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Vassallo: Ole Miss Football Program in Great Hands with John Miller

The Regions Bank Grove Bowl on April 11th, 2015. Photo by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics.
The Regions Bank Grove Bowl on April 11th, 2015. Photo by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics.

It’s easy to understand Hugh Freeze’s success when you examine who he has on his staff. John Miller, Director of Football Operations, is the consummate professional. HottyToddy.com had the pleasure to talk with John about the “current journey” and the obstacles ahead.

John Miller, picture from Ole Miss Athletics directory
John Miller, picture from Ole Miss Athletics directory

HottyToddy.com: John, please share with our readers a little about your background.

John Miller: I spent five years in the military involved in a number of most interesting positions. Previously, I was an assistant football coach at Clinton High School, and in 1994 I was a graduate assistant under Dave Wommack at USM. In 1998 I became Director of Football Operations at USM and remained there until 2011 when I arrived at Ole Miss.

HottyToddy.com: John, tell us what your job entails.

John Miller: I assist Coach Freeze with the day to day operations of our football program. We are blessed with an outstanding support staff. We have young energetic professionals that oversee our recruiting office. Our Equipment Staff has 40 years of experience here at Ole Miss. Our sports medicine and strength and conditioning programs rank at the top in the SEC. The two
guys that play a major role in making our operation team run smooth are Barney Farrar & Tom Luke.

HottyToddy.com: Now that spring practice is here what are the coaches mainly focused on in accomplishing?

John Miller: The opportunity to work with our young players (five are already here from our February recruiting class) and getting back to coaching the fundamentals. We are building competition between the defense, offense and by position.

HottyToddy.com: In just 3 short years Coach Freeze has taken a winless SEC program to one that is now part of the national championship discussion for the second consecutive year. How did this happen?

John Miller: All the credit is attributed to Coach Freeze’s vision. He assembled a fantastic staff matching his personality along with his work ethic. Our Head Strength Coach, Paul Jackson, has played a key role in all of our success. The coaches have done a phenomenal job with capturing the hearts and minds of their players. The true blessing is that the success arrived faster than any of us could have imagined.

HottyToddy.com: Getting back to your position, of all your responsibilities which ones are the most stressful?

John Miller: Coordinating all of the logistics with team travel is an enormous responsibility. Probably the two most difficult times of the year for me personally are August (when two a days start) and bowl season because of the logistics involved once the bowl destination is determined.

HottyToddy.com: You know Coach Freeze as well as anyone. What makes him tick?

John Miller: He is a very passionate and caring man. Family plays a major part in making him whole. Coach Freeze strives for perfection in everything he does. Once an issue has been discussed and resolved to his satisfaction, he’s ready to move on.

HottyToddy.com: The Peach Bowl was Coach Freeze’s first bowl defeat. What did the encounter with TCU teach us?

John Miller: Each time we encounter an opponent we learn something. As to this particular game our preparation in the future will be “tweaked” a little more. TCU has a very good team and it would have helped us considerably if there had been fewer injuries to address. Gary Patterson is also an excellent coach, someone I have known since 2000.

HottyToddy.com: All in all, recruiting appears to have gone very well. Are there a couple of players that you could single out that could be diamonds in the rough?

John Miller: This is not the best question for me as there are those a lot smarter to assess the incoming talent. College is a major adjustment and once we actually begin two a days in August, we will be able to identify those players that have a chance to contribute early.

HottyToddy.com: The Alabama game this past year provided a lifetime of memories. Can you describe your thoughts during the fourth quarter of that game when Bama was driving for the winning score?

John Miller: I was involved in two last play defeats at the hand of Alabama while at USM. I was talking to the man upstairs asking for mercy. Our players had been so close in a number of tough losses and that time, they deserved to win.

HottyToddy.com: Expectations are running very high for this coming season. How good can we be especially on defense?

John Miller: This question can be answered better by our defensive staff. It’s obvious our defense returns a number of starters on the defensive line which will give us the opportunity to compete each week during the season. Injuries are always key and hopefully we can remain injury free. We need to fill some key positions which we are working on.

HottyToddy.com: When recruits visit here, what impresses them the most?

John Miller: The beautification of the campus is very significant. The atmosphere that exists here with the Ole Miss family is something the recruits can “feel” as soon as they step on campus. This is a special place and if we can get a parent or parents here for the weekend, we have a great chance to land the player.

HottyToddy.com: What do you like most about your job?

John Miller: It’s all about the players in my book. Molding young players to men gives me great satisfaction.

HottyToddy.com: We have five very difficult road games this year (counting Memphis). The two Alabama schools; Florida; and MSU are all waiting for us. Do you think it’s possible to win three or more?

John Miller: It is possible for us to win them all. However, we will continue to take it one game at a time.

HottyToddy.com: The high and low points of last season from your perspective?

John Miller: The high point was the Egg Bowl. The low point was definitely the bowl game.

HottyToddy.com: Compare Oxford to other places you have lived.

John Miller: I have been fortunate to have lived in many places with the military including Germany for three years. Oxford is a most unique place. I love the small town feeling along with the big time atmosphere on game weekends.

John Miller is the type of individual any parent would want their son being influenced and coached. You immediately sense the professionalism and wealth of  experiences while in John’s office. To say that he is impressive would be an understatement. Hugh Freeze clearly understands what it takes to be successful. The presence of John Miller on his staff seconds that emotion!

Steve Vassallo

Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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