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'He's been really good': Michigan freshman WR Mike Sainristil making big impression

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — In part because several receivers have been out, but also in part because he’s as good as they thought, early-enrollee freshman Mike Sainristil is making a name for himself during Michigan’s spring practices.

Mike Sainristil

The 5-foot-10, 179-pound receiver from Massachusetts, from all accounts, has taken quickly to new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ up-tempo, speed-in-space offense. Sainristil had 1,740 receiving yards, 28 receiving touchdowns and 56 rushing during his career at Everett High.

Michigan fans will get a chance to see Sainristil and the rest of the Wolverines during an open practice Saturday at Michigan Stadium. There will be another opportunity the following week, as well, during the spring “game”.

“He’s been really good,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday during a news conference. “He has a level of quickness, change of direction, speed that has been really eye-opening and really good for the team. But he’s also tough. He’s blocking. There’s probably three examples where you can really just see him second, third, fourth effort down the field, sometimes 20, 30, 40 yards downfield blocking for whoever does have the ball. If you don’t have the ball, then you become a blocker. He’s been really good and can’t say enough good things about him.

“He has an intensity about him when he’s practicing, when he’s in meetings. Really hungry and doing a great job. All compliments to Mike Sainristil as long as he takes that flattery and, as they say, don’t inhale, should be good.”

Harbaugh revealed Wednesday that Donovan Peoples-Jones, the team’s top leading returning starter, has a groin injury that might be more serious than first thought. He has not practiced this spring. Meanwhile, receiver Nico Collins has been out after surgery before the start of spring practice. He is back to running, though, and making positive improvement, Harbaugh said.

With their absences, players like Sainristil can get more reps.

And he’s clearly taking advantage of it.

Sainristil also had four defensive touchdowns, and Harbaugh isn’t ruling out using him both ways at some point during his career. Harbaugh is satisfied with the secondary depth, but eventually, room could be made.

“Yeah, he’s got the ability really to do both,” Harbaugh said. “The defensive coaches would be fighting to have Mike as a corner, as a nickel for sure, and there’s potential for him to be a two-way player. But that’s further down the line.”

Harbaugh is most impressed with Sainristil’s work ethic and desire to improve. He put him in the same group with defensive lineman Donovan Jeter and offensive-defensive player Ben Mason, who have stood out this spring.

“They’ve gone a long way to cementing their roles as starters in the fall,” Harbaugh said.

Sainristil likely will have another role this fall on the depth chart as a kick returner. Receiver Ronnie Bell is starting this spring at kick and punt returner, and Sainristil is the backup punt returner and fourth on the list on kick returns. Receiver Oliver Martin is third at punt return and linebacker Mike Barrett is third string at kick returner.

“It’s just awesome to see the enthusiasm that he brings to practice,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, he’s out there every day, he’s hellbent on learning everything he can, and he’s excited for every drill and every rep he can get.”