This series will feature the top NFL Draft prospects with insight from the beat reporters that covered them in college. This article is just a preview of the full interview which can be heard on the Deep Slant podcast.
Name: Charles Cross
Position: Offensive Tackle
School: Mississippi State
Height/Weight: 6-5, 307
Hometown: Laurel, MS
(Below is a portion of Deep Sidhu's interview with Crissy Froyd, lead editor and writer for Sports Illustrated's Cowbell Corner covering Mississippi State sports.)
Sidhu: What can you tell us about Charles Cross and some of the strengths of his game? What sort of impact does he have when he's in the game for that Bulldogs' offensive line?
Froyd: Well, they nicknamed him "Sweet Feet" because his footwork is so good. That's an area that he's really solid and I think that's something it's really important, especially at the next level when you're going up against these really talented edge rushers who can change direction on you. I think his athleticism is probably the thing that you hear the most about because you can't be an offensive lineman in the Air Raid without athleticism. It's a very different type of system. There are wider splits in this offense. The two-point stance is utilized more than the three-point stance is. It's different from a lot of schemes. So that's kind of to eliminate the glut and there's a reason for that and it's a lot harder to stop from the players that I've talked to who have gone up against it.
But I think between the footwork, the athleticism, the versatility at Pro Day, he played right tackle and left tackle, he has a lot of core strength. He really seems to push guys around pretty much at will and then he keeps his form because offensive linemen, you want them to stay square, which is even more important than whether or not they're gaining or losing ground. I think tangibly he brings that and those are all really good things. And then as far as intangibles go, he's quiet, keeps his head down and works but it's a quiet confidence. He doesn't really say much in interviews, but every once in a while they'll ask him something about like the run blocking that stigma that's kind of surrounding him right now. And he'll just say things like, 'Watch the film' and just leave it at that.
Sidhu: While his numbers were so good in that Air Raid offense under Mike Leach, the fact that they didn't really run the ball as much as maybe, say, other teams, sort of became a knock against Charles Cross. What can you say about his improvements or his strengths when it comes to run blocking?
Froyd: As the run blocking goes in general, the issue that we have here - and this expands beyond just him - is that there's this thing that goes on in college football whenever a player is going on to the NFL, if they were not asked to do something, slowly this narrative builds that they can't do it, which is hardly ever the case. I think it's important to note that Charles Cross committed to Mississippi State in 2018 and his true freshman season was in 2019. So you'll notice that that's when Joe Moorhead was here, and that's someone who ran the ball a lot, used the quarterback power run quite a bit, really utilized his running backs. They had (RB) Kylin Hill here and so this wasn't a team that passed the ball much and really did not do well through the air at all so that's what Charles Cross was recruited to come do. That means they saw him as a good run blocker and he was actually praised for his abilities as a run blocker in high school. But then whenever he starts to take off is when Mike Leach gets here and he's doing a lot more in pass protection.
I think really you have with him a much more well-rounded player than people realize that is not only versatile, but that could possibly be equally as good in run blocking as he is in pass blocking and has already had the ability to do it. I think there's a lot of people that kind of have created this narrative that don't really recognize the fact that he was not recruited straight into the Air Raid offense.
Sidhu: Cross has obviously played his entire career at left tackle, but what can you tell us about his versatility should teams want to use him somewhere else on the offensive line?
Froyd: I think at Pro Day that he showed that he could play on either side of the line, which is something that's really important and something that we've seen in the NFL that would kind of give him an extra edge because you'll see other players get drafted and then they'll realize that someone else does better on this other side of the line or something will change and it's better to move this player here. I think the fact that he's able to play in multiple spots, which I think is something that will become even more apparent as he goes on to the NFL level, is something that's going to make him even more of an asset for a team. But I think just between everything that he brings to the table and his ability to do well with the run and then with pass blocking as well, I think is going to make him someone who you can plug in and will make an immediate impact just from Day One.
Sidhu: You said he was pretty quiet. What is he like personality-wise? What else can you tell us about Charles Cross, the person?
Froyd: I think that just as far as interviews went, he was a man of few words. I think that he's someone who likes just to let the film do the talking for itself. I think that he would rather show people what he can do rather than boast about it, which I always thought was interesting because he might have been the least talkative player in media interviews out of everybody but was obviously the big headliner for Mississippi State that really put Mississippi State on the map as far as offseason pre-Draft goes.
I've been told that around his teammates that he's a big locker room guy, like a poster child for someone who you would want in your locker room. I think that he has a good relationship with his teammates and that he meshes well and that even if we don't see that in interviews as far as him talking about himself, that he just likes to go out there, show everybody what he can do and the person that he is and let that do the talking as opposed to talking about it.