New Tulsa coach eager to start

Updated: August 25, 2003, 8:45 PM ET

TULSA, Okla. -- Monday was barely half over, but Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe already was wishing for Saturday and the season opener against Minnesota.

His sideline debut as a head coach follows years of waiting for the "right situation, which I think this is," he said.

"It's going to be fun to have the opportunity to lead a team against a team like Minnesota," he said. "I'm ready to go."

Kragthorpe talked with the kind of confidence he has tried to instill in players who were in grade school the last time the Golden Hurricane celebrated a winning season.

Confidence has been an issue from the beginning when he inherited this team and found players a "little bit beaten down" following their 11th straight losing season. But confidence, Kragthorpe said, remains a difficult thing to measure.

"The biggest thing I see," he said, "is their willingness to work."

Kragthorpe has made players compete for their positions, waiting until just last week to name his pick for starting quarterback and Monday to reveal the overall depth chart.

Junior quarterback James Kilian impressed the former Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach with his leadership in the huddle, improved throwing and his ability to make plays with his feet.

But in handing him the starting job, Kragthorpe told Kilian not to think of himself as Superman.

The coach's rule: "Don't try and make big plays because if you try to make big plays you will. The only problem is about half the time, they'll be for the other guy."

The Golden Hurricane ranked last among Western Athletic Conference teams last season in total offense, with an average 316.8 yards a game.

Minnesota will have to watch quite a bit a tape to pin down exactly what Kragthorpe's Tulsa will bring.

Will the offense resemble that of the Bills? Or Texas A&M, where he worked as an assistant for four years? Or the scheme that offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs brought from Alabama, where he was passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach?

"We may have a little element of surprise there," Kragthorpe said, giving nothing away.

The best measure, he said, of the Tulsa team he's trying to turn around will come when he sees it handle adversity. That likely will include the challenge of a Minnesota team that has gone to three bowl games in four seasons.

"It's not so much the circumstance," he said, "but how we respond to it." ^------=

^Notes:@ Sophomore quarterback Landon Koepple will be moved to wide receiver. "I think there's a lot of things that he can present to a defense that will help us," Kragthorpe said. "He's very user friendly for the quarterback because he has played quarterback." ... Tulsa wants to give Tulsans suffering from the city's economic downturn a break. Athletic director Judy MacLeod said tickets to Tulsa's Sept. 13 home opener against Southwest Texas State will be just $1 each. "Although it doesn't solve the economic woes, it offers an inexpensive night out," she said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index