UD’s Kindle steps in for injured Bell

NEWARK — Jalen Kindle, like the rest of his teammates, was helpless in that moment.

In the center of the field, fellow linebacker Charles Bell lay on the Delaware Stadium turf.

While Bell eventually was able to walk gingerly to the sidelines, he later left the stadium in a wheelchair.

And Kindle was the guy who had to replace Bell at one of the middle linebacker spots in Delaware’s 20-10 loss to No. 1 James Madison on Saturday.

“It was hard seeing Charles go down,” said Kindle. “He’s such a big piece of our defense — our brother, our leader, our captain. We didn’t really know the severity of the injury on the field.

“But it’s always the next-man-up mentality. We were still playing JMU so I had a half of a game to play. I just tried to go in and do my job to the best of my ability.”

After the game came the sobering news that Bell had suffered a broken vertebrae (a T-6 compression fracture) in his back. While the injury ends the senior co-captain’s season, he is expected to make a full recovery.

There is even a solid possibility of him receiving a medical redshirt waiver and playing again for the Blue Hens next fall.

The silver lining is that Delaware thinks it has a pretty good replacement for Bell in Kindle, The fifth-year senior is slated to start on Saturday when the Hens (0-1 CAA, 2-2 overall) go to Long Island to face highly-regarded Stony Brook (3-0 CAA, 4-1) in a 6 p.m. Colonial Athletic Association matchup.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Kindle started 11 games as an outside linebacker in 2015.

First-year coach Danny Rocco just knows Kindle looked pretty good when he was in on 10 tackles against James Madison on Saturday.

“He was extraordinary,” Rocco said on Monday. “He played with great passion. He had energy and he fit about everything he needed to fit. That was extremely encouraging.”

Kindle has survived his own injuries to get back on the field.

Having just recovered from a broken right foot when he first came to Delaware, he then broke a bone in his left foot.

It was two years before Kindle saw his first collegiate action. Then, after starting in 2015, he was relegated to a backup role last season.

After playing in 26 career games, Kindle has confidence in himself that he can get the job done.

He’s already proven himself off the field where he’s a semifinalist for the Campbell Award, which goes to the top football scholar-athlete in the country. A grad student in Delaware’s MBA program, Kindle is also UD’s candidate for the CAA’s Chuck Boone Leadership Award.

“During the past few years, I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself,” said Kindle. “I’ve learned how to move on from some mistakes and to grow as a player and a person.

“As this fifth-year guy who’s seen a lot throughout the years in this programs — with the coaching changes and all that stuff — I feel like I’m in the best position to help in any way possible.”

More on Bell

Bell has been a workhorse for the Hens.

He’d started 26 straight games, played in 38 contests and recorded 246 tackles. A two-year captain, Bell was also a first-team All-CAA selection as a junior.

Bell is currently tied for the team lead with 29 tackles.

“He had been everything that I heard that he was prior to my arrival,” said Rocco. “He’s certainly been a pillar for us since.”

The Hens also lost starting defensive end Cam Kitchen for the season to a broken foot he suffered late in Saturday’s game. Senior John Nassib, a former starter, will now take his spot.

QBs getting second look

Rocco admitted on Monday that he expected to see a better performance from junior quarterback Joe Walker.

The third-year starter led the Hens on only one touchdown drive against JMU. Walker completed 5-of-11 passes for 47 yards with one TD and one interception in the windy conditions.

He also ran the ball 13 times for 46 yards.

With an open date the week before, Delaware had two full weeks to get ready to play the Dukes. Rocco also pointed out that Walker was making his 24th career start.

“I was expecting some element of breakthrough,” said Rocco, “where it looked like and felt like this is a guy that’s started 20-some games, that’s had an extra week to prepare and he is sharp and on point. … And that’s not what I got, that’s not what I saw. Therein lines my frustration.

“Therefore we’re going to kind of take a step back and just reassess moving forward.”

Appalachian State transfer J.P. Caruso played the last few series on Saturday without any more success. Rocco said Caruso would get more time with Delaware’s first-team offense in practice this week — just as he did in preseason.

Raggo’s record-breaker

Frank Raggo admits he regularly pages through the Delaware record book.

The redshirt junior knew that the school-record field goal was 54 yards long.

“I thought, it’d be great to have my name there,” said Raggo.

So Raggo was pretty proud of the 55-yarder he hit — with a strong wind at his back — to give the Hens an early 3-0 lead over the Dukes.

“I came out on the field pretty late because I was like, ‘Is he calling field goal right now?’” said Raggo, whose previous career high was 45 yards. “I just ran out there and kicked it.”

Extra points

After looking at the replay of the JMU game, Rocco said the mishandled screen pass/lateral that the Dukes returned 23 yards for a TD could have been called either way. “I knew it wasn’t going to get overturned (by replay),” said Rocco. “If he (the official) had called it incomplete, it was going to be incomplete. If he was going to call it negative angle (backwards), it was going to be negative angle, fumble. … It truly is about as straight (down the line) as an arrow can be.” … Delaware limited JMU to 20 points and 347 yards on Saturday, well under its league-leading averages of 41.8 points and 557.5 yards.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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