Syracuse Basketball Position Preview: Forward breaks down the forward position in advance of Syracuse basketball's 2014-15 season.

Depth Chart

Projected Starters: Tyler Roberson, Chris McCullough
Key Reserves: Michael Gbinije, Chinonso Obokoh, B.J. Johnson

2013-14 Statistics

Roberson: 8.1 min, 2.2 pts, 0.3 ast, 1.9 reb, 0.2 stl, 0.2 blk, 29.8 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 68.2 FT%
McCullough: N/A
Gbinije: 14.6 min, 3.4 pts, 1.2 ast, 1.8 reb, 0.7 stl, 0.2 blk, 38.0 FG%, 34.9 3PT%, 64.6 FT%
Obokoh: N/A
Johnson: 5.5 min, 1.4 pts, 0.2 ast, 0.9 reb, 0.1 stl, 0.3 blk, 25.0 FG%, 12.5 3PT%, 0.0 FT%

What We Know

There is very little production returning from the Syracuse frontcourt of a year ago. Forwards C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant are both in the professional ranks. Together they averaged 29 points and 13 rebounds per game last season.

Enter sophomore Tyler Roberson, who played sparingly last year, and true freshman Chris McCullough. Roberson showed flashes last season, but really struggled from the field shooting less than 30%. What we know about him is that he has a smooth mid-range jumper and was an accomplished rebounder in high school.

Now that Roberson’s role is much more defined, some of the inconsistencies from last season should naturally evaporate. Think of him as a slightly more flashy C.J. Fair in terms of his offensive game but a more willing rebounder.

True freshman Chris McCullough said that head coach Jim Boeheim told him during the recruiting process that he was their most talented recruit since Carmelo Anthony. High praise given what Anthony did in his one season on the hill.

McCullough has impressed coaches during practice and will have to live up to those expectations. It would not be surprising if he started the season slow and become a bigger weapon as the season develops. McCullough is a skilled forward who can put the ball on the floor, work out of the post or face the basket. His athleticism is off the charts and he runs the floor very well.

His length will allow him to be successful on the defensive end and on the glass if he can learn the rotations along the backline of the zone.

Off the bench, Michael Gbinije and B.J. Johnson will backup Roberson. Gbinije will likely be the first option. He is not as big as Roberson nor does he have the ability to bang down low with some of the more physical forwards in the country, but he is serviceable down there.

Gbinije can also create a mismatch offensively with his ability to handle, shoot and penetrate.

Johnson saw very limited action last season, but that is mainly because of his defense. Offensively, he has a smooth outside shot and is extremely athletic. Defensively, he was not ready to contribute in the zone despite his long frame. His ability to stay on the floor will largely be related to his ability to gain the defensive trust of the coaching staff.

Chinonso Obokoh is a center by trade, but could be forced into action at power forward due to a lack of depth. In high school, Obokoh was raw offensively but skilled a shot blocker. After redshirting last season, Obokoh is a key reserve for the Orange. He will be expected to provide some energy and a defensive presence during his stints in the lineup.

Biggest Questions

Who will become the scoring threat on the wings? Yes McCullough’s athleticism and skill set are elite, but he has never done it at the college level. There is always a transition period for freshmen, and McCullough will undoubtedly have some ups and downs. Can become a consistent scorer for the Orange?

Or will Tyler Roberson step up as he replaces C.J. Fair in the starting lineup? Last season, Roberson looked tentative on both ends of the floor. With a more defined role, that should help, but his exhibition performances still left big questions surrounding the sophomore forward.

Then there is the question regarding depth. Yes Gbinije will be a key reserve and will play the three at times, but who will backup McCullough at the four? Will Syracuse be forced to go small with Roberson and Gbinije on the wings if McCullough gets in foul trouble? That is a huge question mark entering the season.

Season Outlook

Syracuse is replacing both starting forwards from a year ago, but have a lot of talent ready to step up. The key will be Chris McCullough and how quickly he can adapt to the increased speed and physicality of the college game. If that learning curve is minimized, the Orange should get plenty of production up front.

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