Georgia has had a top 3 class for the last 7 years. That has been the reason for them gradually distancing themselves. Alabama has been in the top five of the recruiting rankings perennially, finishing number one several times. They are our direct competition, both SEC-wise, and nationally. They were recruiting well before they won big, and then they've continued on recruiting at the highest levels once they began to win big. It is easy to see the rankings, the onfield results & the NFL Draft. For Tennessee, the issue is stepping up to that level of raw talent while competing against and winning against them. Our coach obviously recognizes this, and is clearly going after it. So far, his record with those two is 1-3. Talent has had a lot to do with that. As we get better talent we will likely win more games against them.
You still have the cart pulling the horse. I have never denied that it takes talent to win. Heupel at least to a significant degree has demonstrated that coaching and development can compensate for a lot when it comes to pure, raw talent.
My point and it is demonstrated by the NFL draft and on-field results is that there are enough players who were worthy of 4/5* who were rated 3* for a coach to get talent with classes that the recruiting sites don't rank in the top 5. You can probably make a pretty good argument that Clemson's talent has declined a bit since they started getting love from the recruiting sites. Neither Smart nor Saban need the affirmation of recruiting sites. Ranking their players higher is a pretty good bet by the recruiting sites though.
But two or 3 or 5 programs don't prove the accuracy of the recruiting sites. After 3 or 4 teams, the recruiting rankings become less accurate for proving winners. After the 5* rated players, the individual rankings become a lot more iffy.
UT beat three of the top 8 most talented teams in the country according to 247. According to that ranking, UT should not have beaten those teams... much less dominated them like they did Clemson and LSU. They rate Bama the most talented team by a fairly significant amount.
As for the 1-3 record... seriously? Based on results from all 4 games, he can compete with them with much less than "top 5" talent. He needs more depth and talent at some positions.