Since he got to Michigan in January as an early enrollee, freshman wide receiver Mike Sainristil had been talked about as someone who should shine in Josh Gattis' offensive system that preached putting speedy guys in space. Instead, the offense sputtered out of the gates and it took Sainristil until the Iowa game to even make a catch. That remained his only catch in 2019 until this past weekend's game against the Irish where he caught three balls for 73 yards and a score. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh lit up when asked about Sainristil's night and believes he'll continue to be more involved moving forward.
"Mikey," Harbaugh said with a smile. "He's a wonderful youngster. It's great to see him make the big plays. It started with the third down conversion, which was great to see. It was tough to catch the ball when it was really raining in the first half. He made a big impact with his catches and I thought he also blocked well. He made the most of his opportunities, no question."
Sainristil himself was obviously very excited to score his first touchdown especially in a game like the one played on Saturday.
"It felt great scoring for the first time," Sainristil said. "I wouldn't say I overcame a lot in these months that I've been here but it was a big relief. I just wanted to get into the end zone for the first time. It surprised me that my first touchdown was against Notre Dame; a big rival for us."
Moving forward Sainristil may get more of a run if sophomore receiver Ronnie Bell is forced to miss some time with a leg injury. He went out of the Notre Dame game after landing awkwardly on his right leg and did not return. When Harbaugh was asked about Bell, he said there was no update. To this point, Bell is leading the Wolverines in catches with 26 and yards with 452. If he sits out, the door could be open for Sainristil to step up and everything about him indicates that he'd be ready for the challenge.
"He's grown so much," Harbaugh said. "He struggled for a bit catching the ball, more so in practice, but it didn't discourage him. He just kept working and stayed after it with a great, positive attitude.
"We got a chance to see what he can do with the ball in his hands. He can make people miss and make big plays. It's a wonderful thing for his confidence and his growth."
Sainristil obviously hasn't been super productive but that's not all that uncommon. Some of Michigan's best ever wide receivers have had modest freshmen seasons only to go on to put up insane numbers. Below are freshmen totals for the who's who of U-M pass catchers, which goes to show it's not how you start, but how you finish.
With four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, Sainristil could end up with numbers that don't look out of place on the table above, especially if he plays more in Bell's absence. We don't know yet if Bell will miss any time but if he does, keep an eye out for Mikey.
What numbers will Sainristil finish with? How excited are you for his future? Comment below!!!