Receiver Mike Sainristil 'can't wait' to show a big jump in Michigan offense
The first year playing college football last season for Michigan receiver Mike Sainristil was a lot like when he joined the varsity in high school.
He had plenty of questions, mostly part of an internal dialogue.
“You ask yourself, ‘Where do I fit in amongst this group of older men? What is going to be my role on this team?’” Sainristil said during a recent video conference with reporters. “It does take time. It takes more time for some people, more than it does for others, to really understand what you’re going into. That’s where I found myself come fall camp last year.”
There was plenty of talk after spring practice last year about the 5-foot-10, 183-pound Sainristil, referred to as “Mikey,” even with veterans Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black firmly in the mix. “Mikey” brought an abundance of speed to the field and then-first-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis liked that addition to his speed-in-space offense.
But when preseason camp got going, Sainristil found things a bit more challenging.
“Once camp started, things started picking up,” he said. “I got into a pace I wasn’t really used to yet. That’s when I was questioning, ‘What can I do to help this team get better?’ Whether that’s being around guys, being an energy booster, making plays on the field, anything that I could do to help make the team better is what I found myself (focused on).”
He answered that first question by being what he called the “Energizer Bunny,” always positive, always with the goal to enhance everyone around him and bring out their competitiveness.
Sainristil had some opportunities last season, catching eight passes for 145 yards. He along with freshman receivers Giles Jackson and Cornelius Johnson will be counted on this season, with Collins – who opted out when the Big Ten originally decided to postpone the season – Peoples-Jones and Black gone.
“Although they (Sainristil and Johnson) played as true freshman, it was just the numbers game of how many guys we were getting involved in the offense last year,” Gattis said recently. “They gained some valuable experience playing in game action, but just being able to see everything translate over. There is always a jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and to see those guys make that jump this offseason from a skill standpoint has been really impressive. Those guys are going to have a big-time impact on the offense.”
Coaches often talk about players’ growth from the first year to the second. Sainristil talked about it, too. The first year, you get a “taste” of the game, he said. And then it’s on to Year 2.
“When you get your chance to really show who you are,” Sainristil said. “That’s just something I can’t wait to do. They put our depth charts out, and it’s cool to see where you are, but until the first snap of Game 1, nothing’s really set it stone. So, I’m just going to make sure I don’t get complacent and just keep working the way I’ve been working to have that spot on this team.”
Gattis recently gave the players “focus points.”
“The first thing he mentioned is making sure I catch everything off the tips,” Sainristil said. “I continue working on details and technique, but at the end of the day, once a ball is in the air you have to make a play. That’s something I’m really continuing to focus on.”
With Joe Milton looking to be the first-year starting quarterback, Gattis, who coaches the receivers, said he told them to never stop running when Milton unleashes. He has a powerful arm, and Gattis said he throws with such loft and distance that it’s difficult at times to track the ball.
Sainristil reminds himself of Milton’s ability whenever he’s on the field.
“(In a recent practice) he threw me a post route, and the first thing I told myself was, ‘Joe’s in the game. No matter what, just keep running because the ball isn’t landing short,’” Sainristil said. “As I’m tracking the ball, I’m like, ‘This has to be the highest ball I’ve ever seen thrown in a while.’ The ball was in the air hanging, and I was asking myself, ‘When is this ball going to drop? Where is it going to drop?’ Head down, just kept running.”
And that’s Sainristil’s goal for the season – don’t stop running.