Louisiana-Lafayette’s football team put on shoulder pads for the first time in fall drills Wednesday, another step toward Friday’s initial full-contact practice.

With the pads comes an emphasis on caution and awareness, Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said.

“We’ve got a lot of depth, but you can lose that depth really quick by being careless and not playing smart,” Hudspeth said after Wednesday’s two-hour, 30-minute session. “For the most part, our guys did a nice job of staying up, still trying to play physical, but (you) don’t want to risk anything this early in camp in a situation when we’re not in full pads.”

The Cajuns will work in shoulder pads and helmets from 8:30-11 a.m. Thursday. The first full-gear workout is the same time Friday and the team will work out twice on Saturday including a 6 p.m. scrimmage, before taking off Sunday.

Indoor/outdoor

The Cajuns spent an extended segment of Wednesday’s drills inside the Moncla Center even though skies were clear. Practice finished inside with a lengthy team session that followed kicking drills.

Hudspeth said the move indoors was an effort to get out of the direct-sun heat. Five players got IV treatments after Tuesday’s workout on a day temperatures reached 93.

“(Tuesday) was one of the hottest days of the summer,” Hudspeth said. “That sun was really beating down hard. It’s probably five to seven degrees cooler in here. It’s not like we’re in an air-conditioned indoors; it’s still hot so we’re still getting good conditioning, but we think it’s a way to be a little smarter with our guys.”

Friday’s full-gear and Saturday’s scrimmage could amp up the heat factor.

“You got to get used to the heat,” Hudspeth said. “That’s fall camp. You have to get in great physical condition. You can run all summer long, but when you put that hat on and those pads, it’s football condition and that’s different.”

American Top 40

USA Today writer Paul Myerberg has been counting down the nation’s 128 Football Bowl Subdivision members in order, starting with No. 128 UMass and providing extensive outlooks on each team on the way to number one. His countdown reached the top 40 this week, and UL-Lafayette came in at No. 40 on the list.

“Yes, UL is the class of the Sun Belt,” Myerberg said. “A better question would pose where the Ragin’ Cajuns stand in the historical perspective of the Sun Belt. I’d suggest that, on paper, this looks like one of the best teams in conference history.”

UL-Lafayette outdistanced nearest Sun Belt rival Arkansas State at No. 63. Four Sun Belt teams were ranked in the bottom 10 — Appalachian State at 119, Idaho at 121, Georgia Southern at 124 and Georgia State at 125. The other Sun Belt teams were South Alabama at 72, Troy at 77, UL-Monroe at 87, Texas State at 91 and New Mexico State at 115.

The Cajuns came in one spot ahead of No. 41 Mississippi State and three ahead of No. 43 Missouri. Four other SEC teams have been listed: No. 68 Tennessee, No. 74 Vanderbilt, No. 89 Arkansas and No. 104 Kentucky.

Hudspeth, whose team has music blaring for much of its practice sessions, put the ranking into perspective.

“I always wanted to be in Casey Kasem’s Top 40, just couldn’t sing good enough to do that,” he said.

Quick read

Three observations from Wednesday’s practice:

1. Junior Diaz, a freshman who enrolled at Tulane in January and practiced during the spring, has moved up to the second unit at center. Johnson said Diaz, a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, was improving rapidly.

2. Freshman running back Dontrell Hilliard drew hollers from his offensive teammates after knocking linebacker Eric Thomas to the ground in a one-on-one pass protection drill.

3. With starting cornerbacks Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon sitting out because of injury, true freshman Donnie Lewis Jr. and sophomore Richard Allen were the first-team corners.

Dan McDonald