Rivals.com - Fact or Fiction: No program will beat LSU for Shelton Sampson
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Fact or Fiction: No program will beat LSU for Shelton Sampson

Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney and national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright along with Julie Boudwin of TigerDetails.com and Andrew Bone of BamaInsider.com tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.

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1. No program can beat LSU for four-star WR Shelton Sampson.

Shelton Sampson
Shelton Sampson (Rivals.com)

Gorney’s take: FACT. It has been an incredible July run for LSU and while Shelton Sampson might not pick the Tigers this month, my prediction is he will pick the Tigers. Alabama has come into the state of Louisiana to get receivers recently, he has his former coach at Florida State and Texas A&M is pushing, but LSU’s new staff has made Sampson a major priority, he lives literally down the road from campus and this one makes too much sense. Others will try but I’d be very surprised if Sampson doesn’t end up in this LSU class.

Boudwin’s take: FACT. Alabama, Florida State and Texas A&M will certainly try but it truly seems as though the writing may be on the wall for this one already. Shelton Sampson attends high school minutes from LSU’s campus, which he’s been to more times than he can likely count. The new staff and recruiters have built a solid relationship with him and his family. Sampson has friends currently on the LSU team, and the Tigers recently made a social media push with a trending hashtag of “SheltonStays” from recruits and current players. To pair Sampson with commitment Jalen Brown and the possibility of athlete Khai Prean would be an impressive group for the Tigers. At this point, I just can’t see the state’s best receiver leaving home when LSU has made him such a priority for a position of need next year.

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2. Alabama fans should feel confident in landing No. 1 safety Caleb Downs.

Caleb Downs
Caleb Downs (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Gorney’s take: FACT. Caleb Downs is a very tough read but it looks like this is coming down to Alabama and Georgia and right now I would give the Crimson Tide the edge. He is a friend of four-star running back Justice Haynes, who just committed to Alabama, and so that could help the Tide as well but over the last few weeks it looks like this has turned into an SEC powerhouse battle and the Crimson Tide have always been high on the list. I would not be stunned one bit if Downs chooses Georgia. But Alabama has the momentum heading into his decision and my bet is he ends up in Tuscaloosa.

Bone’s take: FACT. Downs has visited Alabama several times throughout his recruitment which includes a trip to Tuscaloosa in the spring of 2021 for the A-Day game. Recruits were not permitted to speak with coaches or visit the facilities that day as the dead period was still in effect from COVID-19. It was evident that Downs, who had still not finished his sophomore year at the time, had very high interest in the Crimson Tide. Alabama continued to heavily pursue Downs the next 15 months. Downs had a close relationship with Alabama cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson before he joined the Tide’s staff. T-Rob, Charles Kelly and Sam Petitio have led the recruiting charge. Alabama’s success at safety is a major selling point which includes the highest paid player at his position in the NFL, Minkah Fitzpatrick. This is a very tight battle down the home stretch, but Alabama appears in great position for the top-ranked safety.

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3. Zachariah Branch is better than the fourth-best WR in the class.

Zachariah Branch
Zachariah Branch

Gorney’s take: FICTION. I love Zachariah Branch. He’s phenomenal and exciting to watch and might be the best playmaker of the entire wide receiver group. But who does he jump to move higher than the No. 4 receiver in the class? Carnell Tate has game-changing ability, impressive size, he’s a great route runner and he can go up and over corners to make plays. Brandon Inniss is a pass-catching machine and can get open against anybody. And Hykeem Williams is that elite outside threat who runs like a gazelle and has length like no other elite receiver in the class. An argument could easily be made for Branch to be higher especially after his performance at Future 50 but I just don’t know who he jumps.

Wright’s take: FACT. This may be the toughest Fact or Fiction ever. The 2023 class across the country is loaded with amazing receivers and Branch is one of the best. Of the three ahead of him in the position rankings, Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss and Hykeem Williams, Branch might be the only true inside receiver of the bunch who can also play on the outside. Branch’s quickness, speed, and crisp route-running allows him the ability to line up anywhere on the field and produce results which helps separate him from his peer group. If an order had to be shared, Williams, Tate, Branch, and Inniss would be my one through four. If Branch was made the top-ranked receiver, I would not argue the point because he can do it all at an elite level.

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