Man in the middle

Jarred Alwan appears to be in line to start the season at middle linebacker next Saturday against Penn State. It would be the second time in his Temple career Alwan would start a marquee opener for the Owls, the other time two years ago at Notre Dame when he earned the start as a true freshman out of Camden Catholic (N.J.) High School.

Jarred Alwan appears to be in line to start the season at middle linebacker next Saturday against Penn State.

It would be the second time in his Temple career Alwan would start a marquee opener for the Owls, the other time two years ago at Notre Dame when he earned the start as a true freshman out of Camden Catholic (N.J.) High School. He was the only freshman who started for the Owls on offense or defense that day.

Alwan, who eventually saw Nate D. Smith take over for him two years ago, admits he feels much more comfortable and ready to be the long-term fix in the middle.

“I know what I’m doing right now,” said Alwan. “I don’t have to think now. I’ve been doing it for two years. I know (the defense) like the back of my hand. Having another spring under me, I see the mistakes I made last year.

“I’m a lot more comfortable. Having (senior) Tyler (Matakevich) next to me, we help each other out and tell each other what to do. It’s kind of like high school. I played as a freshman and got better from there. I didn’t expect to play right away here, it was tough, but it’s been the same way (seeing improvement).”

Alwan finished his freshman season with 20 tackles in 12 games and added 24 in 10 games a year ago, mostly in a backup role. Matakevich, the Owls’ defensive leader, said he’s noticed a different Alwan this camp.

“He looks great, he feels good he says,” said Mataklevich. “He’s one of the smartest kids on the defense, and he just has an understanding of this defense which is so complicated. He’s flying around, making great plays in the hole. I haven’t seen this Jarred Alwan before, and I’m very excited.”

So is Alwan, who said he is healthy after recovering from labrum surgery. He missed two games last year because of injury.

“It feels great right now, there’s no pain, no nothing,” said Alwan. “I can be Jarred Alwan now. I can be myself.”

Smith has been moved down to defensive end this year and while he is still working at linebacker in case the Owls need him, coach Matt Rhule said the middle linebacker spot will either go to Alwan or Matakevich.

“It’s Alwan or Tyler, who can play anywhere,” said Rhule. “Alwan’s had a good camp. He’s instinctive, he’s a smart football player. We just want to see him giving consistent effort, running to the ball and tackling, being physical.

“He makes a lot of nice plays, he’s really talented. If he can take the next step, being relentless and very physical, we would love to have him play because he has played a lot of football for us.”

The Owls don’t have a lot of experience at linebacker beyond their starters and Rhule has said freshmen could find themselves in vital roles. It’s an experience Alwan knows well and can help them relate.

“Chappelle (Russell), Jared Folks, we expect them to play a lot,” said Alwan. “Coach said everybody will play, so I’m just trying to help them out and bring them along.”

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