Every so often we'll look at recruiting rankings for teams over the span of a few years to approximate the amount of talent on hand. That's a nice shorthand, but it doesn't account for transfers, injury casualties, disciplinary washouts, and any other kind of attrition.
I decided to do something to get a more clear picture. Over the course of the past few weeks, I've been aggregating all of the recruiting star rankings from Rivals and Scout for every player on the SEC teams' post-spring rosters. I also pulled out who is listed as a starter right now from depth charts (official if possible, Rivals' listing when not, and Phil Steele's in the case of Auburn) to see how each team's top lines stack up.
Two disclaimers first. One: I know that recruiting rankings are not perfect and don't take into account experience and growth. In individual cases they can be wrong (Rivals thought Marcell Dareus was only a three-star), but overall, they're fairly good as a talent rating. Some guys make the most of theirs, others don't for whatever reason. The second is that I used the rosters from the official atheltics site for each school, and LSU included all of its recruiting class on it. Everyone else only included their early entries, so keep that in mind when looking at the full team rankings.
FULL TEAM RANKINGS
It is not a big surprise seeing the two conference kingpins at the top, but look at Georgia. That's not the sort of score you'd expect to see from a team that went 8-5 last year. That goes to show just how badly its defensive execution and scheme was holding the Bulldogs back. From top to bottom, UGA has enough talent to be at the top.
Also, note the wide gulf between LSU and Tennessee. That shows the difference between teams that end up in the top 10 recruiting rankings every year (the top four) and those that don't. Also worth noting is that total team average has nothing to do with expected finish. Mississippi State is expected to be on the border between going to a bowl and not, and it's basically even with supposed SEC West contender Arkansas.
That's why it's worth a look at the starters. First, let's look at the side of the ball that wins championships.
DEFENSIVE STARTER RANKINGS
Unranked recruits are not included in the averages.
This table gives a better idea as to what people are expecting since expectations seldom run more than one deep on the depth chart. Only Arkansas, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt have average defensive rankings below their average team rankings; Florida and Georgia's differences are less than 0.1. The largest gap between these and the team rankings is Ole Miss's (0.60), with South Carolina not too far behind (0.55).
Only Bama cracks an average four-star rating, which is really saying something. If you want a reason why Alabama's expected to weather its losses so well, there it is. It would be the highest ranked unit in the conference if not for...
AVERAGE OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Yes, Florida's offense has an average rank a third of the way between four stars and five stars. Before we go farther, I think it's worth noting a couple of players before anyone gets carried away. Carl Moore, a JUCO transfer in '08 who did little that year and was out last year injured, and James Wilson, a redshirt junior who has yet to do anything notable, were consensus five-star recruits who are currently listed to be starters. Sure Florida has a ton of talent on offense, but I think those two probably skew the standings a bit.
Anyway, LSU really doesn't have much of an excuse for fielding another putrid offense. Georgia has the potential to be great if it doesn't turn it over as much as it did last year. Alabama's now-vaunted offense will be good, but let's not try and make it something it's not. I'm speaking specifically about Phil Steele with that one; good luck with your prediction of Bama gaining 505 yards a game. There's not enough talent there to overcome the relatively conservative scheme and get to that level across all 12 games.
Again, the disclaimer applies. Recruiting rankings aren't everything, etc. etc. This should at least give you a general idea of where everyone is at right now. This is based off of post-spring rosters and post-spring depth charts, so things can change in the fall as highly touted freshmen arrive and guys continue to battle for spots.