JONESBORO – Arkansas State head football coach Butch Jones announced two additions to the Red Wolves’ coaching staff on Thursday, including special teams coordinator Steve Hauser and secondary coach Dalton Hilliard.
Both coaching veterans at the collegiate level, Hauser and Hilliard join the Red Wolves after most recently spending 2020 with the Iowa State and Tennessee-Martin programs, respectively.
Hauser served as a special teams analyst from 2018-20 at Iowa State, but also spent time with Oklahoma State (2012-13, 2016-17), the Cleveland Browns (2014-15), Yale (2012) and Mount Ida College (2011) prior to coming to A-State.
“We’re excited to welcome Coach Hauser and his wife, Kayla, and their daughter, Elena, into the Arkansas State football family,” said Jones. “Special teams are an integral part of the overall philosophy and culture of our football program and Coach Hauser possesses all the qualities that it will take to coordinate all our special teams units. He has vast experiences and a knowledge base that has been built over time at a number of high-profile places.”
During his three years in Ames, the Cyclones qualified for three bowl games and finished among the top three teams in the Big 12 each season. Iowa State appeared in the 2020 Big 12 Championship game and is listed 10th in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, while also posting a 9-3 record that included a 34-17 victory over Oregon in the Orange Bowl.
Kene Nwangwu was tabbed an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection as a kick returner in 2020 as the Cyclones ranked 11th in the nation in the stat with a 26.8-yard average per attempt.
Walk-on kicker Connor Assalley was a special teams star in 2019, connecting on 78.9 percent of his field goals (15-19) for the fourth-best season clip in school history.
Iowa State recorded one of its best seasons in school history in 2018, posting an 8-5 record while breaking the school record at the time for conference wins in a season (six) and collecting their best conference finish in 40 years (T3rd).
The Cyclones had a number of players excel on special teams in 2018, including Nwangwu as a Second Team All-Big 12 choice after leading the league and ranking 12th nationally in kickoff return average (26.8 ypr). Tarique Milton was also one of the best punt returners in the Big 12, ranking third in the conference with a 12.67 average per attempt.
Assalley took over placekicking duties in 2018 and excelled, hitting 16 field goals to tie for sixth on ISU’s single-season list. He began his career making his first eight field goal attempts, the fifth-best string in school history.
Hauser directed Mike Gundy’s special teams units at Oklahoma State from 2016-17 as a graduate assistant. The Cowboys thrived on special teams under Hauser’s direction, ranking ninth nationally in blocked punts (2) in 2017. Kicker Matt Ammendola was also seventh nationally in field goals made per game (1.77).
In 2016, OSU had six blocked kicks to rank fourth nationally and its punt return defense ended the season second-best in the nation (0.94). Vincent Taylor led the nation with four blocked kicks and punter Zach Sinor ranked 31st nationally in punting average (42.8).
The Cowboys posted a pair of 10-3 seasons, were ranked in the top-15 in the final AP polls and won two bowl games in Hauser’s last two years in Stillwater. He also served in Offensive Quality Control and Offensive Staff Assistant positions with the program in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
Between his two stints at Oklahoma State, the Harrisville, R.I., native worked in the Cleveland Browns personnel department for two seasons (2014-15).
His first collegiate coaching job was at Mount Ida College (Mass.), coaching the tight ends and fullbacks in 2011.
Hauser was a wide receiver at Wesleyan University (Conn.). A four-year letterwinner and three-year starter, he caught 20 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan in 2011.
Hilliard spent the last two seasons at Tennessee-Martin, serving as the defensive pass game coordinator each year and the cornerbacks coach in 2019 before being elevated to secondary coach in 2020.
“We’re excited that Coach Hilliard and his wife, Katrina, are part of our Red Wolves family,” said Jones. “Coach Hilliard is an individual who is a student of the game, coaches with great energy and has a strong knowledge base of the fundamentals and details of what it takes to perform in the back end of our defense.”
While UT Martin did not play a fall football schedule in 2020, Hilliard’s first season with the program saw the Skyhawks rank first in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) in pass defense efficiency while also pacing the league in scoring defense (19.5 avg.).
The Skyhawks ranked third in the league with 13 interceptions and led the conference with three defensive touchdowns and a plus-5 turnover margin. The corners boasted an impressive coverage stat, allowing zero touchdowns against conference opponents.
As the corners coach in 2019, Hilliard coached All-OVC performer DaVonte Maura, who earned all-conference second team honors after tallying 73 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, one interception and 11 pass breakups. Meanwhile, Ole Miss graduate transfer Cam Ordway started all 12 games while tallying 34 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, two interceptions, one fumble recovery and a sack.
His first recruiting class with the Skyhawks boasted a talented group of defensive backs, ranking as the No. 1 DB recruiting class in the OVC and top-five nationally. Headlining the talented group was Anthony Prospere, who ranked as the nation's No. 1 defensive back recruit signed in the FCS for the 2020 class.
Before UT Martin, Hilliard was on staff at UCLA, where he served as a defensive and special teams analyst for a season after spending the previous two seasons as a defensive graduate assistant from 2015-17. As a graduate assistant, he spent time at all major position groups on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker, defensive line and the secondary.
Additionally, he heavily assisted in recruiting – specifically in the Hawaii region. On game days he served as the defensive signal caller and helped with halftime adjustments and tendencies.
Prior to his time at UCLA, he spent a year as the defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator at Punahou High School (Hawaii).
After his collegiate career, Hilliard signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears in 2013. Following his stint in the NFL, he played professional football in Italy, leading Seamen Milano to the team’s first Italian Super Bowl in 20 years.
Hilliard was a four-year safety at UCLA, seeing action in 41 games while earning 27 starts. He tallied 114 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception in his career. As a senior he was honored as the team’s Tommy Prothro Award for Outstanding Special Teams Player of the Year and one of three Kenneth S. Washington Award winners for Outstanding Senior of the Year.
He also played in the Casino del Sol Collegiate All-Star game where he was a captain for the West team coached by the legendary Dick Tome. Hilliard returned an interception for a touchdown in the 40-7 blowout win against the East All-stars.
Hilliard was born in Chicago, Ill., but moved around as a child thanks to his father's service in the United State Marine Corps. He lettered three seasons in his prep career at Punahou High School in Honolulu. He amassed 1,840 all-purpose yards and scored 19 touchdowns as a senior. He rushed for 599 yards and 10 touchdowns while tallying 63 receptions for 725 yards and eight touchdown catches. He was named team captain, offensive player of the year and first-team all-state as a junior and senior while earning second team honors as a sophomore.
Hilliard graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCLA in 2013. He later added a masters of education in higher education and organizational change in from UCLA in 2017.