After a promising freshman season, Mitch McGary sat out nearly the entire 2013-14 schedule due to a back injury—and if it weren’t for a dirty drug test, the 6’10” big man would be eligible for 2014-15.
OK, so there’s that. Michigan will certainly miss his presence in the middle. But there’s always Glenn Robinson III, right? No. After a wildly inconsistent sophomore year, the forward is skipping his final two seasons in Ann Arbor to test the waters of the 2014 NBA Draft.
Jordan Morgan graduated, so he’s finished. But what about Jon Horford? He also graduated but has a year of PT remaining. Nope. He’s transferring to the Land of Al, also known as Florida.
So, it goes without saying: On paper, the Wolverines look like they could be light up front in 2014-15.
However, this past season, coach John Beilein didn’t really need to rely upon his frontcourt. His men learned to adapt to the roster changes and inconsistencies while leading a charge to the Elite Eight—that’s what happens when a team is stacked with talents such Nik Stauskas, a sharp-shooting projected 2014 lottery pick; Derrick Walton, an up-and-coming sophomore point guard; Caris LeVert, an effective junior winger who has “Big Ten star” written all over him; and Zak Irvin, a sophomore guard who can do a little of everything.
It’s now on the bigs to do their jobs. And as it would seem, the only way is up for Beilein’s developing frontcourt—one which could rattle doubters by carrying its share of the burden during this upcoming season.
Mark Donnal’s Ready
In most cases, a redshirt year does wonders for a player’s confidence and development. If such ends up being true for Mark Donnal, Michigan fans could be in for a pleasant surprise. At roughly 6’9” and 240 pounds, the former 4-star prospect, per 247Sports, is an ideal dump-off option, meaning that guards can simply dump the ball down low to him and watch points appear on the board.
Incredibly athletic, he has a skill set that fits in well with Beilein’s mode of operation. That's why he was recruited. The Wolverines like to run the court, and Donnal can do that. A year ago, Michigan didn’t have much, if any, burst from its forwards. Now a redshirt freshman, the Ohioan has time and a bit of experience on his side.
In a perfect world, he could average 15 or 16 points and roughly eight rebounds per night. That would be phenomenal production, much better than any forward/center put forth in 2013-14. Due to personnel switches, he should get his chance to do just that.
D.J. Wilson’s future is bright—and Beilein scored huge when Wilson committed in October, 2013.
At 6’8” and 200 pounds, he’s a bit slight of frame; but he has the skill set to make up for his lack of bulk. Forget a “freshman 15” weight gain. He needs about 25 pounds before he’s able to bang with Big Ten tanks.
Until then, he can facilitate in other ways. Wilson’s ability around, under and above the rim—not to mention on the glass—makes him an interesting specimen. Sure, he’s a bit raw, but the former Sacramento Capital Christian standout carries a 4-star ranking (No. 31 SF) from 247Sports, and that’s enough to expect him to play at a high level as a true frosh.
Now, Kameron Chatman is technically a small forward/winger, but there's a definite possibility that he'll be asked to take on a broader role. Long story short, this guy's going to rub elbows and get dirty. He's too good not to see the floor this season. Just. Too. Good.
At nearly 6'7" and 200 pounds, the Portland Columbia Christian phenom would be an excellent force within small-fronted sets. Again, we're talking about a superb athlete who can shoot and clean up messes, run, pass and defend—and that's an excellent combination for a forward to possess.
He'll need to hit the gym and gain mass, but with lofty ranking, courtesy of 247Sports, the 4-star recruit enters his collegiate career surrounded by hype.
To The Max, Ricky
Max Bielfeldt isn't a household name. And in all likelihood, that probably won't change any time soon. He's a role player, which is fine. Every team needs one. The 6'7," 245-pounder will be a junior, and yes, he should benefit from watching others from the bench.
A 3-star rated recruit, Ricky Doyle could be cloaked in red. Then again, Beilein needs help in the paint, so maybe that theory will get thrown out the window come winter. The 6'9," 235-pounder isn't as agile as Donnal, Wilson or Chatman, but it would be difficult not to project his success at Michigan, given Beilein's record of developing underclassmen.
Again, just about anything would be better than 2013-14's sparse contributions from big men. Bielfeldt and/or Doyle could step in, clock a handful of minutes and evolve into a solid reliever for Donnal, Wilson and Chatman, the obvious horses on the mound...err, in the frontcourt (It's baseball season. I had to do it.)
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.