Channing Stribling was as surprised as anyone on Monday when Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown fired off his first tweet since October 2015. It was a picture of Stribling with a graphic reading “Michigan football Dude of the Day.”
Stribling was initially unsure whether it was the work of an online photo editor or his coaches, but when he realized Brown had sent the tweet, it started to make sense. The senior cornerback had three interceptions in practice last Friday, a performance Brown apparently deemed worthy of receiving the first award.
“I saw it on Twitter and I was like, ‘What is this?’ ” Stribling said Thursday. “I didn’t know nothing about the Dude of the Day.”
In fact, the coaches hadn’t even communicated anything about the honor to the players. At first, Stribling thought the award might be given once a week, but then Ben Gedeon earned the honor after Tuesday’s practice, a sign that there could be many Dudes to come.
Brown has also tweeted about players who are Guys, but not yet Dudes. Stribling attempted to break down the difference on Thursday.
“Dude is cool, that’s a cool guy,” Stribling said. “I guess coach Brown was a cool guy back in the day. A Guy is regular, a Dude is like, you’re cool.”
With his title standing currently as a Dude, the senior cornerback was understandably excited to be recognized. But his Dude-dom didn’t come out of nowhere.
Ahead of his fourth season as a Wolverine, the cornerback has spent the offseason striving to improve his consistency and is battling for a starting spot opposite All-American senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis.
“I know that’s been my problem for the last three years,” Stribling said. “I mean, people say it, but I mean, I guess it’s true. So consistency is the main thing I’ve gotta try to step up on.”
In three seasons at Michigan, Stribling has appeared in 34 games, starting four times at cornerback. He intercepted two passes last year while battling a hamstring injury for part of the season and splitting time with Jeremy Clark.
Now, going into the 2016 campaign, he appears poised to compete for a full-time job as a starter. But in battling for that spot, he’ll have to beat out Clark, a fifth-year senior and Stribling’s friend.
“That’s my boy,” Stribling said of Clark. “We try to push each other every day. (Former defensive coordinator D.J.) Durkin always told us, in order to play in the league, you’ve gotta be able to take a grown man’s job. So we tell each other that every day, like, ‘You’ve gotta take my job,’ or, ‘I’ve gotta take yours.’ That’s only going to make us better.”
As a senior, though, Stribling knows that his on-field production is now more important than ever. In his final season at Michigan, and his last year to try to impress NFL scouts, he’ll need to earn, and then maximize, his playing time.
And in talking to Lewis, who could have declared for the NFL Draft after last season but instead elected to return for his senior year, Stribling said the All-American had simple advice for him.
“Just play your game,” Stribling said Lewis has told him. “You’ve been doing this for four years. I know you’ve had some bad plays or whatever, but we know you. Everybody else doesn’t see you as Strib, but we see you as Strib.”
If he wins the job opposite Lewis, perhaps everybody else will get to see the “Strib” Lewis referenced this fall. But until then, Dude will have to do.