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Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Lose Two to Transfer Portal

Grant Halverson- Getty Images/UNC Athletics

We thought with the bye week behind us, the entries into the transfer portal might be done for the season. That is not the case, however, as following the loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, two players who have played significant reps this season entered the portal.

Earlier this afternoon, it was announced by both Inside Carolina and Tar Heel Illustrated that junior wide receiver Emery Simmons and sophomore defensive lineman Kristian Varner were entering their names after losing reps as the season went along. Both guys later confirmed their decision via social media.

Simmons was the player that had seen the most extensive playing time of the two during his career, playing in 22 games in his career, including eighteen in the last two seasons. He saw his first action of his career back in 2019, catching four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. He held down an expansive role for the team in 2020, playing in 11 of the 12 games and starting eight on the way to 201 yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions. So far this season, Simmons had played in the first seven games of the season prior to this weekend, catching 11 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown on 324 snaps. He finishes his Tar Heel career with 30 receptions for 516 yards and three touchdowns.

Varner didn’t play nearly as big of a role as Simmons did, but he still had his most expansive role of his career this season. Prior to this season, Varner had played in just four games in the first two seasons of his career, but this season he saw action in five of the eight games. In those five games, he played 41 snaps and recorded two total tackles. He finishes his Tar Heel career with three total tackles and 1.0 tackle for a loss in nine career games.

Losing Simmons means that the Tar Heels have now lost two wide receivers that started games for them this season. Both guys, however, suffered a similar fate, losing snaps before eventually not playing in the final game right before they entered the portal. The good news is, this unit is still in pretty solid shape on the outside where both guys played. Antoine Green showed some positive signs on Saturday night with the biggest game of his season outside of the home opener against Georgia State and Justin Olson also has begun to settle into his role as a starter in the past few weeks. This also means that there are more reps to be had for some of the younger guys in the group, including J.J. Jones, who caught the first pass of his career on Saturday night.

Varner is the second interior defensive lineman to enter the portal in the last eight days, but just like when Clyde Pinder Jr. announced his intentions to transfer last Monday, this unit remains in good shape.

There is still plenty of depth that remains at the position with Myles Murphy and Raymond Vohasek handling the starter roles and guys like Kevin Hester Jr., Jahvaree Ritzie and Tomari Fox are still playing solid rotational roles. Jahlil Taylor, Kedrick Bingley-Jones and Keeshawn Silver also are part of the unit that can provide deeper depth. That doesn’t even take into account the fact Travis Shaw’s arrival will add another extremely talented and highly-thought of piece to this defensive line that will be looking to earn early reps.

These transfers seem to be spooking some within the fanbase, but once again, neither of these moves are all that shocking. This, however, may not be the end of the in-season moves.


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