The Southeastern Conference is off to a good start in trying to get back to winning national titles.
The league’s talent haul on Wednesday included top defensive linemen Trenton Thompson (Georgia), Byron Cowart (Auburn) and Kahlil MacKenzie (Tennessee) and blue-chip prospects at every other position as well, notably including a restocking of talent at quarterback.
Half of the top 12 recruiting class were SEC teams, according to the 247Sports composite of the major recruiting services.
Alabama led the way again with a class that was ranked either No. 1 or 2 by those services with a group led by wide receiver Calvin Ridley. It was the fifth consecutive year the Crimson Tide has brought in a No. 1 class.
Not that Alabama coach Nick Saban would admit to being concerned with all that.
“We’re certainly pleased with our guys but predicting how a young person is going to do academically and athletically in college by giving them some rating when he’s in high school is not very scientific,” Saban said.
“We try to use science to create things that are very subjective in terms of what someone’s performance is going to be, and I don’t think that’s really possible. There’s no scientific way to know what the achievement of any person is going to be in anything they try to do. It’s impossible.”
Scientific or not, the other SEC powers weren’t too far behind in a league that hasn’t won a national title in two seasons after capturing seven straight. Butch Jones’ haul at Tennessee ranked fourth in the composite rankings, one spot ahead of LSU.
That’s followed by No. 9 Auburn, No. 10 Georgia and No. 12 Texas A&M. Only Kentucky and Vanderbilt failed to crack the Top 25.
Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee all landed a defensive lineman rated the nation’s top prospect by a recruiting service.
The Volunteers’ class was headlined by McKenzie, son of Oakland Raiders general manager and former Tennessee linebacker Reggie McKenzie.
SEC’s 2015 recruiting hauls
BEST CLASS: ALABAMA. The Tide got top honors in the ESPN and 247Sports rankings with six consensus five-star players, including Ridley, running back Damien Harris and cornerbacks Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kendall Sheffield.
IMPACT PLAYER: Cowart. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder fills a position of desperate need for the Tigers: a pass-rushing defensive end. It took nearly seven hours for his national letter of intent to arrive in Auburn after his announcement.
TOP PASSERS: The league was short on star quarterbacks last season and brought in a number of candidates to try to rectify that in the next couple of years. Texas A&M landed Kyler Murray, rated the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, and Alabama got fellow five-star passer Blake Barnett from California. Tennessee landed three consensus four-star quarterbacks — Quinten Dormady, Jauan Jennings and Sheriron Jones.
FLORIDA’S FINISH: New Gators coach Jim McElwain finished strong on Wednesday by landing consensus five-star players in offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive end CeCe Jefferson, despite losing key targets like Cowart.
LATE ADDITION: Georgia beat out Auburn for five-star wide receiver prospect Terry Godwin, who didn’t announce until Wednesday night.