The Tennessee Volunteers football team welcomed 28 new players to its 2017 team as part of National Signing Day.

UT signed 22 players Wednesday and entered the day with five early enrollees.

Editor's Note: Wide receiver Princeton Fant is still considered a commitment, and could blueshirt this upcoming season.

“It’s the players’ day today,” Tennessee Vols head coach Butch Jones said. “It’s the student-athletes’ day today, but also there’s a lot of individuals that are very deserving of this day and deserving of thanks.”

Jones said many players had offers since their freshman year of high school, and called the recruiting process a three to four-year effort.

“The way I look at is even when they commit, you still have to recruit them, and a lot of times when they commit, you have to recruit them as though they’re not committed because that’s when schools come in and they try to tempt individuals,” Jones said. “This group really formed a bond very, very early, and even though we had did have some individuals take official visits to other institutions, they stayed true to their word.”

Tennessee’s signing class ranked seventh in the SEC and No. 17 in the country as of 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, according to 247 Sports.The Vols finished behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Auburn, No. 10 Florida and No. 12 Texas A&M.

"We wanted individuals that not necessarily love recruiting, but love football," Jones said.

Watch: Vols head coach Butch Jones speaks on National Signing Day

The centerpiece of the class is offensive lineman Trey Smith, who is one of the early enrollees. The Jackson, Tenn., native is the lone five-star commit in the Vols' class, and is ranked the 14th overall recruit in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite.

"Anytime you can add a caliber of Trey Smith, who had an opportunity to go anywhere in the country, and chose to stay at home, that's a big element to that," Jones said.

Smith also had scholarships offers to Ohio State and Alabama.

Related: Vols five-star offensive lineman Trey Smith focused on earning teammates’ respect

Smith, offensive lineman Riley Locklear, linebacker Shanon Reid, quarterback Will McBride and defensive lineman Deandre Johnson have also enrolled early and began taking classes at Tennessee.

"These five individuals have done a great job of really adjusting to college life, and our players have done a great job of really mentoring them and guiding them," Jones said.

Related: Vols' Shanon Reid grateful for opportunity to escape gun violence, get education

More: Signing Day 2017: Local East Tennessee athletes

Tennessee and Florida missed out on five-star defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, who signed with Alabama.

UT also missed out on three-star defensive end Aaron Sterling and three-star wide receiver Jordan Pouncey. Sterling signed with South Carolina and Pouncey signed with Texas.

Tennessee signed one five-star player, four four-star players and 23 three-star players.

Here are the states where the new UT players are from: 

·         Tennessee: 8

·         Florida: 7

·         Georgia: 3

·         Louisiana: 3

·         Virginia: 2

·         Alabama: 1

·         North Carolina: 1

·         Texas: 1

·         West Virginia: 1

"The last couple of years Florida has been extremely productive for us," Jones said.

LaVergne High School defensive back Maleik Gray signed with Tennessee around 8:50 a.m. Wednesday. Gray is a four-star recruit from LaVergne, Tenn.

Defensive end Matthew Butler was first to sign his national letter of intent to Tennessee on Wednesday.

Tennessee signed three running backs in Ty Chandler, Trey Coleman and Tim Jordan. Chandler is a four-star back out of Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.

"When you're taking three running backs, you want to make sure that they have great versatility, and you want to make sure that their skillsets complement each other," Jones said. "All three running backs have a different skillset."

Watch: Ty Chandler officially signs with the Vols

Also on the offensive side of the ball, UT signed quarterback Will McBride, wide receiver Jordan Murphy, offensive tackle K'Rojhn Calbert, wide receiver Jacquez Jones and tight end James Brown.

Wide receiver Princeton Fant tweeted he is officially a Vol, although he could blueshirt, which would count against next season's scholarship total. A blueshirt is allowed to enroll and participate in team events in the fall.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tennessee signed four-star defensive tackle Eric Crosby, four-star linebacker Will Ignont, cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza, defensive end LaTrell Bumphus, defensive tackle Kivon Bennett, cornerback Terrell Bailey, safety Theo Jackson, defensive end Marquez Bembry, linebacker Solon Page III, cornerback Shawn Shamburger and defensive end Ryan Thaxton.

Watch: Theo Jackson officially signs with the Vols

Tennessee signed kicker Brent Cimaglia too.

Jones said he and his staff discussed which positions were of need prior to the start of the recruitment period.

“We had to turn away very, very talented football players unfortunately because of our numbers and what we needed with this current football team,” Jones said. “We’ve probably had to turn away more talented players than we’ve had since we’ve been here.”

On Wednesday, Tennessee also added Independence High School quarterback Brandon Hines as a preferred walk-on.

Recruits have until April 1, 2017, to sign their national letter of intent.

Editor's Note: This story will be updated throughout National Signing Day as recruits sign their national letters of intent.

Map: 2017 Tennessee Volunteers signees