Lanear Sampson brings his identity to SDSU’s WR room

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SDSU WRs coach Lanear Sampson at Spring Practice (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

Following a practice during spring camp, one of the newest Aztecs, transfer Nate Bennett, quoted his wide receivers’ coach that the room takes the identity of the coach. 

The coach is Lanear Sampson, former 3-star wide receiver recruit from North Mesquite High School in Texas, an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention at Baylor, and a two-year NFL player. 

So, what exactly is the identity of an accomplished wide receiver? 

On the surface, star wide receivers are known for their flashy celebrations, diva attitudes, and selfish behaviors who pout when they don’t get the ball thrown their way. 

That’s not Sampson’s personality or how he played. 

SDSU WRs coach Lanear Sampson while playing at Baylor. (Credit: Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports)

I try to instill the belief in them that we’re going to go ahead and catch a lot of balls, but we’re also going to run the ball where we’re going to be physical on the perimeter blocking,” explained Sampson on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Podcast. “Just kind of instilling that in them like, hey, we’re not just out here just going to catch balls all day. We’re going to get our hands dirty a little bit. It’s okay to get our hands dirty, get our hands in the mud, and do some dirty work. That’s what I want to instill in my players. We’re going to be tough. We’re going to be physical. We’re not going to have that passive mindset. We’re going to be aggressive in any and everything that we do.” 

Sampson finished his prolific Baylor career fifth on the school’s all-time receptions list (165) and tenth in receiving yards (1,905). He caught a pass in 43 straight games and ran a 4.34 40-yard dash. 

After two years on three different NFL practice squads and one year in the Canadian Football League, Sampson hung up the cleats and traded them in for a clipboard.

His WRs coach at Baylor, Dino Babers, the head coach at Syracuse at the time, hired Sampson as a graduate assistant in 2016. Little did Sampson know that the Morse High School legend’s decision to bring him on the staff would eventually lead him to San Diego State. 

On the Syracuse staff in 2016 was none other than Sean Lewis. The co-offensive coordinator and QBs coach for the Orange credits Babers for the biggest influence in his coaching and offensive philosophies. 

Lewis and Sampson developed a relationship that came calling when the opportunity opened on The Mesa. For Sampson, it was hard to turn down. 

“Knowing who (Lewis) is not only as a ball coach, we all know he’s a big-time ball coach, and he’s a great offensive mind, but more importantly, just the type of person he is,” said Sampson before noting he accepted the offer to become Lewis’ pass game coordinator and WRs coach without even setting foot in San Diego to scope out the campus and facilities. 

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“I didn’t come on an official visit. I came sight unseen just based on who coach Lewis was as a person. I know he’s a great ball coach, but he’s even a better person. So being able to be back around him again and being in this space with him again has been great and an experience that I wanted to experience once again.” 

Credit: Syracuse Athletics

Following his two years at Syracuse, Sampson graduated with a master’s degree and was elevated to WRs coach for a season each at Missouri State and McNeese State before taking analyst roles at Central Florida and back in Syracuse (again under Babers). 

For the past two seasons, Sampson’s coaching responsibilities grew at FCS Austin Peay, first as a pass game coordinator and WRs coach in 2022 and then as the co-offensive coordinator and WRs coach in 2023. 

The Governors’ pass offense flourished upon Sampson joining head coach and Air Raid Offense specialist Scotty Walden’s staff. In 2022, WR Drae McCray became only the fourth receiver in school history to haul in 1,000 yards in a season (1,021). In 2023, the offense ranked fourth in passing efficiency (162.17), ninth in scoring offense (34.1 ppg), 13th in passing offense (274.1 ypg), and 15th in total offense (426.8 ypg) with Sampson calling the plays. WRs Trey Goodman and Tre Shackelford earned first and second-team selections, respectively, in the ASUN Conference.

There are lots of similarities between the offenses run under Walden and Lewis, including running a no-huddle spread tempo and wide splits. 

Lanear Sampson making a move after the catch while at Baylor against Texas. (Credit:

In Lewis’ offense, Sampson expects them to play to their athletes’ strengths. For the wide receivers, that means if the player can take the top off the defense, that is how they will be used. If a player is best utilized in quick throws to make defenders miss in space, so be it. 

We do a good job of turning our guys’ strengths to big-time strengths,” he exclaimed.

As a brand new coaching staff on the offensive side, Sampson understands mistakes will be made as their first season together begins. The expectation is that they will improve every game and become a well-oiled machine by year’s end. 

“If we have five (missed assignments) in game one, the next game, we should have four less,” he said. “Just a progression of the guys each and every game, taking in the offense and being able to apply what we learn in the meeting room and things we do individually and apply that to the game day.”

The ultimate sign of improvement for his room will be whether the players take on Sampson’s “blue-collar nasty” identity and are not afraid to get their hands dirty. If a receiver runs out of bounds instead of attempting to get additional yards in the field, that would not pass the test.

“I want guys that can run, I want guys that can catch … but I want guys that have some heart and play with a chip on their shoulder like they have something to prove,” Sampson added. 

The first answer of whether the room took the identity of their coach comes August 31 at Snapdragon Stadium against Texas A&M-Commerce. 

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