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Mike Sainristil can be a solid contributor out of the slot

Year Two should see the receiver find increased looks in the passing game.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.

Mike Sainristil, true SO

247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (CB 59, Overall 595)
2019 Stats: 8 rec, 145 yards, 1 TD

Perhaps no freshman was more praised than Mike Sainristil last offseason, who impressed the coaching staff as an early enrollee and continued to shine come the fall. He entered the season behind plenty of experienced teammates, but there was a path to playing time thanks to a thinner depth chart at the slot. As an unheralded recruit (who some services saw as a cornerback), he would face an uphill battle, but all early indications showed that he could vastly outplay his recruiting ranking.

Sainristil was up to the task and appeared in all 13 games as a freshman, which is not a surprise given the way the coaches spoke about him. However, that game action did not turn into much on-field production, as he brought in just eight catches on the season. Like the other young receivers on the roster, the window is now open for Sainristil to take a big step forward in 2020.

Can Sainristil turn coaching praise into on-field results?

Every college coach will talk up players he likes, and plenty of times this praise amounts to nothing. Even if the comments are genuine and accurate, they cannot be used as direct indicators of future performance. That being said, it does not seem like the coaches were talking just to talk about Sainristil last offseason. The way his coaches and teammates spoke about his abilities sounded like someone who can be a big part of the offense.

Obviously it is way too early to determine what will happen with Sainristil, but it is notable how he stole the headlines all throughout last offseason. His minimal production numbers are pretty easy to understand given the number of talented pass catchers last season and the general learning curve as a true freshman, so it does not seem that far-fetched that he was exciting in practice but too low on the totem pole to see targets when it actually counted.

That should not be the case this season. Sainristil has good hands and looks like a strong route runner that makes him a dangerous option out of the slot. His speed and quickness are well noted, and his small showing in 2019 points to a player that could be a great asset under Josh Gattis. There are still a few mouths to feed at receiver, but the targets should take a nice jump up from last year given his natural progression and the attrition at the position.

Everyone loves the story of a gritty three star who works his way up the depth chart, but that would be misrepresenting this situation. Sainristil is a legitimate talent in the slot who showed in camp that he was probably undervalued by recruiting services due to location (Massachusetts). He should be one of the top options to jump into this role as a sophomore and looks to have all of the skills needed to succeed. He may not be the leading receiver, but he will be expected to be a known commodity in the offense this fall.