Ryan Nielsen added co-defensive coordinator to his duties as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator following Northern Illinois University's 2011 MAC Championship season.
A former defensive lineman at Southern California, Nielsen has mentored five all conference selections and sent two players on to the National Football League in his seven-year coaching career.
In one season under Nielsen, the Huskies ranked second in the league in sacks in 2011 with 28, with defensive ends Alan Baxter and All-MAC selection Sean Progar leading the way with 5.5 each, to rank fourth in the MAC. Senior defensive tackle Ron Newcomb enjoyed a breakout season as he co-led the team and ranked eighth in the MAC in tackles for loss to garner All-MAC accolades.
A native of Los Angeles, Calif. Nielsen came to NIU from Tennessee-Martin where he spent a year as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator for the Skyhawks. Skyhawks' defensive end Tim Cox earned All-Ohio Valley Conference honors in 2010 playing for Nielsen. Prior to UT-Martin, Nielsen spent two seasons at Central Connecticut State, where he coached a pair of all-conference honorees, including 2008 league sacks leader Ray Saunders, and 2009 Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year, Lawton Arnold.
Nielsen began his coaching career at Mississippi where he spent three seasons (2005-07) coaching the Rebels' defensive line. His pupils included future NFL-er Jayme Mitchell, freshman All-American Marcus Tillman (2006), 2007 Southeastern Conference sack leader Greg Hardy and first round pick Peria Jerry.
NIU head coach Dave Doeren and Nielsen have known each other since their days at Southern California, where Nielsen was an All-Pac 10 Conference defensive linemen as a sophomore and Doeren was on the coaching staff. Nielsen, a defensive tackle, recorded a career best 39 tackles in 1999.
He graduated from USC in 2002 and signed as an undrafted free agent with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and played one season of Arena Football with the Los Angeles Avengers.