The last time BYU fans watched Dallin Leavitt take the field, he was a freshman desperately trying to shore up the depleted Cougar secondary. He ended up recording 17 tackles during the 2013 season but went through some growing pains.

Fast forward to spring 2014 and Leavitt proved to be one of the athletes making a statement.

“I think I had a good spring,” Leavitt said. “I played hard, made good plays and got a better understanding of exactly what the coaching staff wants.”

Spring is often a time where athletes come out and prove they are committed and also that they have the ability to make plays. While few starting spots are earned in spring, it is a chance for athletes like Leavitt to show they belong in the mix.

Leavitt was one of many defensive players BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall singled out Friday for excelling during spring. Mendenhall also mentioned Trent Trammell, Zac Stout, Austin Heder, Graham Rowley and Travis Tuiloma as defenders impressed him.

Leavitt said he came in expecting nothing less.

“The main thing was to come in and understand the defense as best I could,” he said. “My goal every day is to play as hard as I possibly can. It’s never compared to anyone else. It’s just as hard as I can and I felt like I did that to the best of my ability.”

He grinned when thinking about the difference between coming in as a freshman and now being a veteran with a better understanding of everything involved in college football.

“Coming in last year, I didn’t exactly know what everybody was looking for,” he said. “Now coming into spring, I have a better idea of the defense, the guys around you. It’s just better. It helped a lot.”

After being used at cornerback last year, this season he’s been working at free safety and at nickel. He said he doesn’t care where they put him as long as he gets to play.

“I play hard and I’m physical,” Leavitt said. “I’ve always been driven. There is never anything less than your best effort. Growing up in my family, you be the best you can be no matter what you do.”

Leavitt’s position in the secondary puts him in a group with a lot of talent — which can be both positive and negative.

“It’s great having everyone there working together,” he said. “You look at guys like Craig Bills who has been through it. There is a lot of athleticism out there that you have to try hard just to keep up. You have to have depth and people you can lean on.”

Leavitt said he’s going to focus on training and learning everything he can.

“You can never understand the defense well enough, you can never be physically ready enough and you can never be hungry enough,” he said.

Mendenhall said that Leavitt and every other player will leave spring knowing exactly where they are at and what improvements need to be made.

“They will have exit interviews with their coaches,” he said. “They’ll be told exactly where they are finishing spring and what they need to do if they want to move up. Some will be told they won’t be in the 105 for fall camp, some are on the bubble, some will be trying out the first day of fall semester, others will be told they are in the two-deep and this will be your role. They have a really good idea.”

With so many players stepping up, Mendenhall said he’s fairly satisfied with the team overall. He said inside linebacker and safety might could be solidified with one more player but that was a minor concern.

The only area that might keep him up at night would be long snapper, which the Cougars are limited at right now.

“We have players coming but that can change the game,” Mendenhall said. “I’m not going to say it will keep me awake but I toss and turn a little more than normal. I might sleep on my left side rather than my right side, which I don’t sleep as well.”

Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

Jared is the Sports Editor and BYU football reporter for the Daily Herald.