Around the country, there are very few coaches that are adored as much as Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.

There's probably even fewer that are loved at all following a 5-7 season.

For Jones, however, his case is a little different.

During a season filled with ups and downs on the gridiron, Jones blazed a consistent trail of recruiting success from the moment he stepped onto campus in December of 2012.

The long hours and hard work on the recruiting trail appeared to pay off for the UT staff on Wednesday's National Signing Day.

The Vols and Jones officially welcomed 18 new signees to the Tennessee football program, moving UT to 5th in Rivals' team recruiting rankings.

The 18 new signees will join the 14 early enrollees already on UT's campus, putting UT's total additions from this year's class at 32.

"We feel this class will represent Tennessee in a very positive manner on and off the field," Jones said in his National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday. "One of the things that we looked at is size and speed.

"Make no mistake about it, a few months ago I sat up here and told you in order for us to move this program forward, we needed to create depth, we needed to create competition and we needed to improve our overall team speed, our size, our quickness, our explosiveness. I believe we were able to do that."

The class Jones envisioned began to formulate back in 2012 when he left the University of Cincinnati and took the job at UT.

It wasn't long after Jones arrived in Knoxville that four-star wide receiver Vic Wharton, who was previously being recruited by Jones' staff at Cincinnati, committed to the Vols.

Shortly after his Dec. 25, 2012 commitment, the Nashville, Tenn., native was given the task of leading this recruiting class and it didn't take long for others to follow.

"The process started with Vic Wharton," Jones said. "Vic was an individual we had a tremendous relationship with. We had offered him at the other school that we were at, we had him in camp at that other school, and we came to a number of games, so we knew everything about him and his family. We challenged him to champion this recruiting class.

"I knew it was going to be a special class right from the get-go, and then when we would lose a game or two, they would call me and say, 'Coach, we've got your back. We're not going anywhere. We're committed to getting this done...' That's what I liked about all of these individuals. When we had some setbacks this season, they didn't flinch one bit."

Headlining the 2014 class are the recruits hailing from the state of Tennessee.

The Vols signed nine of the state's top 13 recruits, including both five-star prospects, Josh Malone and Jalen Hurd.

"We spoke about wanting to own our state," Jones said. "This is the state institution. We wanted individuals from this state to represent Tennessee. ... Every great program starts with securing its home state, and we have to do that each and every year."

With a top-five recruiting class, however, comes a high level of expectation, something Jones believes should be curbed.

"However, I want to guard against all of the expectations that are going to come with this recruiting class," Jones said. "We have to still remember that 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."

And while the coaching staff may want the soaring expectations of this class to be reigned in a bit, that does not signify the coaching staff doesn't see members of this year's class being able to come in and make an impact in the upcoming season.

"Yeah, (there is) no question," said defensive coordinator John Jancek regarding whether or not the newcomers could earn early playing time. "I told them all to come in ready to compete and ready to play. The thing that it'll do is it'll create some lumps for us early, we know that, we understand that but we're building for the future here. This is a long term process; there is no quick fix."

While all of those stars may be attached to a players' name and a high-ranking number may be given to a recruiting class, Jones said he realizes that off-the-field accolades do not necessarily translate to on-the-field success.

These players will get that opportunity to perform when they open up the 2014 season inside Neyland Stadium on Aug. 30 against the Utah State.

"These were highly recruited individuals, but that doesn't make them any better football players," Jones said. "For use to get back to the elite level in the SEC, we have to be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the country. I felt that we were able to do that this year."