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After pursuit by LSU, defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen will remain with New Orleans

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE - New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton lost another playoff game Sunday, but he was not going to lose three assistant coaches over the next couple of days.

Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis have pulled defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen back into the fold just as he was about to become LSU's new defensive coordinator, a source confirmed to the USA TODAY Network on Tuesday. The source requested anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

And LSU has been left at the altar again.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron expressed confidence that he would soon hire Nielsen on WWL Radio in New Orleans on Monday night just as he was convinced two weeks ago that he would hire Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. But Freeman instead chose Notre Dame over LSU on Jan. 8.

The Associated Press, the USA TODAY Network and other media outlets reported on Monday that LSU was on the verge of hiring the 38-year-old Nielsen.

"I spoke to Ryan last night on the phone, and I felt like he was going to LSU," former LSU and Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Pete Jenkins said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen was expected to be named LSU's new defensive coordinator either on Tuesday or very soon, but he has instead decided to remain with the New Orleans Saints after getting a new three-year contract and assistant head coach title.

Jenkins has known Nielsen since he was the defensive line coach at Ole Miss from 2005-08 under Orgeron.

But Payton went the extra mile to keep Nielsen, who has been his defensive line coach since 2017, as the Saints' staff has been raided since it was eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is interviewing today with Philadelphia, which recently fired coach Doug Pederson. 

Dan Campbell, who was the Saints' assistant head coach and tight ends coach, has just become the Detroit Lions' new coach and he has brought Saints' secondary coach Aaron Glenn with him as defensive coordinator.

So, Payton and Loomis moved fast and hard to keep Nielsen, who would have become LSU's second major hire in three years from their. After the 2018 season, Orgeron hired offensive assistant Joe Brady to be his pass game coordinator. Brady left after LSU's 2019-20 national championship season that included an historic passing offense to become the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator.

"Ryan is a great coach," Jenkins said..

Nielsen has regularly attended Jenkins' defensive line camps in Thibodaux.

"He would be a great coach on the college or NFL level," Jenkins said. "He is as good a guy as you would ever want to meet, and he is great with the players."

The majority of Nielsen's experience is on the college level as he worked as a graduate assistant at USC with Orgeron under coach Pete Carroll before coaching stops at Idaho, Ole Miss, Central Connecticut State, Tennessee-Martin, Northern Illinois and North Carolina State.

"He's just a damn good teacher," Jenkins said. "He knows how to get his message across to the players. A lot of coaches have tremendous knowledge, but they have trouble getting the message across. Ryan can make difficult things easy for the players. That's genius. He has a great future wherever he goes."

Orgeron has three other candidates after losing Nielsen, and two have strong NFL coaching background. The other is Georgia co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann.