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NORMAL — Aaron Mends arrived on the Illinois State campus last spring hoping to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee.

Instead, the transfer linebacker from Iowa tore his Achilles tendon.

“Dr. (Robert) Seidl did a great job on his Achilles, getting him back this fast,” ISU coach Brock Spack said. “He’s going to have those moments of soreness. It’s his knee more than the Achilles. Knee injuries are tough.”

Mends registered eight of his season total of 17 tackles in last week’s loss to North Dakota State, splitting time at will linebacker with Dylan Draka.

“I definitely think I did some things well,” said the 6-foot, 235-pound Mends. “I’m starting to get back in the groove of things.”

Mends and the 13th-ranked Redbirds meet Southern Illinois on Saturday in a 6 p.m. kickoff at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale.

Spack believes Mends is best served being on a “pitch count,” meaning his number of snaps during games and practices need to be limited because of his injury history.

“We have to watch it close. We can’t put too much on him,” Spack said. “I thought he played pretty well, and I thought he had a good practice (Tuesday). Maybe that’s a good sign.”

Mends is trying to get as much as he can out of his final season of college football. He saw action in 37 games at Iowa from 2015-17.

“As the season progresses, it’s hard to focus on individual things like aches and pains,” said Mends, a native of Kansas City, Mo. “It’s more managing them to make sure you can continue to next week. I’m at the point where I can play well, do my job and make sure I’m being accountable to my teammates.”

Improved Fenlason: ISU place-kicker Sam Fenlason is 6-for-6 on field goal attempts this season, a dramatic improvement from his 3-for-7 while sharing duties with JT Bohlken last season.

Redbirds in the NFL: Former ISU tight end James O’Shaughnessy of the Jacksonville Jaguars suffered a torn knee ligament in last Sunday’s game and will miss the rest of the season.

O’Shaughnessy had become an integral part of the Jacksonville offense with 14 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns in five games.

An injury to Denver cornerback De’Vante Bausy has moved ex-Redbird Davontae Harris into the Broncos’ secondary rotation. Harris had three tackles in a 20-13 victory last week over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Harris joins another former Redbird on the Denver defense. Shelby Harris has 20 tackles as the starting nose tackle.

Ex-ISU offensive lineman Michael Liedtke is on the Tampa Bay reserve/injured list.

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Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt

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