’s matured all over.”

Evans could be the man to watch against Texas. The Longhorns are likely to lean on their running game against the Sooners, including giving quarterback Tyrone Swoopes opportunities to use his legs. Evans could be the perfect remedy with the size and athleticism to match Swoopes in the open field while also being able to hold his own if UT tries to line up and play smashmouth with running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown.

Either way, Evans has erased any concerns about his readiness to be a starter in OU’s defense and his ability to fill the void left by Shannon. Evans showed he could handle a one-game scenario when he replaced an injured Shannon and made eight tackles in OU’s win over Texas Tech last season, but this season the sophomore has become one of the most productive defenders on a defense full of active athletes.

“Going back to the [Texas] Tech game when he had to step in for Frank, I felt like he had a really good game. There was a lot of pressure on him, but I felt like he made a lot of plays for us so I just knew the kind of player he was heading into this year.” Sanchez said. “He’s a really special linebacker.”

Grissom's versatility key for OU's defense

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
10:00
AM CT
An imposing figure at 6-foot-4, 252 pounds, Geneo Grissom lined up in a blitzing position before the snap. Seconds later, the Oklahoma linebacker stepped back, re-aligning over Tulsa’s slot receiver. After the snap, Grissom dropped into his zone, passed off the inside route to a teammate before leaping into the passing lane to intercept a pass from Golden Hurricane quarterback Dane Evans and gallop 38 yards into the end zone.

It was just like Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops envisioned.

[+] EnlargeGeneo Grissom
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesGeneo Grissom's versatility was on full display with his 38-yard interception-return touchdown against Tulsa.
After making several position changes during his first four seasons at OU, Grissom has finally found a home as a linebacker in the Sooners’ 3-4 system. In doing so the senior joins Eric Striker to give the Sooners arguably the nation’s top pass-rushing linebacker duo while also providing the versatility to handle the various offensive attacks of the Big 12.

“He’s a great athlete,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Geneo’s a big guy, he has great range, he can run, he’s got great hands. If our 120 players on our team had a pickup basketball game, he’d be one of the first couple picked. That’s the kind of athlete he is, even with that size.”

Cornerback Zack Sanchez probably puts it best.

“He’s a freak of nature, the way he can get to the ball and make plays,” Sanchez said. “Geneo is a freak athlete, he’s a ball player.”

In many ways, Grissom is too good an athlete for his own good as the Sooners kept tinkering to find the best way to put his skills to use. His athletic prowess resulted in stops at defensive end as a freshman, tight end as a sophomore and defensive end again as a junior before finally finding a home at linebacker this fall.

In Saturday’s Big 12 opener against West Virginia, Grissom’s versatility and talent will be in the spotlight. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen excels at finding ways to create mismatches and exploit defenses with the run or pass, but that task gets harder with Grissom on the field.

Last time these two teams met in 2012, the versatility of Tavon Austin gave the Sooners fits. This time around it could be the versatility of Grissom that creates chaos for WVU’s offense. He has the size and strength to handle the run and the athleticism to be comfortable in coverage against the pass. No matter what approach the Mountaineers’ offense takes, run or pass, Grissom can remain on the field and impact the game.

“For me personally, this is going to be a good game for me to test where I’m at and where I need to get better,” Grissom said. “I’ll measure myself and the things I need to work on.”

Don’t be surprised if Grissom and Striker excel against the Mountaineers, as their ability to rush the passer or drop in coverage is one of the reasons the Sooners made the change to a 3-4 defense after the 2012 season.

“Every game is like that with those two guys, they give us a lot of versatility,” Mike Stoops said. “That’s what we like about this defense, and it will be put to the test again.”

Grissom has started all three games for the Sooners, contributing 12 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, along with his interception.

“If he hasn’t shown it already, this [game] will add on to what he’s capable of doing,” Sanchez said. “Playing tight end a couple years ago helps him go up and get the ball and make crazy plays like that. He’s so athletic, he’s smart, he knows where to be, he just flies around the field.”

While Striker creates havoc all over the field from his position as “field” linebacker, Grissom has more than held his own as the “boundary” linebacker. He finally got comfortable at his new position near the end of two-a-days in August and has performed like a veteran during nonconference action.

“He’s one of those guys who’s always watching film,” Sanchez said. “He’s always watching film and if he makes a mistake, he’s fixing it. He’s not one of those guys that makes the same mistake twice. He’s real tenacious in everything he does.”

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:45
AM CT
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 3:

1. TCU and West Virginia might finally be finding their stride in the Big 12: Being in the Big 12 has been rough on the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers. In their first two years in the league, each went 11-14 overall. But with impressive performances Saturday, both are showing signs they are finally turning the corner. The Mountaineers racked up 33 first downs and almost 700 yards in a 40-37 win over Maryland, which was able to stay in the game only through the grace of West Virginia's three turnovers in the red zone. TCU completely manhandled Minnesota and picked off Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner three times on the way to an easy 30-7 victory. The Horned Frogs appear to be formidable on defense again, and TCU’s new offensive scheme has been generating more points. Meanwhile, West Virginia might have the two most improved players in the entire conference in quarterback Clint Trickett, who is completing 75 percent of his passes, and wideout Kevin White, who already has 460 yards receiving. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs still have to prove themselves in league play. But their performances through the nonconference suggest they'll give Big 12 foes a run for their money.

[+] EnlargeJulian Wilson
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJulian Wilson returned an interception 100 yards in Oklahoma's win over Tennessee.
 2. Oklahoma’s secondary is no joke: Everyone knew how deep and talented the Sooners’ front seven was coming into this season. The secondary, however, seemed to be a question mark. But in a 34-10 win over the Volunteers, Oklahoma’s defensive backs were dominant, delivering three game-changing plays among them. In the first quarter, Quentin Hayes came on a safety blitz and forced and recovered a fumble. In the third quarter, cornerback Zack Sanchez came up with an acrobatic interception in the end zone (his fifth pick in six games). And in the fourth quarter, cornerback Julian Wilson delivered the exclamation point, hauling in a tipped interception and returning it 100 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. After the game, coach Bob Stoops lauded this group. “They’re playing really well,” he said. “They’re not making mistakes. They’re challenging, competing for balls. They’re making big plays. Maybe as good a three-game stretch we may have had.” That’s high praise for this Oklahoma secondary. But the way it's playing, it's well deserved.

3. The league has some unshakable kickers: Two Big 12 kickers had the chance to produce winning field goals in the final seconds of their games. And both kickers delivered. First, Josh Lambert drilled a 47-yarder as time expired to give West Virginia a monumental victory over regional rival Maryland. Then, Iowa State’s Cole Netten connected on a 42-yard attempt with two seconds remaining to lift Iowa State to a 20-17 win over in-state rival Iowa. Netten actually misfired on his first try at the game-winner, but the Hawkeyes had called timeout first. Netten shook off that miss and came back and delivered in a moment he’ll remember awhile. Field goal kicking in the college game has become a lost art. But from Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt to TCU’s Jaden Oberkrom, the Big 12 is loaded with talented place-kickers. In Lambert and Netten, the league has a couple of clutch ones, too.

4. Texas Tech’s run defense seems hopeless: Coach Kliff Kingsbury signed four junior college defensive linemen during the offseason to try to shore up what was the league’s worst run defense last fall. But in a disheartening 49-28 loss to Arkansas, the Red Raiders’ run defense looked worse than ever. The Razorbacks obliterated Tech in the trenches, rolling up 438 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. As a result, Arkansas dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for more than 40 of the game’s 60 minutes while keeping Tech QB Davis Webb on the sideline and out of rhythm. “They lined up and pounded us,” Kingsbury said. “We just didn’t have an answer.” The Red Raiders might not face a rushing attack like Arkansas’ until Oklahoma visits Lubbock in November. But it might not take a powerful rushing offense like Arkansas’ to exploit what has been a shaky Texas Tech defense that has yet to stop anybody through three games.

5. Texas still has some fight: There were few reasons to believe the Longhorns could hang around with UCLA after their dismal performance last week against BYU. But behind an inspired effort from sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, Texas had UCLA on the ropes until backup QB Jerry Neuheisel tossed a 33-yard go-ahead touchdown with three minutes remaining. The Longhorns lost the game 20-17 and still have various issues, such as getting the coin toss right. But this was a performance they can build off. Although he couldn’t lead them on a game-winning drive, Swoopes was solid in his second career start, completing 24 of 34 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. And unlike last week, the Longhorns didn’t lie down when things didn’t go their way. After a disastrous start in 2013, Texas bounced back to have a decent season. This team showed on Saturday it could do the same.

Preseason All-Big 12 team, honors released

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
12:00
PM CT
Five days before Big 12 media days get underway, the conference has released its official preseason All-Big 12 team as well as its preseason award-winners, as voted on by conference media.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. No surprise there. Oklahoma State RB/WR Tyreek Hill, the speedy juco transfer from Garden City (Kansas) Community College, received preseason Newcomer of the Year honors.

The more debatable award, preseason Defensive Player of the Year, went to TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. He played in just three games in 2013 due to a foot injury but was voted the league's top defender and newcomer in 2012 as a true freshman.

Baylor led the way with seven players on the All-Big 12 team. Kansas State had five selections on the squad, and Oklahoma received four. Only one Big 12 program -- Oklahoma State -- did not have at least one player make the team.

All-Big 12 Team

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DL Devonte Fields, TCU
DL Chucky Hunter, TCU
DL Cedric Reed, Texas
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DB Sam Carter, TCU
DB Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia

PK Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
P Spencer Roth, Baylor
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Levi Norwood, Baylor

There aren't many snubs to be found from this year's team. You can make a case for a bunch of other players -- TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, Texas' Johnathan Gray and Malcom Brown, West Virginia's Quinton Spain and Nick O'Toole. But based on 2013 performance, this list looks about right.

Any more exclusions stand out to you? Should Ryan Mueller or someone else win DPOY? Hit us with your complaints in the comments below.
Oklahoma released new alternate uniforms on Tuesday. The Sooners will have several uniform choices this fall but will stick with their traditional uniforms for the majority of the season with their alternate look being used occasionally. Here's the new look in case you missed it: Here's a quick round up of what various people had to say on social media about OU's new uniforms. Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez likes them: Most OU fans seem to like them: Not everybody likes them: Some love them, others like them, others don't. But this tweet sums it up perfectly:

Crimson Countdown: CB Zack Sanchez

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
11:00
AM CT
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

[+] EnlargeZack Sanchez
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiCan OU cornerback Zack Sanchez build on his solid freshman season?
No. 15 Zack Sanchez, cornerback, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, sophomore

Impact thus far: After redshirting in 2012, Sanchez was the surprise of the defense in 2013. He made a major jump from the spring to the fall and became a starter on OU’s defense after leaving the spring as an afterthought. He started all 13 games, finishing with 46 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions. He earned FWAA Freshman All-American honors.

Impact in 2014: Sanchez will have to step up his leadership as the lone veteran at cornerback with Aaron Colvin’s departure. The Sooners will count on him to be the most dependable and trustworthy cover man on the squad this fall.

Long term upside: If Sanchez continues to develop he should be an all-conference performer and four-year starter. His competitive nature and ability to forget previous miscues rank among his best traits.

Evaluation grade for Sanchez: A. The Sooners began their pursuit of Sanchez late in the recruiting process, thanks largely to the arrival of Mike Stoops, who liked Sanchez's ball skills and versatility. He has rewarded Stoops' belief in his ability by starting every college game he has played in.

Development grade for Sanchez: A. Redshirting Sanchez during his first season was the right move, particularly with Colvin and Demontre Hurst manning the cornerback spot in 2012. The season in the background allowed Sanchez to get comfortable at the cornerback position after playing receiver and safety in high school.

Quotable: “We have to get more consistent play out of him, even as good as he was at making big plays, he just has to be a more consistent player. He has to focus on what he looks at and training his eyes. His eyes get him in trouble a lot. He just has to continue to improve.” -- Stoops on how Sanchez can improve as a sophomore.

Sooners' defensive MIPs: No. 5

May, 19, 2014
May 19
11:00
AM CT
Several players will decide the success of the Oklahoma Sooners this fall.

Some Sooners will have more of an impact than others and will be counted on to be the foundation of the 2014 squad. Last week we counted down the most important players on offense with quarterback Trevor Knight atop the list.

This week, we’ll count down the five most important players on defense, taking into account their expected contribution, the quality of their backups and their previous production. We begin the countdown with No. 5.

No. 5: CB Zack Sanchez, sophomore

2013 role: Sanchez was arguably the biggest surprise on the roster. He went from post-spring afterthought to freshman All-American. Sanchez finished among the league leaders with 15 passes defensed and stabilized the cornerback spot opposite eventual NFL fourth-round pick Aaron Colvin.

Expected 2014 role: Sanchez will play a critical role, both as an anchor in the secondary and a leader in the meeting room. He continued to improve and develop this spring with an eye on becoming a shutdown cornerback in the mold of Colvin. But Sanchez’s biggest impact could come off the field as he has to take a leadership role with several inexperienced players battling to start at the other cornerback spot.

Why he’s important: His presence and mental approach should help the entire secondary. He brings experience as a player who has started all 13 games he’s played in crimson and cream, yet he also brings youth and upside as a player who still has room to grow. Sanchez should be one of the top playmakers on the Sooners’ defense in 2014.

If he was missing: The Sooners wouldn’t have an experienced cornerback on the roster. The coaches will lean on Sanchez to bring them peace of mind as a returning starter, but he’s also hungry to grow into one of the conference’s top cover men. Without him, the Sooners would have a significant weakness in a defense that should be among the Big 12’s best.

Big 12 poll: Best imaginary team?

May, 15, 2014
May 15
10:30
AM CT
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

SportsNation

Who had the best imaginary Big 12 player draft?

  •  
    30%
  •  
    38%
  •  
    32%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,440)

Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”

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