St. Joe's Big Three

St. Joe's Prep in Philadelphia consistently produces Division 1 players. This year Coach Gil Brooks has three players receiving early interest from colleges across the country. Who are these players? In whom has Penn State expressed an interest?

Name: Brian Tracz
Position: LB
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 234 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.7
School: Philadelphia, Pa. (St. Joseph's Prep)

Because the Philadelphia Public League and Catholic League schools do not belong to the PIAA and therefore cannot compete in Hershey for a State Championship, sometimes those schools get overlooked when talking about Pennsylvania's best. At 13-0 last season, Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep did not get the recognition that Parkland HS or Woodland Hills HS received statewide, but those fans who had a chance to follow the Catholic League Champs, certainly know they deserved to be ranked #15 nationally by USAToday. St. Joe's coach Gil Brooks always has a couple of players worthy of Division I attention and this year is no different, with at least three kids already drawing interest from some of the nation's finest schools.

Brian Tracz (pronounced Tracy) could be considered the top linebacker/fullback prospect in Philadelphia for next season. On defense, Brian chalked up 39 solo tackles, 36 assists, 2 sacks, and 7 tackles for loss. On offense for St. Joe's, Tracz was responsible for many of the blocks that opened up lanes for Prep's single season rushing leader, 2000 yard rusher Pat Kaiser (bound for Valley Forge Prep School). Tracz also chipped in with 326 yards on 44 carries, to go along with 26 pancakes and 5 touchdowns.

Brian's numbers would have been even more impressive if not for a knee injury sustained against Cardinal O'Hara in the semi-final playoff game. He went on to miss the Championship game against Roman Catholic HS and their annual Thanksgiving Day game versus LaSalle HS. Still, he was named 2nd Team All-Area and 1st Team All-Southeastern PA as a linebacker by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

What type of injury did Brian sustain and will he be 100% this season?

"He tore his meniscus at the end of the year. So he's coming back from that, although at this point I think he's fully recovered. He feels very confident now and he's moving around really well," said Coach Brooks.

"It was just a 'bucket handle' tear of the meniscus. It was more a wear and tear thing. When you see the play on tape, you say 'how the hell did he hurt himself' because all that happened was he had to quickly change directions on a block route - he was actually lead (fullback) on the play and somebody got up the field with penetration quickly, which forced him to cut back in terms of where he was hit to block the linebacker at the next level. When he did that, he just pushed off of his leg and he came up limping. What happened was the meniscus just folded back on itself, so they just had to snip that piece of it out."

"It was as hard for everybody else as it was as hard for him. Brian's a tremendous leader on our football team and universally loved by everyone. In fact all the kids, particularly (Senior tailback) Pat Kaiser, where ever they had tape, they wore a #47 on it, just to show how much they missed him being out there with them."

In a recent spring workout Brian ran a 4.81 forty in his first attempt after the injury, but Coach Brooks expects Tracz to be back to the low 4.7s/high 4.6s before the season begins. In fact Brooks expects Tracz to be more physically mature across the board heading into his senior season.

"He did have a hard time keeping weight on last year. He had to eat constantly. He was a lot like Victor Hobson. When I had Victor, he really had a dickens of a time keeping weight on during the season until his senior year. At the NFL combine I saw that he weighed 252, so he obviously is not having any problems now. I think that Brian will be the same way; it's eerie how is tracking Vic in terms of his growth."

Like Hobson, Coach Brooks expects Tracz to sign with a very good Division I school. Although he only has an offer from Northern Illinois at this point, Brian has already been contacted by Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, and Virginia.
Last weekend Brian went to Ohio State for a junior day function to see what the defending National Champions had to offer. What level of interest have the Nittany Lions expressed in Tracz?

"Coach Vanderlinden called me right before the signing day. He asked if he could stop by to see both Brian and Matt Parkhurst, who they are recruiting as well. Matty and Brian both camped at Penn State last year, so I know coach was familiar with them," said Coach Brooks. "I know Coach (Vanderlinden) has film because he actually had film on the running back from O'Hara (Anthony Heygood) and he called me to get numbers on Brian and Matt so he could look at them when he was looking at the film."

Name: Matthew Parkhurst
Position: DE/TE
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 235 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.7
School: Philadelphia, Pa. (St. Joseph's Prep)

As Coach Brooks stated earlier, the Nittany Lions also have expressed an interest in Matthew Parkhurst. Like Tracz, Matthew also traveled to Ohio State last weekend for a Buckeyes junior day. Besides the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, Virginia has also expressed a great deal of interest.

According to Coach Brooks, Matthew has the athleticism and frame to excel on the college level, but at which position does he project as Parkhurst's future home?

"He's a great tight end or defensive end. But he plays defensive end in our 4-3 and we use him on the weak side because he's got great quickness. He can contain by himself on the weak side and that's always a tough thing to do, particularly against teams which runs bootlegs. He's got great recovery skills and quickness, so he's been a starter there for me since his sophomore year at defensive end."

Name: Danny Jones
Position: CB/WR
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 165 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.3
School: Philadelphia, Pa. (St. Joseph's Prep)

Danny Jones, the third player receiving serious interest from colleges at this early period, projects as a corner or wide receiver in college. According to Brooks, Jones will be one of the fastest players in the state next season.

"He can flat out fly. He ran a 4.28 and 4.29 for us earlier this year. He has great hips. He's a major talent."

Like any other young player with speed to burn, Jones would rather play offensive. However, Brooks feels that Jones projects as corner.

"He's a grudging defensive star. He loves to have the ball, but he's been a two year starter for us on defense."

Jones was named 1st Team All-Southeastern PA and 2nd Team All-Area as a defender by the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Some schools, like Virginia, have already told Brooks that Danny may be too small to play defensive back at their schools. Nonetheless, Jones has received heavy interest from at least one Big Ten school.

"Michigan likes him the most. They were pretty ecstatic about him. They like the way he does things. When you see him run around, he's just got these great hips. He's a guy who never gets tackled because he's too quick. He's a strong little bugger too. He has great upper body strength."

Although Penn State has not yet contacted Brooks about Danny, he admitted that he has not yet sent out film to them highlighting his capabilities on the football field. Brooks also admitted that he would be surprised if Jones, a young junior, does not have a growth spurt before his senior year because both of his parents are taller than 5'8''. hopes to see all three of the St. Joseph's Prep stars at Nike Camp.

(Interview by Steve Curry)

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