The Wolverine

December 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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22 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2022 BY CHRIS BALAS W hen it comes to evaluating talent, few do it better than Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. He's been around the game so long and seen so much talent that he has a knack for figuring out who does what well … and where. So, when spring ball started, he came up with an idea he'd been toying with for some time. He approached second- ary coach Steve Clinkscale about moving wide receiver Mike Sainristil to corner- back — a position the senior had played well in high school — and got a great re- action. "It definitely always starts with the head coach," Clinkscale said in Septem- ber. "Nobody is going to make that move without the head coach. Sometimes we bring it up, sometimes he sees it … and with Mikey, he saw it. "He came to me about Mikey, and it was the best decision that we've made in the secondary." It wasn't the first time a Michigan receiver made the move to defensive back, but it's certainly been one of the most successful — up there, in fact, with Tripp Welborne in 1987-90. Welborne became an All-American at safety, and while Sainristil isn't there yet, he's already proven himself as one of the Wolverines' best defenders. Harbaugh admitted the move was even more successful than he envisioned. After three years playing receiver — and making some huge plays in big games — Sainristil is having every bit the impact on defense he had on offense after making the switch, even if he's not a finished product. "Mikey's really good … he's playing really well," Harbaugh said last month. "There's a ton of growth, he's starting — and then there are some learning experi- ences, too. It's been very 'arrow up' and he's acquitting himself really well — bet- ter than you could anticipate — and even better than we hoped for. "He gave up one [pass] in the [Iowa] game where he had outside leverage … those are good, valuable learning experi- ences. And the thing about Mike is that he will learn from it. That will be part of his game moving forward. He's never, ever been an error repeater." In that sense, Harbaugh added — and with the way he plays so instinctually — he's reminiscent of Dax Hill, one of last year's stars on defense now with the Cin- cinnati Bengals. Keep in mind, Hill was a first-round NFL Draft pick last year, too. So … high praise indeed for one of the pleasant sur- prises of the 2022 team, to date. WORK IN PROGRESS Flash back to four years ago, though, and some might not call this a stunner at all. When Sainristil first arrived on campus, in fact, then-cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich said the freshman — who was at that point making plays against his defense — could just as easily have played cornerback given how natural it seemed to him. At the time, though, receiver was the bigger need, and Sainristil was mak- ing plays. They loved watching his high school film on both sides of the ball, Zordich recalled then, given the passion with which he played. In that respect, nothing's changed, one of the reasons the senior is now a cap- tain on one of the nation's top defenses. He's always around the ball, and he al- ways knows where he's supposed to be. More impressively, he's an outstanding tackler for a guy who hadn't been doing it regularly for three years, and very good in coverage, too. It was evident even in September. The opponents weren't great, but that didn't matter to Clinkscale … he knows "good" when he sees it. "He's doing veteran things," Clinkscale SUPER SENIOR Mike Sainristil's Position Switch From Receiver To Cornerback Has Paid Huge Dividends

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