Sometimes you can speak things into existence, even unintentionally — even if it’s a joke.
For senior Mike Sainristil, jests about a position switch became reality.
“Since I’ve been here, I was always joking around with the defensive coaches, saying ‘Whenever you guys need me to play defense, let me know I’ll come and play,’ ” Sainristil said Tuesday. “Last year, I was joking around with coach Clinkscale, coach Mike Macdonald, and said ‘Put me on defense.’ Even Ohio State week I was saying ‘Put me on defense.’ ”
While the then-wide receiver wasn’t needed on defense for The Game, Sainristil’s time soon came. When the offseason came around — and the defensive backs room was noticeably inexperienced and down three starters — the transition began.
Through spring camp and into the summer, Sainristil transformed from an offensive speedster to a potential option in the secondary.
“Earlier in camp I was splitting kind of equal reps,” Sainristil said. “But as the weeks have gone on, I’ve been focusing mainly on defense, simply because I want to make sure I understand the defense to a T.”
While receiving help from the entire defensive backs room, along with his coaches, Sainristil has started to gain his footing, feeling “comfortable” in practice. But — as he puts it — there’s no way to know how he’ll fare until he has actual games under his belt.
“And even then, games are gonna go along and I’m gonna be put in different situations I’ve never been in simply because I’m on a new side of the ball,” he said. “So will I ever be 100% comfortable this year? Who’s to say, but you know, I’m gonna play to my best ability at all times.”
While Sainristil remains humble, setting expectations low, it’s not his first time on defense. In high school, he played on both sides of the ball, and was recruited for both offense and defense.
He was truly a two-way player.
“I was originally committed to Virginia Tech; I was gonna play both ways there,” Sainristil said. “Coach Brown recruited me to play defense here. When I got here, I said I’d rather play offense.
“Pretty much everywhere I was kind of recruited was either offense or defense. I’m pretty sure that decision would end up being in my hands anyway.”
And now, he’s called on to do both — all in addition to his prowess on special teams.
For Sainristil, the extra duties are welcome. He maintained that he’s willing to do anything to help the team. If that includes playing each facet of the game, he’s ready to do it.
So when Sainristil joked about playing defense, against Ohio State or otherwise, there was a kernel of truth in his offer. If he could help the team, he would’ve jumped at the chance.
Now, it’s no joking matter. It’s his job.
“Did I know it was actually going to happen? No, but you know, I’m glad it did,” Sainristil said. “I like where I’m at playing defense right now.”