"I think it is a very good thing that I graduated early," Tate tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I have the summer and the fall semester to really focus on football. I am going to try to be the best person I can be to make our team better."
Tate notes that he enjoyed earning his degree in criminology. "I would say the best classes I took were sex crimes and victimology," he says. "There were quite a few classes I liked. There are lot of interesting things going on in the world today dealing with crime. My major was very interesting to me.
"I am going to declare a second major so I can take some general classes," adds Tate, whose parents made the trip from Maryland for his graduation ceremonies along with his sister and brother-in-law.
"My main focus has been to earn my degree," Tate says. "Now it is time for me to focus on football."
Tate will be focusing on football with a new coaching staff for his final year of eligibility. Gene Chizik took over as head coach and has totally revamped the staff.
"The new coaching staff is a great group of guys," Tate says. "They are family oriented. They are here to push us. Getting a degree is one of the things they emphasize as well as working hard on the football field."
With Gus Malzahn in from Tulsa as the new offensive coordinator, Tate and his teammates are learning a system that is different from what was put in by previous offensive coordinators Al Borges, who was in charge for Tate's freshman and sophomore years, and Tony Franklin, who was the offensive coordinator in 2008 until being fired midway through the season.
"I like the offense," Tate says. "It wasn't what I thought it was going to be. Once we got into spring it turned out to be everything I like with all of the downhill running."
For his first three seasons in college, Eddie Gran was the running backs coach. Curtis Luper, who came to Auburn from Oklahoma State, is handling that assignment this year. Tate notes that Luper is a "lot more laid-back guy" than Gran. The running back has praise for Luper's ability to teach the fundamentals of what the backs are supposed to do in Malzahn's offense.
Going into the 2009 season, Tate has rushed for 1,959 yards, which is 14th in Auburn history. He has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and rushed for 14 touchdowns.
Now that he has graduated, Tate plans to stay on campus this summer and do voluntary workouts with his teammates. "I plan to work out hard, have a little fun and get ready to have my best season that I can to improve my draft stock as well as help my team get to a great bowl game," he says.
Former Auburn running back Bo Jackson was the speaker at Auburn's spring commencement ceremonies.
Other football Tigers who earned degrees following spring semester include receiver Montez Billings, cornerback Walt McFadden, wide receiver Charles Olatunji, offensive lineman Jackson Timmerman, safety Jonathan Vickers along with former Tigers Josh Thompson, a defensive lineman, and kicker John Vaughn.