Many Patriots draft picks experience a level of culture shock when they arrive in New England.
That shouldn’t be the case for Jake Andrews, whom the Patriots selected in the fourth round (No. 107 overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Andrews, a center/guard out of Troy, received a preview of what life on the Patriots’ offensive line is like during his final collegiate season. His position coach last year was Cole Popovich, who served as New England’s O-line coach in 2020 before leaving the organization following a dispute over COVID-19 vaccination rules.
Popovich, who spent a total of five seasons on Bill Belichick’s staff, frequently drew on his Patriots experience when coaching Andrews and the rest of Troy’s linemen.
“We watched a lot of Patriots film, and he talked about them all the time,” Andrews said Saturday in his introductory conference call. “… A lot of great players have come through there that he had plenty of time with and he made examples out of for us and kind of gave us insight on what it means to be great. Especially just being a Patriot in general — he kind of tried to mold us into that the best way he could. So (I have) a lot of experience and a lot of things from Coach Popovich that he tried to implement from the Patriots to us.”
It’s unclear how much the Patriots relied on Popovich as a resource when scouting Andrews. He joined the Houston Texans as an assistant O-line coach in late February, so he’s been employed by a different NFL franchise for most of the pre-draft process. But Andrews said he thinks “there were a few conversations” before Popovich’s move.
“Prior to him going to Houston, there were some obvious connections there,” he said. “I think them knowing how much I appreciate Coach Popovich and what he meant to me and what he meant to New England, there’s definitely some connection there.”
Andrews also got to have what he called an “awesome” meeting with current Patriots O-line coach Adrian Klemm during his pre-draft visit to New England.
“Coach Klemm is an amazing guy,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time spent with him. Getting to learn some things, getting to pick each other’s brain a little bit, it was very fun and enjoyable. I’m really ready to get to work with him.”
A three-year starter in college, Andrews started 23 games at right guard and 15 at center for the Trojans, showing that, while he was announced as a center at the NFL draft, he should have some positional versatility. He should battle for the top backup spot behind longtime starting center David Andrews in training camp — a job held by 33-year-old James Ferentz last season.
The Patriots drafted another interior O-lineman later in Round 4 (Eastern Michigan’s Sidy Sow) and one more early in Round 5 (UCLA’s Atonio Mafi). We’ll see how all three fit into New England’s depth chart this season, but that flurry of selections didn’t bode well for players like Ferentz, 2022 sixth-round pick Chasen Hines and fellow reserves Kody Russey and Bill Murray.