Football Preview | Big shoes to fill for Penn's next kicker
Quakers will start rookie Connor Loftus after graduating Andrew Samson
September 16, 2011, 3:07 am · Updated September 16, 2011, 3:09 am·
Every few years, college coaches expect and attempt to replace legendary players at quarterback, running back and other glamor positions.They usually aren’t out on the recruiting trail hoping to find the next legendary kicker.
This season, coach Al Bagnoli has the unique task of replacing the most prolific kicker in Penn history, Andrew Samson. To list Samson’s achievements while at Penn is to write a novel, but included among the many are: top scorer in Ivy League history, Penn’s career leader in nine different categories including points and only one missed PAT in four years.
The Quakers won the last two Ivy League championships with a formula based on incredible defense, field position and impeccable kicking. If they are going to accomplish an unprecedented undefeated three-peat, the Red and Blue must find a successful way to replace Samson’s production.
Senior Dan Lipschutz and freshmen Connor Loftus and Michael Rasmussen are each candidates to start. According to Bagnoli, Lipshutz and Loftus have both made a strong case, but the nod goes to Loftus for week one against Lafayette.
“They’ve both kicked the ball really well, and I’m very confident in both,” Bagnoli said. “We’re going to start with [Loftus] simply because he has more eligibility, but we’re prepared to go to [Lipschutz] if we have to.”
“We’re gonna take opportunities that maybe last year with Andrew we might not have taken,” Bagnoli added, given Samson’s accuracy-over-power skillset. “Loftus and Lipschutz have a legitimate chance of kicking 50-yard field goals.”
Lipschutz, Loftus and Rasmussen all echoed that they’ve been extremely productive during the preseason.
“We’ve been kicking really strong,” Loftus said. “Most of the time, all of us go perfect [in practice]. We’ve all gotten much better through this process.”
Lipschutz, who has taken a back seat to Samson for his entire collegiate career, is getting his first shot as a senior.
“We’ve got a great group of specialists between the three of us,” Lipschutz said. “It’s been good to have some friendly competition around,” Lipschutz said.
Competition does not usually breed strong friendships, but these three have managed to become very close during the process. Lipschutz is clearly the leader, directing a unified group dedicated to putting up points for the Red and Blue.
“It’s been easy coming in as a freshman, with the leadership of [Lipschutz] who’s been here for so long and knows his stuff,” Loftus said.
Although Samson isn’t directly around the program anymore, he still stays in touch from Chicago helping them prepare for the season.
“[Andrew] has been checking in now and then,” Lipschutz said. “Working with him for the past three years, I’ve got a good idea of how to prepare, how to approach things. He’s been a great mentor in terms of mindset and skill set.”
Samson, who now works for Gatorade, offered poignant advice to his heir.
“The most important thing is confidence, don’t listen to the external stuff, go out and tackle each kick individually,” he said. “Just concentrate on that first kick and treat it like any other. If you make it, great, if you don’t, then just move on to the next one.”
Now situated in the Midwest, Samson won’t be able to make it for Penn’s opener, but he plans on being at Franklin Field for homecoming to cheer on his replacement.
“I’m officially passing on the reins, I’m excited to see whoever it is,” he said.
While Samson said he was “content with being done with football” and “fortunate to have a successful career at Penn,” he admits that it “feels a little weird not being on campus with my teammates.”
Though Samson won’t be on the field each week, he has set an expectation for Penn’s kicker of the future.