QBs: Speedy team will beat Fla.

Published 11:57 pm Monday, September 14, 2009

SELMA — If any Southeastern Conference team is going to beat reigning national champion Florida, they must feel the need for speed.

At least that’s what former college quarterbacks Ben Leard of Auburn and Tyler Watts of Alabama said Monday night at the first meeting of the 2009 Selma Quarterback Club.

“Looking in from the outside, I think if anyone is going to do it, it will be Alabama,” said Leard. “They’ve got the speed on defense to handle (Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Tim) Tebow.”

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Watts, who is a color analyst for CSS TV, wasn’t as quick to point to his alma mater.

“I don’t know that Alabama will be the team to do it,” he said. “Speed is about the only thing to beat Florida.”

Both quarterbacks-turned-insurance representatives spoke about their college careers and today’s teams.

Leard said when he was being recruited, he received a telephone call from Auburn recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, asking him to come to the football game Saturday. Leard had planned to go to South Carolina that weekend.

“I asked him who Auburn was playing,” Leard said. “He said it was the Iron Bowl, and Auburn plays Alabama. I told him I was sorry but we weren’t going.”

Leard said Auburn only invited players it would sign to the game.

His father asked him later who called and what he wanted. Leard told him.

“He told me, ‘There are two things you are going to do,’” Leard said, repeating his father’s conversation. “‘First, you’re going to call South Carolina and tell them we ain’t coming. Then call Coach Garner and tell him we’ll be there.’”

Leard, a three-year starter who ranks fifth on the school’s career-record list with 359 completions of 592 passes, called the Alabama-Auburn rivalry “the greatest rivalry in sports.”

He also said this week’s fame against West Virginia will be “the litmus test for the Tigers.” Last year, West Virginia beat Auburn in Morgantown, W.Va., 34-17.

Speaking about Alabama, Watts said “times are turning” for the Crimson Tide. Watts was freshman All-SEC, team captain for two years and a four-time Academic All-SEC in Tuscaloosa.

“People keep asking me, ‘Why are we starting off so slow.5’” he said. “Not so much that we’re winning, but that we’re not winning by 50 points.”

Watts recalled how Alabama has improved with recent winning season when seasons haven’t always been so kind. He said he sees better players than in previous years.

“We’ve got 30 more players than two years ago who can play,” he said.

Next Monday’s speaker will be Scott Moore, host of the weekday radio show “Southern Sports Tonight.” The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center.