Ohio State spring practice kicks it up a notch today, which means Urban Meyer and his staff will test their culinary coaching skills by proving how well they peel the onion. Now begins the process of stripping off layers to find what lies below the surface of each player. What makes him tick?

Ohio State spring practice kicks it up a notch today, which means Urban Meyer and his staff will test their culinary coaching skills by proving how well they peel the onion. Now begins the process of stripping off layers to find what lies below the surface of each player. What makes him tick?

Coming off spring break, the Buckeyes get to the meat of spring ball today. Meyer will put players through their paces three times a week over the next month, until the April 16 spring game. During this period, coaches will teach. And hope. Fingers will cross that last year's backups have what it takes to become starters, and that recruits live up to their resume.

As important as March and April are to players, especially those trying to win jobs, spring also is about evaluating coaches. And judging coaches when daffodils are beginning to bloom is more difficult than assessing them during Saturdays in the fall.

Game days are about coaches grading player performance. Spring days are about them gauging player personality. Especially for early-entry freshmen, the next month will reveal whether that four-star recruit the program could not do without has a five- or two-star heart. Assistant coaches will quickly discover if the kid they recruited is a project or is game-ready, which means Meyer will know, too. And no assistant wants to be the one whose recruiting analysis was not up to snuff.

So spring begins the process of removing the cosmetic to find what resides under the facade. Which players are willing to put forth extra effort? Watching high school game film is helpful, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction to determine if the 18-year-old is a grinder or glider.

Who keeps pushing? Who slacks off? Who quits? These are the questions coaches will begin finding answers to, and for which their recruiting will be held accountable.

"The whole culture around here is effort overcomes mistakes," Meyer said recently, adding that it's a coach's job is to draw out a player's competitive nature.

Sometimes that job is easy. Ohio State is losing 16 starters, including nine underclassmen who declared for the draft. Most were competitive beasts who seldom took plays off. Meyer knew Joey Bosa was a high-effort guy only a few days into the player's first spring practice. Those players you simply turn loose.

But sometimes the job is more difficult, because a player's competitive attitude is not always obvious to coaches during recruiting visits. As defensive coordinator Luke Fickell likes to say, a coach never truly knows how a player will perform until the game begins.

Yet passion and "want-to" begin to reveal themselves in the spring, and coaches must read the signals quickly, because by fall camp it might be too late. Now is when assistants need to read the room correctly.

So the pressure is on new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to determine which next-men-up can fill the shoes of Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren and Chase Farris.

Receivers coach Zach Smith must determine which potential replacements have the inner drive to take over for Braxton Miller, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall.

Running backs coach Tony Alford needs to discern which tailback has the passion to block the way Ezekiel Elliott did. And so it goes. It is not enough to chart talent. Meyer and his assistants must also chart character. Who is a leader? Who is a laggard?

Spring practice is entering full swing. Time for coaches to choose wisely.

Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.

roller@dispatch.com

@rollerCD