Photo/James Pugh

Add another star beside the name Charles Cross.

Exactly one week ago, Laurel’s senior offensive tackle saw a significant bump in his 247Sports composite ranking. Once listed as a three-star prospect and 2019 recruiting cycles’ 56th best offensive tackle, Cross has been reevaluated by 247Sports and listed as the country’s 13th best player at his position. He also rose to four-star status. 

“It was just a blessing,” said Cross. “I thank God and my coaches, they’ve helped me get to this point.”

Laurel head football coach Todd Breland says Cross has earned every accolade and bump in rankings he’s been given.

“He’s a great practice guy and great weight room guy,” Breland added. “I don’t care if you call him a one-star or five-star, he’s a great player for us. He also does a great job in the classroom. He’ll be a fantastic player for anybody [down the road]. ” 

Cross committed to Florida State back in July while on an official visit to the university. Florida State, much like Laurel, has had early struggles this season. After a 24-3 loss to No. 13 Virginia Tech in Week 1 of the college football season, the Seminoles struggled against Samford in Week 2, later scoring 15 four quarter points to pull out a 36-26 victory over the Bulldogs in Tallahassee. 

Cross, though, says his commitment is still strong. 

“Florida State is a great place,” Cross said. “I love it there. It feels like home. I love the coaches. It’s just a great place altogether.

“Coach [Willie] Taggart is a great person. He cares about you more than just [what you can do] in football. He wants you to grow as a man and be a better person.”

Quick feet is what got the Florida State commit noticed early on. Breland said its helped overshadow the one area Cross lacks in, but even that is changing for the better.

“His only downside has been his size, or weight I should say, over the last few years,” said Breland. “But in the last year, he’s gone from 245 to 275 pounds. So, that’s coming along; when he gets into the program next year, they’ll take care of his nutrition, and he’ll get the weight on and be a fantastic player for someone.”

Laurel OL coach William Clay says he can be a witness to what’s propelled Cross to the national spotlight.

“I’ve coached the great guys,” Clay said. “But Cross is very smart and intelligent. He catches on the things well. He’s just God-gifted. He has great footwork. Marcus Price [Laurel’s basketball coach] has helped him with his footwork up the hill in basketball. His footwork is just superb. Now he has flaws in his game, but his upside is so great [that it makes up for any one of them]. Cross is an example of the Laurel standard.”

Make no mistake about Laurel’s early season struggles. At 1-3 on the season, and on the heels of Region 3-5A play, Cross says they’ve been here before and still finished near the top in 5A football. 

“Our goal is just to get better every day,” Cross said. “We have to practice hard to play hard and win every game we can. Getting better mentally and physically is the key. We must perfect our craft and play as a team.”

Laurel suffered its first shutout loss under the Todd Breland era last week against 6A Petal. In 2015, the Tornadoes started the season 1-3, including a three-game skid that topped itself off with a loss against Petal. Laurel, then, went on to win its next nine games and made an appearance in the Class 5A South State Championship game. Laurel has advanced to the semifinal round ever since.

“Our guys are fine,” said Breland. “Of course we’re disappointed. Nobody wants to be where we are, but its life and reality. Like I told them the other day. We’re 0-0. 

“As coaches, we’ve changed up a lot of things. I can promise you that this won’t be the same team that takes the field in two weeks.”

Cross and Laurel have a bye week in Week 5. Next week Laurel opens Region 3-5A play vs. county rival, South Jones. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.