UCLA's defense is tackling a fundamental assignment in an attempt to improve

Some of Chip Kelly's coaching mantras have required a decoder. There was "Feed the tuna mayonnaise" (become as efficient as possible), "Water the bamboo" (continue to work without visible results) and "A quarterback is like a tea bag" (you won't know how they will do until you put them in hot water).

Then there's his credo for the UCLA defense, which requires only one word and speaks for itself.


"Tackle," Kelly said Tuesday. "You gotta be a good tackling football team to be a good defensive football team so that's what we talk to our football team about and that's what we practice."

The Bruins struggled in that department last season, perhaps the biggest reason for the team's 6-7 record despite possessing one of the nation's most prolific passing offenses. UCLA's tackling problems led to a defense that ranked last nationally in rushing defense, allowing 287.4 yards per game.

Enter Kelly and a 3-4 defensive alignment designed to do one thing exceptionally well.

"Really good at stopping the run," Kelly said when asked what had drawn him to that formation over the years.

Kelly's defenses have also been known for an attacking style that helped his Oregon teams lead the nation with 131 forced turnovers during his four seasons with the Ducks from 2009-2012.

After four spring practices, UCLA defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa said he was starting to get a feel for why Kelly's defenses have had so much success at the college level.

"Schematically, I think it makes it hard for an offensive lineman," Odighizuwa said, "all the types of movement and just the attack mind-set."

That's a mentality being instilled by defensive line coach Vince Oghobaase, who has spent part of each practice standing on the back of a blocking sled while encouraging his players to get nasty.

"More violence, guys," Oghobaase yelled last week, "I've got to feel it!"

And what does violence mean, exactly?

"It means attacking the man in front of you, it means doing everything you do with violence," defensive lineman Marcus Moore said. "That means running, setting your hands on the man in front of you, your mentality, everything. It's violence."

Kelly said he considered the Bruins a multiple defensive team that would vary its formations based on the situation. Linemen have been learning to play every position along the front, Odighizuwa said, increasing versatility.

The linemen spent their offseason focused on body composition, meaning some lost weight and others gained weight to reach the ideal body-fat percentages that would allow them to keep up with the team's new frenzied pace.

"I feel stronger and faster than I've ever felt," said Odighizuwa, who dropped eight pounds to reach 270, "so props to the strength coaches."


Chigozie Nnoruka said he gained "some good weight" to reach 295 pounds and help him play nose guard as part of the team's 3-4 alignment. His undershirt soaked in sweat, Nnoruka acknowledged he was still making some adjustments.

"I'm just trying to get a hold of the speed," Nnoruka said, "and once I get a hold of the speed, I'll be good."

He's still got it

Kelly, a former high school quarterback, has thrown some passes in drills over the last three practices with the Bruins down to only four quarterbacks before the arrival of graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels in a few weeks.

No, Kelly does not consider himself a candidate to replace the departed Josh Rosen.

"Oh, it's easy because I'm always throwing to the [running] backs," Kelly cracked of his passing ability. "I take the shortest route."

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch