Jared Folks waited more than two years to return to the football field and even longer to make his first start for Temple. A redshirt sophomore linebacker, Folks earned his first start in Saturday's 48-20 win over visiting Charlotte. He made three tackles and shared in one tackle for loss.

"It was amazing," he said about starting his first game. "It was the first time out there (as a starter) since I played in high school."

The 6-foot-1, 239-pound Folks, who played at Susquehanna Township High in Harrisburg, redshirted as a freshman and then suffered a shoulder injury two weeks before last season began that required surgery.

He had some minor injuries during this preseason that kept him out of Temple's opening 28-13 loss to Army. Folks then made his college debut in the Owls' 38-0 win over Stony Brook the next week.

After Temple lost its third game, 34-27 at Penn State, coach Matt Rhule talked about how the linebackers needed to step it up.

Folks, who had four tackles in a reserve role against Penn State, replaced starting middle linebacker Jarred Alwan, who has made 22 career starts. Alwan played against Charlotte, contributing two tackles.

Since he has returned, Folks has been impressing the coaching staff each week, thus earning that first start.

"He is really making a big jump," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "We were excited about him last year and then he tore up his shoulder."

Not surprisingly, Folks had a difficult time sitting out a second straight season.

"It was hard and getting hurt a few weeks before the season, it took everything out of me," Folks said.

Yet once the reality that he would miss a second season set in, Folks tried to take a realistic assessment of the situation.

"It gave me another year to get bigger and really learn the defense more," he said. "I wasn't prepared at that point to go into a game and know everything I needed to know."

So he said he watched veterans such as All-American Tyler Matakevich and Alwan, just to name a few players and took mental notes.

"They showed me what it takes," he said. "The mental part is the big thing and knowing what you have to do is important because you can't play fast if you don't know what you are doing."

And one thing Folks has been able to do is play fast.

"He is really a fast, explosive athlete who is really smart," Rhule said.

Folks is expected to start in Saturday's game against Southern Methodist, the first American Athletic Conference game for both 2-2 teams.

As with many players who miss extensive time due to injury, Folks says he appreciates the chance to play after it was taken away from him last year.

"The last time I played before this year was in a high school all-star game," he said, referring to the Big 33 game. "Being back out on the field is an amazing feeling, I can't even describe things, it is such a rush."

Of course the key for Folks is having everything slow down, which is happening a little more with each appearance.

"At first everything was moving fast, but then I talked to coach Snow and settled down," he said, referring to Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow. "I just started playing football and it was like practice, except that they had different color jerseys."

@sjnard