After Michigan Wolverines football wide receiver Mike Sainristil reeled in eight grabs for 145 yards as a freshman in 2019, he was expected to make a significant leap last year as a sophomore.
Things did not go according to plan for Sainristil (or the entire Wolverine team for that matter) in 2020 though, with the Everett, Mass., native catching just seven passes for 82 yards.
Sainristil will nevertheless be one of the most experienced receivers on the team in 2021, and will be expected to serve as a leader — alongside junior Ronnie Bell and fellow sophomore Cornelius Johnson — to the rest of the receiving unit.
“I’m in a position now where I can be a leader on this team and to the guys in the wide receiver room,” Sainristil told the media this morning. “I looked up to guys like Donovan [Peoples-Jones], Tarik [Black], Nico [Collins] and Ronnie the last few years … Ronnie has always been an upperclassman to me.
“Being around older guys has put me in a position to be in the shoes they were once in and help the younger guys, and help things progress here.”
There are a plethora of young pass catchers expected to see the field in 2021, most notably in the forms of freshmen A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson, who each saw the field sparingly last season (a combined 15 catches between the two of them).
The Maize and Blue also saw two incoming freshmen enroll early this winter, in Andrel Anthony and Cristian Dixon. They each have good size at 6-2, and have been disaplying the speed they both possess during spring practices as well.
“Coming straight from high school is a huge turnaround, which I can speak to myself when I was a midyear [in 2019],” Sainristil said. “Coming in the spring is huge for those guys in terms of how it’ll feel once summer camp starts, because they’ll be ahead of the other freshmen who will still have to learn the offense.
“They’ll already be a step ahead of them and will head into camp with an advantage. Andrel and Cristian add more to the receiver room, which will help us out a lot in the fall. Andrel is very fast and one of the fastest guys in the room.
“They both work on technique daily, and what impresses me is the way they enjoy learning and take to coaching. They just keep working hard.”
The enthusiastic newcomers this offseason — including the players themselves and the coaches Jim Harbaugh brought in — have seemingly brought in a boost in overall energy level of the program with them.
An increase in enthusiasm and energy has been one of the main sentiments the players have talked about whenever they’ve discussed spring practices over the past month, and Sainristil continued that pattern today.
“You can feel the positive energy and good vibes when you walk into the building,” the sophomore exclaimed. “Practice is very fun. Our coaches have done a great job of making practice fun — we have music going pre-practice and then it’s just juice all throughout practice.
“Guys are flying around and yelling with smiles on their faces. To the younger culture, music just gets us going. There’s another period during practice where we play music as well, and it brings us to our comfort zone and keeps us energized the whole time.”
• Fellow sophomore wideout Giles Jackson was expected to be one of the primary contributors at wide receiver next season after hauling in a combined 24 receptions over the past two years, but announced his transfer in March.
“When we found out he was leaving, it was a little bit of a shocker, but you can’t hang onto that forever,” Sainristil explained. “I wish him the best of luck because he’s one of my good friends — I’ll still continue to talk to him.”
• Seemingly every player who has spoken to the media this spring has been asked to critique the quarterback battle, one that currently includes redshirt freshman Cade McNamara and freshman J.J. McCarthy, and will soon add redshirt sophomore Alan Bowman into the mix.
“I love both of them [McNamara and McCarthy] individually and as players and teammates,” Sainristil said. “They’ve both been great and are helping this team go in the right direction.”
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