LARAMIE — Josh Harshman had to practice patience this spring as much as anything.
Harshman continues to work his way back from the surgically repaired knee ligament he tore against Missouri three games into last season. Wyoming’s tight end said he doesn’t feel anymore pain or soreness in his right knee, though there’s still some stiffness.
“In the winter time when it was cold, it took a while to warm it up,” Harshman said. “And it still takes a while to warm it up.”
The Casper native returned to the field this spring but on a limited basis because he wasn’t cleared for full contact. He only participated in individual drills, and when he wasn’t doing those, he was usually in the weight room or the rehab center.
Asked how healthy his knee feels, Harshman said 90 to 95 percent. He has another doctor’s appointment scheduled this spring where he’s hoping to be fully cleared for football activities.
Caught between being cautious and being so close to a clean bill of health admittedly made it hard for the Natrona County High product to contain himself.
“I was always asking, ‘Can we do this? Can we do that?’” Harshman said. “And everybody is just like take it easy. Slow it down. There’s no sense in rushing back for spring when fall is a ways away.”
Barring any setbacks, Harshman will be at full strength and atop the depth chart heading into his final fall camp with the Cowboys. The departures of Austin Fort and Tyree Mayfield leave the fifth-year senior as the most experienced tight end on the roster.
While he’s got just 23 catches and one touchdown reception during his four years at Wyoming, Harshman still likes to think he’s the best receiving threat of a group that’s got plenty of variety to it. Harshman isn’t exactly small at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, but redshirt freshman Jackson Marcotte goes 6-7 and 250 pounds while sophomore Nate Weinman is the biggest tight end on the roster at 6-7 and 267.
With junior Jahmari Moore (6-2, 236) having the versatility to play either tight end or fullback, the different body types give the Cowboys some flexibility in how they want to use the group next season.
“They’re just going to have to step up and play bigger roles,” Harshman said. “Being bigger bodies, they just have more of a presence inside doing some things. I am a smaller guy, but I pride myself on technique and other things where those guys can get away with some stuff because they’re bigger bodies. That’s just how it goes.”
Harshman said he took it upon himself to help along the younger players at the position this spring, but he also worked on what he could to improve his own game. That meant honing in on his route running since it was about all he was allowed to do.
“The route running when I first came here was the biggest thing because I weighed 210 pounds when I first came here,” said Harshman, who had his most productive season in 2017 with 12 catches for 136 yards. “That’s something me and (tight ends) coach (Shannon) Moore, that’s all we’ve been able to work on through individual stuff. Hopefully I’ll be more of a threat this season.”
Once he gets fully cleared, Harshman’s primary focus will be to strengthen a right leg he said is still weaker than his left after staying off it for months. It’s another step toward feeling like his old self again.
“It’s just building confidence again and getting back to 100 percent like I was (at the beginning of) last year,” he said.