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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — While we haven’t seen the production outside of Ronnie Bell just yet, Michigan football is deep in the receiving corps. At least hypothetically.
Bell has not only been productive but he’s also been a leader — further evidenced when he was named team captain on Thursday. But what has he seen from the rest of the group? Who has he seen stand out in fall camp in terms of who’s made the biggest strides?
“I would say Mikey Sainristil for sure, then (Cornelius Johnson), and then the young bucks as well — Andrel and Cristian Dixon,” Bell said. “Especially Andrel and (Dixon) when they first got here, because they got here early, in the spring and whatnot. And in the spring it was kinda rough. Just watching them throughout this fall, they’ve become so much better — detailed receivers.
“And then Mikey has taken a huge leap as well. He’s been fun to play with, fun to watch. He’s all over the place. C.J. as well. Everyone’s been talking about C.J. C.J.’s game is also taking great steps.”
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Fans have been waiting to see Sainristil break out since he emerged onto the scene as an early-enrollee, drawing rave reviews from his teammates and the staff in spring 2019. However, he hit a freshman wall and hasn’t been nearly as electric as advertised back when he first hit the media airwaves as a breakout candidate.
What has Bell seen from him this fall camp that indicates that he’s ready to step into a larger role in his third year?
“He’s always open!” Bell said. “Mikey is detailed. He’s so detailed. He’s quick in all of them little spaces over the middle. He blocks — he’s got pride when he blocks. He freaking blocks, man — he gets you open. He knows what’s going on. He’s made plays.”
Blocking is of particular importance to Bell, especially as a player who came to Ann Arbor unheralded, yet out-performed current NFL receivers like Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. In Bell’s eyes, you can tell how much a receiver wants to be great by how insistent they are to block the man across from them when their number isn’t being called.
He says that’s how he can tell that a receiver has pride in their craft.
“You can see the pride in receivers — my favorite way of knowing if a receiver is prideful or not is a run play,” Bell said. “Is your man gonna go back and tackle a guy? That’s my favorite. That’s my way of making sure we have pride.”
With an increasingly deep room that also includes second-year players Roman Wilson and A.J. Henning, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the next Ronnie Bell in terms of outperforming their expected capability this upcoming season.