He's in his second season of being capable of handling the workload that comes with a defensive lineman. So far, through two games of the 2014 season, Willie Henry has definitely caught the attention of his football team.
During Michigan's 31-0 loss to rival Notre Dame on Saturday, the lone bright spot on a defense that was torched by Everett Golson was the ability to stop the run. Notre Dame could only muster 54-yards of rushing on the day against a talented rushing attack.
Michigan's front seven, along with senior linebacker Jake Ryan, could be attributed to the success against the run. However, the redshirt sophomore Henry -- who was the subject of praise during Michigan's weekly Monday press conferences -- was named by Michigan coach Brady Hoke as "having the most production" out of all the lineman during Saturday's contest.
Regardless, Henry has come a long way.
"It's a maturation process with Willie," said Hoke. "He played some a year ago. In fact, didn't play at all in this game a year ago. So he kind of had earn his way back on and by the end of the year he was playing more. But I think it's more of his maturity.
"Willie might be the strongest guy on our football team overall. But he still needs to separate himself more from where we're at."
Senior defensive end Frank Clark has seen Henry's maturation process first hand from when he was just a high school player trying to find his way. Both attending Glenville High School, Clark has known Henry for seven years and speaks highly of what Henry can bring to the team.
"Willie is just being the player we need him to be," Clark said. "On the defensive line, especially in the interior, we need those tough and big guys in there to clog that run. Him going with the rest of guys on the inside is a big reason why we've had success against the run.
"Willie has come a long a way and he's poised to have a good career here at Michigan."
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has seen many players come and go during his time in the professional and collegiate ranks. Although Henry hasn't had the comparable stats, Mattison praises Henry's growth and believe Henry is a product of the past.
"Willie Henry is like a lot of Michigan football players we've all been fortunate enough to watch over the years," Mattison said. "Growing pains, young early and I think that's the difference between here and other schools. He's had coaches care about him as a person. Now all of a sudden Willie Henry is playing extremely hard on every play.
"You'll see Willie Henry run to the football in times of the game where he wouldn't have before. He's just growing as a player, that's Michigan. That's what we really work with... I'm really proud of Willie Henry."