A tweet from Tennessee football signee Todd Kelly Jr. summed up Wednesday's National Signing Day for UT in a neat, concise 36 characters.

"It's starting to feel like '98 again," the tweet read.

And although Kelly's tweet came in December, it proved prophetic – Wednesday, it did feel like 1998 again in Knoxville.

On the one day college football fans are likely more intrigued by stars than most astrologers, head coach Butch Jones landed 18 more signees for his 2014 class.

When added to UT's 14 early enrollees, Wednesday's crop of talent pushed the team's total incoming class to 32 for the year, placing the Vols at No. 5 overall, according to Rivals' 2014 rankings.

Of those 32 additions, 16 were rated as four-star prospects; that's more than any team in the country.

If you just tuned in for Wednesday, you'd think UT fit the mold of a team reaping the recruiting rewards of a BCS Bowl berth and an SEC title run.

But they're not. In cased you missed it, UT just trudged through a 5-7 record that included a demeaning, home loss against Vanderbilt in November.

So why the buzz? If you're looking at recent history, Tennessee football shouldn't be on the rise or near the top of any rankings.

Last time I checked, high school athletes usually don't flock to programs with losing seasons in five of the past six years or programs that feature three coaches in a five-year span.

But UT coach Butch Jones sold it.If anything, it appeared the depletion of Tennessee's roster served as inspiration for the class, providing a proverbial blank canvas upon which the class could etch itself into Volunteer history.

"I want to guard against all of the expectations that are going to come with this recruiting class," Jones said at his press conference Wednesday addressing the additions. "We have to still remember these are 17-18 year old individuals."... I just think it is very unfair to put a lot on the shoulders of this recruiting class, as we know this class will probably be judged 2-3 years down the line."

Fair or not, lofty expectations for this class are on their way.

And while Jones walked the line by attempting to simmer the hype surrounding the arrivals, he doesn't need to.

It's time to let the guard of tempered expectation down. For the first time in years, maybe even since 2007 when UT brought in the No. 3 recruiting class, there's excitement surrounding the Tennessee football program.

What's even better is that much of that excitement is realistic.

When Jones' UT squad narrowly fell against Georgia, coming up inches (literally) short of a monumental upset, and proceeded to take down a ranked South Carolina team two weeks later, it was evident he could coach in the SEC.

His only glaring need appeared to be talent, never becoming more obvious than when Auburn, Alabama and Missouri torched the Vols for an average 486.67 yards per game.

But the talent barrier is slowly being erased; adding an influx of talented players can usually have that effect on a team.

If recruits are buying what Jones and his staff are selling now, it's hard not to imagine how much stronger that pitch might become once UT heads to a bowl game or wins an SEC title.

College football is a sport of ebbs and flows. After coming off a 6-6 campaign that included a loss to Minnesota in the 2004 Music City Bowl, the Alabama Crimson Tide ranked at No. 24 in that year's Rivals team rankings.

Ten years later? The Tide managed to pull in their fourth-straight No. 1 class Wednesday.

Though it can't be determined whether UT will follow in the footsteps of Saban and his Crimson Tide, Tennessee will remember the 2014 signing day as the moment it hopped back on the path of national legitimacy.

And that's something worth getting excited over.

Gage Arnold is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at garnold@utk.edu.