Mike Sainristil was one of the stars of the offseason in 2019 coming into his first year at Michigan despite joining a loaded wide receiver room on paper. Now, the true sophomore finds himself in line for a much bigger role in the offense with spots wide open ahead of the new season.
Sainristil spoke to the media on Thursday as preparation for the 2020 football season continues from Schembechler Hall. One of the first things he was asked had to do with the offense’s emphasis on creating more explosive plays this season.
“Since last year, one thing (offensive coordinator Josh Gattis) has always been big on is style of play,” he said. “Which means, if we call an RPO and the ball doesn’t come to you and we hand it off. Style of play means (that) once you’ve learned that the ball hasn’t come to you, turn and find a block. Get downfield and make a block for somebody else. On regular run plays, we have our backside cut-off blocks which we like to call them our touchdown blocks because you never know, as Coach Gattis says. The ball can bend, bang or bounce and the running back can find you. We always make sure we’re doing our part of the job as being one of the 11 on the field.”
One of the biggest changes to the 11 on the field on the offensive side of the ball is quarterback Joe Milton, the third-year signal-caller who has as much arm talent as any since Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor.
“For example, yesterday, he threw me a post route,” Sainrisitil said. “The first thing I told myself was, ‘Joe is in the game, no matter what, just keep running because the ball isn’t landing short.’ 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 it was going to drop and where it was going to drop. Head down, just kept running. It’s definitely tough to track when the ball is that high and you just don’t know where it’s going to land and when it’s going to land. Coach Gattis tells us to keep running and don’t expect it to fall anytime soon when 5 is in the game.”
Michigan thinks it has a quarterback that can lead a more explosive offense, but a big key in that is the talent, and speed, they have in the wide receiver room applying it to the field. Sainristil feels like they have a rotation and versatile-enough talent to give defenses problems.
“I just think it creates a better rotation because now you can run a deep route, you can go from having two guys on a deep route and then sub another one of us in and just give us the ball in space,” he said. “We’ll be going up a DB that was going up against two different guys on two deep routes. Now, he’s tired and we have fresh legs that keep cycling. I think that really helps us out a lot.”
Of course, one of the biggest losses on the team in the lead-up to the season is senior wideout Nico Collins, who opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL. However, there still has not been official word one way or another on what his final decision is or if he will reverse course.
“I had texted (Collins once,” Sainristil said. “I asked him if the rule of opting back in changes anything for him, he’s still unsure. Regardless, whatever he does, I wish him well. Nico is a real good guy. If he does decide to stick to working out for the NFL, then I wish him the best. If he comes back, I’ll be right there with him.”