Gratitude - not gloss - was on Mark Mangino's mind Wednesday.
So when the Kansas University football coach had his chance to address supporters at Fan Appreciation and Kids Day, he chose not to give the rah-rah pep talk on how the Jayhawks would do in 2006. He wanted to assure the fans that their support wouldn't be taken for granted.
"Memorial Stadium is getting the reputation as one of the toughest places to play in the conference," Mangino told the crowd over the public-address system. "That's because of you."
Approximately 1,500 fans showed up at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, watching roughly 30 minutes of 11-on-11 drills before coming on to the field to get autographs and meet with the KU players.
Projected starters sat at tables under the stadium's video board to sign autographs after practice, while other players mingled on the field with fans. The longest line of fans, perhaps not surprisingly, was for quarterback Kerry Meier.
With the first game just more than a week away, Wednesday was the public's last opportunity to see the Jayhawks preparing for the Sept. 2 season opener.
"The players are giving great effort," Mangino said to the crowd. "It's going to be another exciting season."
¢ Still hurtin': None of the defensive players who sat out of last week's open practice - safeties Jerome Kemp and Darrell Stuckey and linebackers James Holt and Eric Washington - participated Wednesday.
Only Washington was present, but he didn't practice. Also not participating was cornerback Aqib Talib, though he was in pads on the sideline.
¢ Keep it simple: KU kept its offense vanilla Wednesday, but a few plays stood out:
¢ Backup running back Jake Sharp appeared to be gobbled up behind the left tackle on one play, but somehow escaped and turned a sure loss into a short gain.
¢ Second-string quarterback Adam Barmann found receiver Jeff Foster behind coverage up the middle and threw a strike to him. Foster ran untouched for a 79-yard touchdown.
¢ A glimpse?: Kansas hasn't released a depth chart since the end of spring practices - perhaps because of injuries throwing a wrench in plans - but Wednesday's workout may have provided a brief glimpse of the season-opening lineup, at least offensively.
The only significant change is at right guard, where Travis Dambach worked with the first team and Ryan Cantrell with the second team. Dambach, one of those "program players" of whom Mangino speaks highly, has started 10 games in his career at a few different positions.
¢ New name: The Fort Worth Bowl, which Kansas won convincingly last year over Houston, has undergone a drastic facelift.
A title sponsor, Bell Helicopter, signed on, and the bowl was renamed to honor the military. It's now called the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
The Armed Forces Bowl will have patriotic themes surrounding the game, including a fly-over, military skydivers and a military band and honor guard. Military veterans will get ticket discounts, and personnel on active duty will get complimentary tickets.
The Big 12 Conference no longer is affiliated with the bowl. This year's Armed Forces Bowl will feature a Conference-USA team and a Mountain West Conference team.