Improved Josh Harshman can be 'great weapon' for Wyoming
LARAMIE, Wyo. -- Josh Harshman felt like he was all the way back. But if he wanted proof, it was in the numbers.
Harshman was cleared to return to full football activities this summer after being limited this spring as he continued to rehab his right knee. That meant Wyoming's senior tight end could fully participate in summer workouts, where he ran 10 yards, 20 yards and other increments at full speed to gauge not only his speed and agility but also the stability of the surgically-repaired MCL he tore against Missouri in the Cowboys' third game last season.
So how did it go?
"Those were the best numbers I've had since I've been here," Harshman told the Casper Star-Tribune. "I feel like this is the fastest I've been and the strongest I've been."
Now the Casper native as well as his coaches have growing expectations for his final season with the Cowboys.
Harshman began his fifth and final fall camp atop the depth chart at a position Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said should be a strength for the offense this season given its depth and versatility. Harshman isn't exactly small for the position at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, but the Natrona County High School product is dwarfed by Nate Weinman and Jackson Marcotte, who go 6-7, 267 pounds and 6-7, 250, respectively.
But Weinman is a sophomore while Marcotte, a redshirt freshman, is starting just his second season in the program, so Harshman has the significant edge in experience. That's showing up in more ways than one.
"He really knows our system, but he is a great leader by example," said Shannon Moore, who's in his first year coaching Wyoming's tight ends and fullbacks. "He's a guy that's vocal in our group, but when you watch him practice, he goes hard every rep. He doesn't want to miss a rep. If he gets a chance to get more reps, he wants to get them. So he's probably one of the best lead-by-example guys I've ever been around and had the chance to coach."
They're all likely to rotate while some if not all three will be on the field at the same time when Wyoming goes heavy with multiple-tight end sets. There are nuances, though, to go with his clean bill of health that make Harshman the Cowboys' most complete option at the position.
"Even when you look at the some of the testing numbers just in what his 10 was, his 20 was and things like that, he's got really good burst off the ball," Moore said. "And he's got so much experience with it, too. He's able to just see coverage and get a feel for how guys are playing him.
"You see no ill effects of (the injury). He's at full speed. He has no problems getting in and out of cuts."
Harshman admitted he had to overcome some mental hesitancy during Wyoming's first practice of fall camp, but physically, he's pain-free. He only wears a brace on his knee during full-contact periods, and he's hoping to shed it permanently once the games start Aug. 31 when Missouri visits War Memorial Stadium for both teams' season opener.
"We'll scrimmage throughout fall camp, too, which will help," Harshman said. "I feel like I'm already getting all my confidence back with my knee and cutting off it and stuff. By the game, I should be ready to go."
Harshman said he's just as comfortable in his blocking as he is his receiving skills, which could be utilized at different spots on the field. Moore said Harshman could bump outside to the slot depending on formations and matchups.
Harshman caught just four passes before sustaining the injury last season and has 23 receptions for 246 yards and one touchdown in his career. Whatever the Cowboys ask him to do this fall, they expect much more from their new and improved tight end.
"He's running well. He's blocking well," Bohl said. "He's going to be a great, great weapon for us next year."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com