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June 21, 2012Prior to Michigan's summer camp, Matthews (N.C.) Butler athlete Channing Stribling was a relative unknown. After Wednesday's session, he added a Michigan offer to a tender from Ball State and a trio of FCS schools. Before going to bed last night, he made up his mind, and chose to commit to Brady Hoke today.
"I was going to give it a week, but then I talked to my parents," Stribling said. "I thought my mom was going to be all sad [about commiting to a school away from home]. We just prayed over it, and my dad and I prayed over it, and I'll probably make a decision tomorrow.
"It's our last day. I'm going to get a meeting with Coach Hoke, and go in there and let him know. I'm going to let him know that my decision is to be a Michigan Wolverine."
Butler is a consistent producer of Division I talent. In the 2013 class alone, wide receiver Uriah Lemay (Georgia commit) and linebacker Peter Kalambayi are four-star prospects, and three-star quarterback Riley Ferguson is committed to Tennessee. So how does a 6-2, 170-pound cornerback who earned All-Conference honors as a junior slip through the cracks to this point?
There are a couple reasons, first of which could be position. Though Stribling plays both ways in high school, most colleges saw his frame as a good fit for the wide receiver position, where he caught 35 passes for 635 yards (18.1 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns as a sophomore. He was also a successful defensive back last year, intercepting six passes and breaking up 14 passes, while adding 35 total tackles. Michigan's coaching staff worked him at corner, and liked his sleeper potential.
"Other schools might just look at the ratings like on Rivals and just see the top players or whatever," Stribling explained. "Michigan looks for players that they think will actually fit in their program. No matter what your ratings are, if they want you, they want you.
"I moved [to Butler] from Alabama, so I've only been here about two and a half years. All the people from my school, I've always been behind them, they've always been the ones the people go after. Finally, schools realized that there's another player behind those, and then this is the only school that really noticed me and made a play on me. Other schools were like 'we'll look into you,' and Michigan was like 'we see the potential in you right now,' so I really liked that."
The feelings were mutual. Michigan's coaches have long been seeking a tall corner to close out their recruiting class in the defensive backfield, and Stribling's performance at the Wolverine Technique School showed that they didn't have to wait on the likes of a highly rated prospect when they had a sleeper in their midst.
"The defensive coach was just telling me that I was a special player to him," Stribling said. "He liked the way I worked hard. I came in unknown, and he liked the way I came in with a chip on my shoulder: 'They're not out here looking for me, so I'm going to go ahead and get my name out there.' He liked the way I worked hard and he said I'm a special player."
So for those who haven't seen Stribling play - a pretty large category at this point for the unranked player - what type of defensive back is he on the field? He says his time spent as a wide receiver has played a huge role in his development.
"I also played receiver, and I actually play [on defense] as if I was the receiver," he said. "When I cover them, I see if they're running. If they go past the normal yards where they'd cut, I will take a drop and I will turn and run. If coach had given me a route, I think about how I would run it. If the receiver's head moves, that's the same thing I would do. I see the receiver doing the route, and that's how I would do it, so I get into it like that."
With a very slim 170 pounds currently on his 6-2 frame, it should come as no surprise that Stribling's biggest area of improvement is in the physical aspects of the game.
"I play physical, but it's more that I know the mental parts of it," he explained. "I think mainly just my tackling and probably the deep ball, like going deep for it. I like playing receiver so I just try to turn around and catch it, but I had coaches tell me that I had to wait until I get to them, and lean into them and wait for the ball. That's what I'd like to focus on, that and tackling."
Stribling's commitment gives Michigan 22 prospects in the 2013 class, and the Wolverines' group is currently ranked first in the country by Rivals.com. There are an estimated two openings remaining, with the coaching staff likely to pursue another wide receiver and a defensive lineman to close out the class.