The countdown to Michigan's season opener against Alabama is reaching a boiling point, but competition has already commenced for current high school standouts that will wear the winged helmet at the next level.
Matthews (N.C) Butler cornerback Channing Stribling was the first member of the Wolverines' highly-lauded 2013 class to take the field this fall, and his opening challenge was immense. Lined up against Rivals100 receiver Marquez North and a talented Charlotte Mallard Creek squad, Stribling and his Bulldog brethren cemented their reputation as a force on the North Carolina prep scene with a dominating 27-6 victory.
The 6-2, 170-pounder helped hold North - the top recruit in the state and No. 3 receiver in the nation - without a catch in a game that saw Butler jump out to a 24-0 halftime lead. Individually, he recorded three tackles and an interception, and caught two passes for 46 yards (23.0 yards per reception).
"It gave me a lot of confidence," Stribling said of his performance. "I manned North up a lot. Sometimes the safety came over the top to help, but a lot of the time it was just him and me on an island.
"I was mainly not letting him get deep on us. I knew he was fast, but I still didn't give him that much cushion - I just treated him like any normal receiver."
Stribling's performance was affected by preparation in the film room during the weeks leading up to Butler's opening contest. Although it is the result between the hash marks that matters at the end of the day, Stribling couldn't have done it without the off-field work.
"We watched a lot of film on them," he said. "Coming into the game, we knew they were going to run a lot of go routes and post routes. We basically knew what they were going to run and it helped a lot.
"We always look for tendencies, whether they are going to try to complete passes inside or outside of the hashes. We always try to find out and prepare for what the other team loves to run."
Stribling is not just a high school athlete this fall, but also a potential sleeper in the 2013 class. Saturdays in front of the television will take on a whole new meaning for the two-star prospect as he prepares for the game at the collegiate level.
"Now that I can watch Notre Dame and Ohio State and know that I am going to be playing against them for the next couple of years, it is going to change how I watch them," he said.
"Watching a big school like Michigan play on Saturdays and knowing that I am going to be there next year is going to feel really different, but really good. I am already excited just thinking about it."
Still, Stribling insists that the excitement that lies ahead of him in Ann Arbor will not detract from his ultimate goal of attaining a state championship ring in his final high school campaign.
"Instead of just being happy with this win, we have to realize that if we can dominate Mallard Creek, we can dominate every team on our schedule," he said. "We're going for a state title and we have to focus on the team in front of us each and every week."