Mike Sainristil has proven to be an exceptionally good and physical blocking receiver, a solid instinctual wideout with reliable hands and route running. Those types of skills, Sainristil’s natural and instinctual prowess as a football player is making for a smooth transition to the other side of the football.
Sainristil’s been a two-way player and lining up as a nickel cornerback in practices this spring. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said Sainristil might even become a three-way player and be utilized on special teams as well. Harbaugh told Sainristil the more tools he has in the toolbox, the better — a message Sainristil is taking to heart.
Quarterback Cade McNamara said that he threw his first interception this spring to Sainristil, receiver Cornelius Johnson said it’s been fun lining up against him and that its been competitive. McNamara hasn’t been surprised that Sainristil’s performing well at nickel.
“He’s so shifty that even when he’s not in man-coverage, his ability to play zone coverage. Because he’s had the offensive perspective, it makes him a really good zone-coverage player, too.
Unlike McNamara and other players and coaches in Michigan’s locker room, new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s getting his first exposure to the player and person Mike Sainristil is. Things are fresh for Minter on defense, the same can be said for Sainristil, and a natural relationship if forming between the two. Minter is growing to appreciate what Sainristil has in his toolbox.
“Mikey has been one of my favorite guys to see throughout the first part of spring,” Minter said on the In the Trenches podcast. “Just on both sides of the ball, he plays with a level of toughness and maturity. He’s a really good football player. I think he’s a guy you could put anywhere. It shows up on special teams how he plays, shows up on offense, and his ability to block and be a role player — but also make plays when he gets the ball in his hands.”
Harbaugh called Sainristil last month and brought up the idea of playing some defense, to which Sainristil said he’ll do whatever for the team.
Sainristil’s skill-set not only sounds like a match, but so does his attitude — he wants to play hard and physical.
“That mentality is just being physical,” Sainristil said. “When I was a receiver, the one thing that I really cared about is blocking. So now I’m on the opposite side of that.”
Sainristil had 22 receptions, 312 yards, and two touchdowns in 2021.