Jim Harbaugh asked Sainristil to switch to cornerback last spring, and it has proven to be a win-win move.
“The way things are going this year, I can also play defensively,” said Sainristil.
The second-seeded Wolverines (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) will likely field Sainristil at times against standout receiver Charlie Jones at times on Saturday night when they take on Purdue (8-4, 6-3) Indianapolis in the Conference Championship game.
“New week. New mindset. New opponent,” said Sainristil on Monday. “It’s time to hit the reset button. We’re currently where we want to be but we know Saturday is the start to get there to get where we want to go.
“We can’t make the playoffs, we can’t win the national championship without winning the Big Ten championship.”
Michigan clinched a win over rival Ohio State on the road for the first time since 2000 to reach the conference championship game for the second straight year due to a string of key games.
One of Sainristil’s passport separations might have been the most important play of the game a third behind the Michigan 9.
Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover had the football in his hands in the end zone until Sainristil used his approach speed and strength to break off the pass with his left hand. That forced Ryan Day to settle for a field goal, reducing Ohio State’s deficit to eight points midway through the fourth quarter.
Sainristil finished the 45-23 Horseshoe win with seven tackles – one just below his career high – and two pass separations Put a Michigan flag on the block “O” in midfield.
Harbaugh said the senior was one of many players on the team who made a personal sacrifice for the good of the team.
“Could easily have been a different guy, ‘I’m a great receiver. I’d rather target more targets than take on the challenge of changing positions,'” Harbaugh said. “Everything for the team. Changed Positions. elected captain. He was phenomenal and had a phenomenal game, his best game of the year.”
Sainristil has been one of Michigan’s most consistent players on defense this season. He has 48 tackles, including 4 1/2 for losses and two sacks, and has broken seven passes.
In his first three seasons, he had 36 receptions for 532 yards and five touchdowns, along with the occasional recurring kickoff and punt.
Sainristil can stay in college for one more season and take advantage of the NCAA, which grants an additional year of eligibility to any student-athlete who survived the COVID-hit 2020-21 school year, or bring his multifaceted talents to the NFL.
“When I look at myself as an NFL scout, I see someone who’s willing to do anything for the team, a team captain, a guy who can play offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “I hope that when it comes time for my name to be called, my film will speak for itself.
“As for next year, I’m not sure. I haven’t decided what to do. I’m just still focused on what is in the present moment and that helps Team 143 do the best it can be on Saturday and Purdue.”
Follow Larry Lage below https://twitter.com/LarryLage