Editor's Note: This is the second story in a series on Indiana football, based on an exclusive interview with Tom Allen this week. Part 2 focuses on the success Indiana has had so far in retooling its roster through the transfer portal.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Emery Simmons originally committed to Indiana in 2018, but when an offer from North Carolina coach Mack Brown came in, the opportunity to stay close to his hometown in Parkton, N.C. was enough for Simmons to flip his commitment to the Tar Heels.
“Being that young, you get homesick and you have a lot of stuff going on in your mind,” Simmons said. “With what was going on at North Carolina at the time with Coach Brown, I felt like that was the best move for me."
In three seasons as a Tar Heel, Simmons started 14 games and appeared in 30. His first career 100-yard game came last season when Simmons posted 110 yards on three catches at Georgia Tech. But as his career in Chapel Hill progressed, Simmons felt his playing time decrease, so he entered the transfer portal.
With two years of eligibility remaining, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound Simmons said he wants to make the best of his time. And with his prior relationship with Indiana coach Tom Allen, Bloomington was the place to do so. The Simmons family has a strong sense of faith, which made for an immediate connection with Allen.
“I just felt like, 'Don't even waste any time, you already know the head man and you have a relationship with the place already, so why not?'” Simmons said. “I am loving every bit of it.”
In a new era of college athletics where players can transfer from school to school without sitting out a year, Simmons is an example of how Allen wants to use the transfer portal, reconnecting with players who Indiana once had a relationship with. Auburn running back transfer Shaun Shivers is a similar case. Allen recruited Shivers out of Chaminade-Madonna High School in Hollywood, Fla., and this prior familiarity made Shivers an immediate target for Allen.
Allen also sees the portal as an opportunity maintain balance throughout the roster. If one position group graduates a chunk of players, the transfer portal allows Allen to quickly relieve that deficit. While Allen hopes to supplement his roster with transfers, he doesn't want to change what his program is built upon.
"I don't ever want to get away from the core of who we are, which is developing high school guys," Allen said. "I want that to be our foundation. I'd love to be able to stay true to that."
The portal can help teams add impact players quickly, but Allen also recognizes the challenges it brings. Unlike high school recruiting where Allen can talk to a player for over a year, decisions in the transfer portal can be made in a matter of weeks.
This forces Allen – who values building relationships with players over a long period of time – to figure out if potential transfers fit Indiana's culture in a compressed amount of time. Allen recognizes the importance of adding talent, but he also knows how critical a locker room having great chemistry and connections can be.
"I'm a big relationships guy. I'm a big fit guy," Allen said. "You still have to have a great team that cares about each other and loves each other ... That can be built with the transfer portal, but you've got to make sure you're getting the right guys."
More players than ever entered the transfer portal this offseason, and this trend won't slow down any time soon. Players no longer have to sit out a year to transfer, which has allowed for more movement than ever. And Allen, who said he wants to maximize the opportunities the portal brings, is ready for the new era.
"That's just the new world we live in now," Allen said. "We've got to be able to adapt."
Related stories on Indiana football
- TOM ALLEN 1-on-1 (Part 1): Indiana football coach Tom Allen sat down with HoosiersNow.com for an extensive 30-minute interview. In the first part of our series from Allen's interview, we discuss the role to be played by the Class of 2022, the highest-rated recruiting class in Indiana football history. CLICK HERE
- ALABAMA DB TRANSFERS TO INDIANA: After spending one season at Alabama under Nick Saban as a preferred walk-on, defensive back Brylan Lanier announced on Friday that he will transfer to Indiana. CLICK HERE
- DEFENSIVE LINE TRANSFER FOCUS: Playing in one of the most physical conferences in college football, head coach Tom Allen said Indiana needed to get bigger in the interior. Indiana added JH Tevis from Cal and LeDarrius Cox and Patrick Lucas Jr. from Ole Miss through the transfer portal, who look to bring size and experience to the defensive line. CLICK HERE