Heading into his fifth-year as the Vols’ head coach, the key for Butch Jones’ 2017 signing class is filling positions of need and adding depth to the roster. Jones will do so with Wednesday’s signing class.

The 2017 class fills needs on defense, which is critical for coordinator Bob Shoop, who must repair a unit that finished 95th overall nationally in 2016. With the departure of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara from the backfield, 4-star prospect Ty Chandler will headline incoming running backs to help provide much-needed depth behind John Kelly and Carlin Fils-aime.

The class also provides depth in the secondary with Maleik Gray, Cheyenne Labruzza, Terrell Bailey, Theo Jackson and Shawn Shamburger. The defensive line unit adds Deandre Johnson (early enrollee), Eric Crosby, Matthew Butler, Kivon Bennett and Ryan Thaxton. The offensive line has additions of Trey Smith, the nation’s No. 14 prospect, Riley Locklear and K’Rojhn Calbert.

The biggest difference between this class and some of Jones’ previous ones is the lack of elite talent: There are just five combined 5-star and 4-star prospects in the class, compared with 10 in 2016, 16 in 2015 and 16 in 2014.

SEC class rank: 6
Overall class rank: 14

5-stars: 1
4-stars: 4
3-stars: 23

Did they own the state? No. Butch Jones was unable to lock down the Volunteer state for the first time during his tenure. Getting Trey Smith from Jackson, Tenn., somewhat salvages only having three of the top-10 players stay at home.

LSU and Clemson each signed two of the state’s top-10 players.

Jones has stressed the importance of signing Tennessee’s best high school football players, but that goal has slipped a bit since the program-changing 2014 class, which included 9 of the state’s top 11 players.

Top player: Trey Smith, a 5-star prized recruit and rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation by ESPN, is a two-time Tennessee Mr. Football. He’s one of the most decorated prospects to sign with Tennessee, arguably since Peyton Manning in 1994. He chose Tennessee over numerous offers, including Alabama and Ohio State.

Still chasing: Octavius Matthews, a 3-star athlete from Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss., committed to Auburn on June 5. He decommitted last week and took an official visit to Tennessee.

Defensive end Aaron Sterling is also in the mix. After visiting Rocky Top in mid-January, the Tucker, Ga. 3-star product will choose between South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Tennessee coaching staff is also in the finalist category for 5-star defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, even though 247Sports.com’s crystal ball lists Ray as a 100 percent Alabama commit.

Another last-minute recruit Tennessee is after is 3-star wide receiver/athlete Jordan Pouncey, a former Notre Dame commit who visited the Vols this past weekend. Pouncey has Miami, Texas and Tennessee among his final teams.

Best unit: The Vols will be strong on the offensive line in 2017. The only loss from the unit is Dylan Wiesman.

Trey Smith will gain valuable experience by enrolling early and going through spring practices and offseason strength and conditioning. Smith will be able to play any position on the line. Riley Locklear is another early enrollee who can come provide depth.

Biggest area of need filled: The linebacker unit has not been a strong suit since A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt were side-by-side in 2014. Darrin Kirkland, Jr. is the alpha within the unit entering 2017. Shoop will have the luxury of Shanon Reid (early enrollee), Will Ignont and Solon Page III by helping retool and provide depth.

Better or worse than last year? Depending on what happens Wednesday, the classes appear similar. The 2016 class ranked No. 14 nationally, but it included a potential quarterback of the future in Jarrett Guarantano and 10 4-star prospects.

The 2017 class is headlined by Smith, a 5-star offensive lineman, but has just four 4-stars.

Several 2016 prospects also played meaningful snaps as true freshmen. That will be a challenge for the 2017 class to meet.